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Why UX designers should also do UX research

Maarten Hoogvliet
Maarten Hoogvliet
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It is common in large organizations and governments to have a separate UX research department, with UX researchers and (top if any) a UX lab. Often the UX designers make requests for qualitative or quantitative UX research, which the UX researchers prepare, schedule, execute and report. In other words, the disciplines are strictly separate. I am writing this piece to argue that UX designers should also possess UX research skills and actively use them, as this has many advantages.

Debate & Cons

You often hear that UX designers shouldn't do UX research and vice versa. What you then hear is that doing research is something fundamentally different from designing. And that the creative of UX design competes with the analytical of UX research. Also, UX designers wouldn't be able to judge their own work because they created it themselves and therefore it's not objective. In 7 arguments, I want to highlight another side: that of the UX designer as UX researcher. In many environments, you benefit tremendously from this. And if the UX designer has the skills to do solid UX research, he/she is worth twice as much. Why?


First, let's look at how ChatGPT defines the roles, because that somewhat represents how the Internet thinks about them:

UX researcher

A UX (User Experience) researcher is conducts research on the user experience of digital products. Their work focuses on understanding users' needs, behaviors and preferences in order to use those insights to improve products.

UX designer

A UX (User Experience) designer designs the user experience of a product, with the goal of making it as user-friendly and effective as possible. The work focuses on creating an intuitive interface and optimizing the interaction between the user and the product.

Ok clear. The work has a lot in common, but the split is in execution (UX design) and review (UX research).

Argument 1: Research is too closely tied to design

My first argument is that UX design is too closely related to UX research to practice the disciplines separately. As a UX designer, you prefer to be in direct contact with your end user to be able to ask and present things as quickly as possible. Only then can you really respond to user needs and do your work in a validated way. And if you have this ability, you want to be able to do this in a thorough way. For example, by asking correctly worded, non-directive questions. To gather the right data to inform your design. For example, think about conducting a number of user interviews before starting a new feature.You then, as a UX designer, would prefer to be able to frame this challenge within the experiences of the target audience. Actually, you can't do your job as a UX designer properly without these activities. You simply cannot separate UX design from UX research. It is always necessary to do research.

Argument 2: Make more speed

A properly executed design process always involves research, often both small and large. Usually the UX research department is only available for the big stuff. And they are also full of research. Then research can often only be scheduled several weeks (to months) in advance. This leaves the small things lying around and no availability for suddenly emerging questions. As a UX designer, you can make much more speed, and do the right things in the limited, valuable working time, if you yourself are able to conduct thorough user interviews and/or usability testing. For example, on a smaller scale, conducted in a more focused way and directly at the UX designer's convenience. This way you can have several small surveys build on each other and give more attention to the nuances of the user experience. And therein lies precisely the value. Many small successes add up to one big one.

More soon

Thanks for reading so far! I have more arguments ready to go that I will discuss further in blog 2 and 3. I will put these online in the coming weeks!

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