UX Research Playbook: When to Use Which UX Research Method

With more than 90 UX research methods and techniques available, when or where in the design process is the best place to use them?

What does your organization or team want to learn more about? There are a several different methods to consider—depending on your research goal.

  • Discovery & problem exploration
  • User behaviors
  • Navigation
  • Content or labeling
  • Design
  • Usability or concept evaluation
  • Emotional response
  • UX / CX metrics
  • Innovation

UX / CX Research Playbook

UX / CX research playbook identifies research methods to understand what customers think, feel, say, do, and see.
Click to view full size image.

Discovery & Problem Exploration

Research goal:

  • To discover unknown customer pain points or barriers that your product or organization might be able to solve.
  • To gain a deeper understanding of a known customer pain point, barrier, current state experience, user preferences, etc.

UX research methods for discovering or exploring CUSTOMER PROBLEMS:

  • Collage study
  • Contextual inquiry
  • Customer listening
  • Customer service log
  • Diary study
  • Ethnography
  • In-depth interviews (IDIs)
  • Jointly told tale
  • Search log
  • Storytelling forum / booth
  • Survey / VOC

User Behaviors

Research goal:

  • To better understand how your customers think and behave.

UX research methods for observing user BEHAVIORS:

  • Web analytics
  • Search log analysis
  • Customer listening
  • User session replay
  • Contextual inquiry
  • Ethnography / field study
  • Big data analysis
  • Text mining
  • Social listening
  • Sensors / lasers
  • Video tracking
  • IoT analytics
  • Private community
  • Lifestyle community


Research goal: 

  • To discover user priorities.
  •  To determine the best design way to organize information.
  • To evaluate current or proposed navigation structure.

UX research methods for designing or evaluating NAVIGATION:

  • Top task analysis
  • Open or closed card sort
  • Tree test
  • Usability study
  • Survey

Content or Labeling

Research goal:

  • To evaluate the effectiveness of the content.

UX research methods for evaluating CONTENT:

  • Readability test
  • Cloze test
  • Usability study
  • Tone of voice pairs
  • Read against the grain
  • SUPR-Q

Research goal:

  • To evaluate the effectiveness of labels.

UX research methods for evaluating LABELS:

  • Tree test
  • Closed card sort
  • Usability study


Research goal:

  • To evaluate the aesthetics / visceral impact of the design.
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of the design and layout.

UX research methods for evaluating DESIGN:

  • Desirability test
  • Usability study
  • 5-second memory test
  • A/B test
  • Heat map
  • Scroll map
  • Eye-tracking study
  • Facial analysis
  • SUPR-Q

Usability or Concept Evaluation

Research goal: 

  • To evaluate the user flow, usability, findability, or task completion rates.

UX research methods for evaluating USABILITY:

  • Usability study
  • Closed card sort
  • Tree test
  • A/B test
  • First-click test

Research goal:

  • To evaluate an idea or concept.

UX research methods for evaluating CONCEPTS:

  • A/B test
  • Concept study
  • Concierge test
  • Conjoint analysis
  • Fake door test
  • Kano
  • Mark-up study
  • MaxDiff
  • Taguchi
  • Virtual reality study
  • Wizard of oz test

Emotional Response

Research goal: 

  • To evaluate the emotional response to a product, feature, or concept.

UX research methods for uncovering or measuring EMOTIONS:

  • 3E (Expressing Experiences & Emotions)
  • Affect grid / EmojiGrid
  • Biometrics
  • Emotrak
  • ESM Study (Experience Sampling Method)
  • FACS (Facial Action Coding System)
  • Kano
  • Neurometrics
  • Product Emotion Measurement (PrEmo) / EmoCards
  • Projectives (e.g., blob tree)
  • SAM (Self-Reported Manikin)
  • Semantic Differential Scale

UX / CX Metrics

Research goal:

  • To evaluate the effectiveness of the user experience.
  • To benchmark performance over time or against competitors.

UX metrics for measuring PERFORMANCE:

  • CES
  • CSAT
  • SEQ
  • SUS
  • True intent
  • Mystery shopper
  • Web analytics
  • Heat map
  • SCI
  • Scroll map
  • SUPR-Q
  • Time on task
  • Task completion rate


Research goal:

  • To find the next big idea.

UX research methods for discovering INNOVATIVE IDEAS:

  • Customer workshop / co-creation workshop
  • Diary study
  • Concept testing
  • Kano analysis
  • PrEmo / EmoCards
  • Private community
  • Ethnography / field study
  • In-depth interviews (IDIs)
  • Social listening
  • Speed dating

Related Articles

Author: Kristine Remer

Kristine Remer is a CX / UX researcher and strategist in Minneapolis. She helps drive significant business outcomes by finding and solving customer problems. When she's not creating customer journey maps and conducting diary studies, Kristine is either kayaking or acting silly with her house full of boys.