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Explaining UX Research using analogies – with Xuan Zheng!

May we introduce Xuan: She is currently a UX Researcher at TikTok, leading user research in the Influencer Marketing domain. Her research impacts client, creator, and viewer experience on TikTok. Prior to TikTok, she was a UX Researcher at Yelp, primarily conducting research on business (potential) users for Yelp for Business products. Throughout her journey as a research, Xuan is always passionate about generating new knowledge and reimagining how people interact with technology.


At uxcon vienna 2022 she is going to give a talk & workshop. We asked her to write about her role as UX Researcher in a special way: by using analogies. Enjoy!


"What is your role as UX Researcher, Xuan?"



Xuan: As User Experience Researcher I use various methods to understand the needs and behaviors of users and their motivation to inform product decisions. To make this more fun for you, I would like to use some analogies to explain, how UXR can serve as a metal detector, a compass or a stethoscope. Curious? Here comes the explanation:




The UX Researcher as metal detector.

Even before creating a product, we can go into the field to help you finding bombs (or "bad ideads" that do not really solve the users problems). We can also help you find gold nuggets (e.g. critical user needs). This can be done through various exploratory studies (diary studies, contextual research, and in-depth interviews, ...).


The UX Researcher as a compass.

We've helped narrow down the directions you should explore for that next potential million dollar idea. So, how exactly can you achieve that goal? UXR can perform a series of evaluative explorations and solicit iterative feedback to help you "calibrate" and navigate to the final goal. Research methods that can be used at this stage: Competitive analysis, concept testing, prototype testing, etc. testing, etc.


The UX Researcher as a stethoscope.

Yay, the product is on the market! UXR can now be that stethoscope that helps you monitor the state of the product, whether through surveys, usability testing, or monitoring user-centric metrics. We can let you know if your product is failing the users when they are just trying to get their jobs done. It could be an easy fix, or it could start a new product research, design, and development cycle.


Certainly, there is more sophisticated equipment out there for sure, but I personally prefer these simple tools. Take the stethoscope as an example: First of all, it’s essential. Secondly, It looks simple and easy-to-use, yet it takes a lot of experience and training to be able to correctly use it and make judgments based on what you hear through it. Just like UXR.


What do you think of these analogies?

Let me know at uxcon vienna 2022 - maybe we also find better ones! :-)


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You want to know more about Xuan's talk & workshop at uxcon vienna? Take a look at our program!