A much-needed UX specialty that students and current designers are entering into is UX research.
The research phase of UX is so important but can take a substantial amount of time and effort. A design team with a UX researcher on board can optimize their research process by delegating that work to a specialist with extensive knowledge, skill, and user research experience.
One of the best ways to obtain some UX research credentials is to attend a UX research bootcamp. A bootcamp is a great way to expedite your learning process and gain the practical skills needed to boost your appeal as a UX designer or get hired as a UX researcher.
Navigating the start of your UX research career can feel a bit overwhelming. What skills are needed? How do I learn? What schools are available? This guide will go in-depth on all things UX research and how to pursue a UX research career. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is UX research?
- What skills are needed to be a UX researcher?
- How to become a UX researcher
- How to choose a UX research bootcamp
- Five of the best UX research bootcamps out there
Now let’s get into it!
1. What is UX research?
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of UX research, let’s take a quick look at the definition of a “user experience.”
User experience refers to a user’s feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and actions when interacting with a company’s products or services. It can include things like company websites, applications, product pages, digital interfaces or softwares, customer service experiences, marketing, advertising, or even a physical product.
Therefore, user research is the accumulation and analysis of data about the people/users experiencing the brand or company product. The information gathered by UX designers or researchers is then used to inform future design decisions to try and align the users’ needs with the business goals.
By systematically investigating the users’ behaviors, backgrounds, needs, and challenges, a designer can tailor the product to its users for a better chance of conversion rates and continued use.
You can learn even more about it in our beginner’s guide to UX research.
How is UX research done?
Many methods are used when conducting user research, and depending on the project, resources, and business goals, UX designers use different techniques at different times. Generally, the methods aim to uncover user demographics, daily tasks and lifestyles, behaviors, expectations, pain points, and goals.
User research methods are often broken down into two categories: quantitative and qualitative. Each is important, and good user research employs both types of data to form a well-rounded picture of the user.
Quantitative research data is objective, measurable, and often numerical (i.e., statistical, mathematical, computational). In contrast, qualitative data is subjective, non-numerical data and often in the form of comments, behaviors, opinions, feelings, or motivations.
UX researchers obtain both quantitative and qualitative data in many ways. Examples include surveys, interviews, focus groups, heuristic analysis, task analysis, A/B testing, card sorting, heat maps, and diary studies. Research methods are chosen based on what information needs to be obtained and the resources available for the project.
You can learn more about how to kick off your qualitative user research in this video, as professional designer Maureen shows you how it’s done:
2. What skills are needed to be a UX researcher?
Quite obviously, UX researchers must have good research and analytical skills.
But, to be a well-rounded UX researcher, many other technical and non-technical skills are essential to your work. Here are a few examples of technical and soft skills needed to be a UX researcher.
- Time management
- Communication and people skills
- UX/UI design knowledge
- Comprehensive understanding of different research methods (and when to use them)
- Working knowledge of various design and research tools (i.e., Invision, Adobe, Google Analytics, Survey Monkey, Figma, etc.)
- Critical thinking and problem-solving.
- User testing and analysis
- Persona creation
- Attention to detail
3. How to become a UX researcher
The road to becoming a UX researcher doesn’t always look the same for everybody.
Some start as UX designers and specialize later in their careers. Some train solely as UX researchers and enter the research field shortly after. Others might have unique communications, sociology, psychology, or even anthropology backgrounds.
If you’re new to the field, there are a few options for becoming a UX researcher. While there are no hard and fast rules to becoming a UX designer, many people follow one of three paths: traditional degree, general UX bootcamp, or a UX research bootcamp. Let’s briefly explore each option:
While there are no formal degrees for UX, many other degrees can help prepare you for a career path in UX or UX research. Programs like Visual, Communication or Interaction Design, Psychology, Information Architecture, Statistics, Anthropology, or Human-Computer Interaction offer a base of knowledge translatable to a UX research career.
General UX bootcamp
For those that don’t have or can’t easily obtain translatable degrees like the ones above, a UX bootcamp is a great option. UX bootcamps teach students the ins and outs of all UX design concepts in an expedited fashion so you can quickly adopt the practical skills needed to land a job. This option is especially great for students who want a general idea of the UX process before focusing solely on user research.
