UX Researcher vs. UX Designer
As the names suggest, UX researchers conduct user research, UX research, and UX designers design. A UX researcher searches and highlights which errors or problems of the product or service should be corrected from the users' perspective. A designer creates a solution. They work based on the researcher's results and a set of product requirements.
Some specialists try to combine both functions, but finding a universal expert is challenging. They are like tigers, a species on the brink of extinction.
Usually, one field of expertise clearly outweighs the other. Either a specialist is a good researcher or a good designer. Therefore, saving and employing one person to combine both roles in the organization impacts the one who saves, that is, the company and its owners.
Separating the functions of the researcher and designer has another advantage. A designer who researches immediately thinks about how they would solve a problem. They may be impatient, so they are not looking sufficiently deep for errors and areas to optimize.
A UX designer who is a researcher may be biased. Meaning that, consciously or unconsciously, they construct the research to fit their thesis and conduct the interview in a way that leads a respondent.
Not every researcher will be a good UX researcher right away. But a researcher with specialized education and experience in a research company is a more reliable candidate than a researcher who cannot boast about that level of experience on their CV.
It should be remembered that UX research is primarily qualitative, not quantitative. It requires the skills of conducting in-depth interviews and conducting focus and workshop groups. A researcher should be characterized by emotional intelligence and the ability to lead a group and manage its dynamics.
Not every designer will be a good UX designer right away. As for me, I am looking for UX designers with analytical thinking and an "engineer" element, and I don't have much interest in those with the Academy of Fine Arts degree on their résumé.
Can UX research and UX Design be combined?
I remember talking to a person who tried to combine the skills of a researcher and designer. I asked him about how to run a workshop with a group.
He replied: "Simply. I introduce the group to the topic and then roll out the cards.” I asked the candidate if he happened not to fit in the scheduled workshop time, did not complete the whole plan, and, if yes, how he handled the situation.
The answer was equally disarming: "It has never happened to me."
A workshop is not about "rolling out the cards." Moreover, I have yet to meet a professional facilitator who would say that they always achieve goals with a group within the scheduled time.
UX is treacherous. The research and design processes seem to be straightforward. Tools that are easy to find on the internet look simple, and the professions of a UX researcher and UX designer seem easily achievable.
The simplicity of UX tools doesn't come from the ease of the method. Simplicity comes from the necessity of members of a group who have different levels of education and experience to understand the tasks they will need to complete in a moment.
HR recruiter? Receptionist? Graphic designer? Motion designer? Of course, they can become a researcher or UX designer, but they must go a long way. Behind the fast career of a UX researcher usually hides sociological and psychological education and experience in research. Behind the career of a UX Designer hides an engineer, architect, and industrial designer.
How do UX researchers work with UX designers?
UX researchers and designers work closely together throughout the entire design thinking process to optimize and improve user experience. Their goal is to deliver user-centric digital products and services. With the help of user research methods (UX research methods), UX researchers define a problem so that designers can provide a solution.
Researchers and designers cooperate during user behavior research, thanks to which they can identify pain points and create, among others, an even more intuitive and friendly user interface.
UX researchers focus on collecting user feedback and insights and analyzing their behaviors and needs. In the meantime, UX designers concentrate on improving the visual design of a digital product.
The cooperation between researchers and designers should be as efficient as possible to ensure their work facilitates the design process and is appropriately translated into design decisions.
Skills and competencies of UX researchers and designers
I talked a little about the differences and similarities between UX designers and UX researchers, but how exactly do they differ regarding skills and competencies?
UX designers, besides industry-specific skills, also need soft competencies.
According to the Career Foundry, these include the following:
- Interpersonal, collaborative, and communication skills
- Curiosity and continuous learning
- Critical Thinking.
On the other hand, industry-specific skills should cover the following:
- Wireframing and prototyping
- UX writing
- Visual communication and UI design (interaction design)
- User testing, usability research.
When it comes to a UX researcher, they should possess the following technical competencies:
- Knowledge regarding qualitative research
- Understanding of the UI Design
- Creating user personas
- Making user journey maps
- Conducting usability testing
- Empathy Mapping.
In terms of soft skills, they should be characterized by:
- Active listening
I think that this illustrates well how the competencies of UX designers and researchers overlap and complete each other. Therefore, having a separate UX research team that can work in tandem with the UX design team is more than beneficial.
UX researcher vs. UX designer - Responsibilities
A UX researcher usually needs to do the following:
- Meet with clients/customers to obtain their requirements
- Determine what needs to be researched, designed, or what needs usability testing
- Define research methods and questions
- Conduct research (including initial market research)
- Recruit participants for research
- Define timelines for research projects
- Present their findings to, among others, stakeholders and designers.
A UX designer's job is to:
- Conduct user research and final user interface testing
- Analyze user flows
- Collaborate with UX researchers and developers
- Work together with UI designers to improve user interfaces and human-computer interaction
- Understand product specifications
- Develop prototypes and wireframes according to user needs.
UXOps or DesignOps, taking into account the work of User Experience Researchers
DevOps, a compact concept in the IT industry, gave birth to the idea of DesignOps.
DesignOps is a set of practices and procedures that facilitates the operational management of a design team.
I propose introducing the concept of UXOps as the name for the operational management of a team consisting of researchers and designers. In our company, we have selected many areas from which we build UXOps and facilitate the work of our design teams. I will present some of them.
How often have you seen generic names in the project that tell you nothing? How many times have you been struck by designer files with names consisting of: "copy copy," "copy copy copy"?
In each project, a naming convention for tasks should be agreed upon and adopted, which the team then implements. The same names for tasks should be used in all project management programs, schedules, reports, etc. The names of the artboards and layers used in the design programs should derive from this adopted convention.
Standardization of work tools.
Did you ever meet a designer who chose only those tools that were more convenient for them? Or have you come across a researcher who uses different tools in each project and scatters the collected knowledge between PowerPoint, Excel, Google Docs, a company inbox, and a private inbox?
This is one of the worst things that can happen to a UX team. This means that the employees differ in their work culture, organization, and beliefs regarding how to perform the tasks. A well-known brand of the previous employer does not guarantee that it is a well-organized company. In the meantime, the company and the team as a whole should feel a sense of convenience.
Knowledge of the process by team members.
Do you use agile and rely on self-organizing teams? Or maybe you are working according to a military culture where nothing happens without an order? Regardless of the organizational culture, knowledge of the process — the sequence of tasks, who depends on what during implementation — significantly facilitates project management and increases team motivation.
Systematization of best practices.
Best practices reported by the team should be validated and entered into the knowledge base. A team leader should systematize knowledge and share it with a team.
Each project contains repetitive processes and activities. Instead of repeating them, we use startkit, a set of default tools we will need during implementation. You should treat workplaces like a car workshop — the right configuration and placement are important — tools should be positioned in the right compartments at the right distances. When this is done correctly, the work is faster and smoother.
UX Researcher vs. UX Designer. DesignOps. Summary
- A researcher, researchers, and a designer designs. UX, like any other field, develops and has its specialties.
- UX researchers can and should work together with UX designers.
- UX research and UX design overlap and simultaneously differ.
- UX researchers should be empathetic, persuasive, and inquisitive. UX designers should think critically, learn continuously, and have good communication skills.
- Regardless of what projects a UX team implements, managers should properly use the best practices and knowledge it acquired. Otherwise, the company is exposed to the risk of loss and unjustified costs.
- By buying and selling UX, you buy and sell value expressed in knowledge. If a company cannot manage knowledge, it will be difficult to manage UX.