User research is conducted so as to understand users’ characteristics, aims, and behaviors towards achieving these aims. Its purpose is to produce designs that improve their working practices and lives. User research also involves the continuous evaluation of the impact of designs on the users, not only during the design and development phase but after long-term use, too.
The types of user research that can be carried out include both qualitative (e.g., ethnographic studies, scenarios, personas, focus groups, prototyping) and quantitative methods (e.g., surveys, eye tracking, controlled laboratory or field testing). The chosen tools and methodologies depend on the type of system to be developed, the timeline and budget constraints, and the usage environment. User research aims to apply scientific principles not merely in order to solve design problems. It does so also in order to feed findings back to the various disciplines, so as to inform and shape current theories on underlying principles. Given that the intricacies surrounding the use context and user requirements of a product can remain hidden until far along into development, designers will tend to appreciate the time-saving—and, in some cases, project-saving—value of user research in hindsight.