User experience (UX) shapes users' perception of just about any and every digital product or service, so the role of a UX researcher is more pivotal than ever. And as demand for seamless digital experiences continues to soar, understanding the role and responsibilities of a UX researcher is essential.

Ready to discover what a user experience researcher does? Explore the multifaceted world of UX research, learn about its importance in tailoring clients' experiences and see how it can help ensure products' success.

UX Research Basics

A Venn diagram with three circles. One is labeled ‘user needs,’ one is labeled ‘business goals’ and one is labeled ‘technical constraints.’ The intersection between all three circles is labeled ‘UX.’
In the Skillshare class “Introduction to UX Research,” teacher Tiffany Eaton illustrates the areas of product development that UX encompasses. 

In short, UX research is the systematic investigation of users and their needs with the goal of adding context and insight into the UX design process. It encompasses various methodologies and techniques such as interviews, surveys, usability testing and analytics to gather valuable data about users and their behavior.

To achieve that goal, a UX researcher acts as the bridge between the user and the product team, serving to decipher user needs and preferences to inform UX design decisions while maintaining functionality and improving accessibility.

What Does a UX Researcher Do?

A UX researcher wears many hats throughout the product development process. In general, their duties include these key responsibilities:

  • Collaborate with designers and stakeholders early for research needs: Working closely with designers and stakeholders to identify research goals and priorities.
  • Define research questions and choose optimal data collection methods: Crafting research questions and selecting appropriate methodologies to answer them.
  • Develop budgets and timelines for research projects: Planning and managing resources thoughtfully in order to execute research projects within budget and time constraints.
  • Recruit participants for studies: Identifying and recruiting suitable participants to ensure diverse and representative user feedback, including through collaboration with product teams for preferred types of users.
  • Conduct design research and analyze collected data: Executing research studies and analyzing data to uncover insights about users' opinions, preferences and behavioral patterns.
  • Transform findings into actionable insights: Synthesizing research data into actionable and easy-to-understand insights that guide product decisions.
  • Present findings to UX designers, developers and stakeholders: Effectively communicate key research findings to ensure alignment and collaboration across multiple teams.

6 Skills a UX Researcher Should Have

Five white icons against a dark gray background, each with a teal text label. From left to right, the icons are labeled ‘ empathize,’ ‘define,’ ‘ideate,’ ‘prototype’ and ‘test.’
In the Skillshare class “User Research Basics: How to plan a UX research project,” teacher Matthäus Niedoba shows students the skills and steps needed to conduct an effective UX research product. 

Certain skills are invaluable for excelling in the role of a UX researcher. Those include: 

  • Conveying ideas effectively: Articulating research findings and insights in a clear and compelling manner.
  • Understanding users’ perspectives: Empathizing with users of all kinds to grasp their needs, motivations and behaviors, both by talking to users directly and by using tools like user personas
  • Applying design thinking principles: Adopting a consumer-centered approach to problem-solving and innovation.
  • Critical thinking for problem-solving: Analyzing complex problems and contributing to creative solutions based on research findings.
  • Inquisitive mindset for insightful inquiries: Asking the right questions in the right ways to uncover deeper insights and opportunities for innovation. For example asking stakeholders questions such as, "what decisions will you make with these insights" etc.
  • Working collaboratively with teams: Effectively collaborating with cross-functional teams to integrate user insights into various stages of the design process.

How to Become a UX Researcher

Embarking on a career as a UX researcher demands a strategic approach. And although there is no one “correct” way to get into UX research, taking the following steps can greatly improve your chances of success: 

  • Obtain a degree in technology, behavioral science or a related field: Not all UX researcher positions require a college degree, but many do. A background in fields such as psychology, human-computer interaction (HCI) or computer science lays a solid foundation for UX research.
  • Hone your user research expertise: Continuously learn and refine your research skills through classes, workshops and hands-on experience.
  • Get real-world experience in UX research: Seek out internships or entry-level positions to gain practical experience and start fleshing out your portfolio (more on that in the next step).
  • Create a compelling portfolio: Once you have some UX research experience under your belt, begin building a portfolio to showcase your research projects and methodologies to demonstrate your skills and expertise to potential employers.
  • Show your impact: When presenting your work, focus on the impact your research insights had on the outcome of the work. Explain how insights helped change an existing project's direction, or how they helped to secure buy-in for a new initiative that then went on to be successful. These are the results interviewers will really want to hear.
  • Expand your professional network: Attend industry events, join online communities and strive to network with professionals in the field so you can stay up-to-date on the latest trends and opportunities.

Reasons to Become a UX Researcher

A person’s hands arranging a yellow sticky note on a white piece of paper titled ‘Recipe (selected)’ on top of a white desktop. To the right is another white piece of paper labeled ‘Recipes’ and covered with multiple yellow sticky notes. In the upper left corner of the image are multiple stacks of colorful sticky notes. 
In the Skillshare class “Designing for the Future: UI/UX Prototyping,” teacher Patricia Reiners brainstorms UI ideas. 

The allure of a career in UX research lies in its distinctive blend of creativity, psychology and technology. 

Not sure if it's right for you? Consider some of the most compelling reasons to become a UX researcher:

  • Making a measurable impact: UX researchers have the unique opportunity to directly influence the user experience of digital products and services, and thus can make a tangible impact on people's lives.
  • Understanding human behavior: For those who are interested in human psychology and behavior, UX research offers a rich field for exploration, and allows researchers to study how people interact with technology.
  • Problem-solving: UX research involves solving complex problems related to usability, accessibility and user satisfaction, which can appeal to those with a knack for creative problem-solving.
  • Frequent interaction: Since UX research involves both interviewing users and communicating with product development teams, it's a field that's perfect for outgoing people who love talking with others.
  • Continuous learning: The field of UX research is dynamic and evolving, which means researchers need to stay updated on emerging technologies, methodologies and user trends. In turn, this helps to foster a culture of lifelong learning and continued education.
  • Cross-disciplinary collaboration: UX researchers must often collaborate with designers, developers, product managers and stakeholders from diverse backgrounds. This creates a wealth of opportunities to work in interdisciplinary teams and learn from other technology, business and UX professionals.
  • High demand: With the increasing emphasis on user experience in product development, there is a rapidly growing demand for skilled UX researchers in the job market. That means you're likely to find plenty of promising career prospects and opportunities for growth.
  • Flexible work environment: Many UX research roles offer a great deal of flexibility in terms of work location, hours and remote work options. In other words, they offer a work-life balance that can be adapted to suit many different preferences and lifestyles.
  • Advocacy for users: UX researchers serve as advocates for users within organizations by championing user needs and advocating for user-centered design practices. By doing so, they actively contribute to the creation of more inclusive and user-friendly products.

Start Your UX Research Career

The role of a UX researcher is indispensable in shaping digital experiences that resonate with users. By understanding the fundamentals of UX research, acquiring essential skills and building a strong portfolio, aspiring UX researchers can embark on a fulfilling and impactful career journey.

And no matter what step of the journey you’re on, Skillshare’s collection of online UX research classes can help you get to the next level.  

Written By
Carrie Buchholz

Carrie Buchholz

Carrie Buchholz is a freelance writer who lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and dog.

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