UX research bootcamp
If you are confident in your desire to work in a specialized field like UX research, there are a few focused bootcamps that center around the user research process and its methods. UX research bootcamps are tailored to your interests and give you a fast but effective way to build your skill set and portfolio and find a job as a UX researcher.
4. How to choose a UX research bootcamp
Choosing a bootcamp that’s right for you requires you to think through some important aspects of yourself first, so you can have the best experience in the bootcamp you choose and your career afterward. Here are three things we think would be good to figure out first:
Your preferred learning style
Knowing your needs as a learner is key to getting a positive experience during your bootcamp and making sure you’re learning practical skills. If you’re unsure what your learning style is, try to ask yourself these questions:
- Are you someone that needs a mentor or 1-on-1 guidance?
- Would you prefer to learn in person, remotely, or a mix of both?
- Do you need some freedom to work at your own pace?
- How do you best grasp new concepts? Reading about them, doing them, having someone explain them to you? Are you more visual, auditory, or hands-on?
- How much contact with other students in your cohort would you prefer?
- Do you prefer group projects or solo work?
Once you know your learning necessities, you can start researching the bootcamps you’re interested in, their methods, and their typical student experience to see if it matches your preferences.
Budget and time
While it would be great to attend the bootcamp of our dreams, sometimes it has to come down to your budget and how much time you have to commit. What funds do you have available? What other commitments do you have in your life at this time? These things will influence what bootcamp works well with your current situation.
Ability to commute
Your ability to get to and from the school is another critical factor in determining what bootcamp is best for you. Even if you prefer in-person learning, a 2-hour commute to your nearest bootcamp can impact your overall school experience.
Bonus factor: Time spent on UX research
If you’re someone that knows they want to go into UX research, picking a bootcamp with a research focus would be of benefit. Even if you can’t find a strictly UX research bootcamp, you can find out how much different general UX bootcamp courses dedicate to research methods by reaching out to alumni, current students, or recruiters from the school.
5. Five of the best UX research bootcamps out there
Here are a handful of UX research or general UX bootcamps you can check out to start your path towards becoming a UX researcher.
Memorisely: UX Research Bootcamp
Memorisely offers a unique, five-week UX research bootcamp that combines self-guided learning and live online classes. Their eclectic curriculum is a low time commitment and combines remote learning with the benefits of speaking to UX research professionals in real-time.
Interaction Design Federation: User Research Bootcamp
For a bit more flexibility, check out the Interaction Design Federation’s research bootcamp. It is a go-at-your-own-pace bootcamp that’s estimated to take around seven weeks. It’s entirely online with an option to attend some in-person meetups. You’ll get weekly lessons that you can complete on your own time and permanent access to all course material.
General Assembly: Conducting User Research Bootcamp
If you’re pressed for time or looking to add some UX research achievements to your resume, the General Assembly user research bootcamp could be for you. Structured like a one-time, online workshop, this bootcamp uses lecture-based and interactive methods that teach you the ins and outs of user research.
CareerFoundry: UX Fundamentals
The CareerFoundry UX fundamentals course is an excellent option for students unfamiliar with UX or UX research that need a taste of what it’s like before committing to a career path. Their 30-day Intro to UX course introduces general UX concepts and prepares you for the longer, more intensive seven-month course.
While you will be learning all UX principles, there is a high level of focus on user research planning, methods, and data evaluation.
Springboard: UX/UI Design Career Track
Springboard offers an intensive, nine-month UX/UI bootcamp that covers UX/UI fundamentals and practical skills. Like other online bootcamps, the Springboard UX/UI course has flexible time commitments, is remote, and provides students with a personal mentor.
You’ll learn all stages of the UX design process, including user research methods and skills.
It’s important to note that these are just a short selection of UX/UI bootcamps with a heavy research focus. There are many to explore to find the best fit for your UX journey.
UX research is a growing subspecialty that’s attracting many professionals in the field, both experienced and novice. As a UX researcher, you can concentrate on an integral part of the UX process by helping your design team make data-driven decisions with a more significant potential to please the users and increase your bottom line.
More and more UX research bootcamps are popping up for students that want to focus on this area or for current UX designers looking to expand their research skillset.
Choosing the right bootcamp for you often depends on your learning style, budget, location, and time available. Luckily, many high-quality, flexible options fit most prospective learners’ lifestyles.
If you’d like to read more about the world of UX research and UX design in general, check out these articles: