User Experience / What is the difference between user testing and user research?

What is the difference between user testing and user research?

Andy Thorne
person in full space suit

Gathering ux research data is a key element when creating any customer facing product or service. User research and user testing are often confused. User testing is a method within a group of user research methods. They are both important if you want a website that delivers a positive user experience. In this article, we explain the difference between the 2 terms.

User testing refers to a specific method for evaluation of a website (or interface). User research is a group of methods for evaluation of a website, that include:

  • user testing
  • user interviews
  • surveys and more

In short, user testing is just a type of user research method.

You are no doubt aware of the high price placed on achieving a positive user experience on your website. In fact, establishing a strong relationship with your customers through any marketing tools is clearly vital. Whether it’s digital or physical.

How potential customers respond impacts on how they act

Ux Research impacts

The question is, how can you measure and map your customers? Our two ux research methods will uncover this for you.

You particularly need your target audiences to interact with your website pages in a constructive and fertile way. The design and content needs to hold their attention and guide them towards a completed transaction. Whether that’s placing an order, calling you, visiting or registering for more information.

So, User Experience (UX) directly correlates to lead conversion. The question is, how can you measure and map your UX? How can you drill down on website user reactions and actions, so you can continuously update and improve its performance?

The two primary ways to achieve this level of insight are user research and user testing.

It is common to see these applied as interchangeable terms. However, for an advanced understanding of your UX, appreciating the subtle difference between them is important. This is where tux research becomes the core.

Testing the usability of your website

ux research testing

Remember – user testing provides an overview of how easy your website is to interact with.

Ux testing is a nuts and bolts process.

It can be applied in various situations. For example, companies often conduct user testing on a new product to gain insights on whether there are unforeseen glitches or usability issues.

In relation to website design and build – and the relative UX values you have achieved – user testing provides an overview of how easy your website is to interact with.

Carrying out this process will tell you, for example, if users are getting delayed by poor navigation features or distracted by certain images, text blocks or confusing tabs.

Advanced techniques for usability testing can create a scientific assessment of your ux research. This includes eye mapping exercises, tracking how website users react visually to your design and layout, without them actually telling you!

65% of website visitors wouldn’t submit a form if too much personal information was required

What is UX Research?

UX research delves more into your users’ wants and needs. It revolves around the level of empathy you have with them and the way you position what you sell as a solution to their ‘pains and gains’.

So, where websites are concerned, user research shows whether your pages are proving effective enough at matching specific wants and needs. User research also looks more generally at website user behaviours.

For example, user research can tell you that customers desire a certain colour, size or type of product. When they visit your pages, that’s what they are looking for. When they don’t find it easily or at all, they are clicking away.

Ux research into decision making and behaviour can provide you with product development ideas of course. Or, it can simply highlight the need to update the design and content of your website to improve UX.

An illustration would be when user research shows that your target audience is interested in unusual food ingredients. However, when they interact with your website, the research also tells you that they are put off by the fact your products are displayed and explained in a way that makes them too exotic and mysterious.

From this intel, you update your product pages to include images of the ingredients being used and simple instructions and recipes. Which improves UX and the likelihood of customers placing those items in their shopping cart.

How to do ux research for websites

The techniques to uncover user motivation, interests, and behaviors are many and various. It depends on your target audiences, budget, and timescales.

For example, you could set up forums and discussion groups to review a prototype website and generate feedback. Or, you could conduct field studies of a prototype or live site, taking your insightful questions out to groups of potential users. Ux research varies, depending on what results you are looking for.

You can also take a look at our handy user research cheat sheet for more UX research methods that will help you to help you design the right website for your visitors.

If you want to conduct regular ux research for a live site, then surveys and interviews could be periodically actioned.

Getting a complete picture of UX performance and improvements

Within your programme of regular website UX research, it’s highly advisable to include user testing too.

This gives you a complete overview of what is – and what isn’t – working well.

If this still sounds a rather complex process, or you are unsure how to set up user testing and research activities head to this article about the need for user research and why it’s necessary for your website.

Extended Reading – Paul Boag: How To Get Started With Usability Testing