How to Choose a User Experience Technique

Aug 18, 2014

The good news: Your boss is interested in User Experience!

The news: She wants you to do something about it … NOW.

Well, don’t be alarmed; you can start by figuring out two simple things:

How UX Solves Problems on an umbrella

Dan Willis, uxcrank

  1. Identify the Stage you’re in in the development cycle. Write it down.

  2. Choose a User Experience (UX) Technique that makes sense in your development stage. While choosing the technique you should first know what the technique offers and how long it takes, so you can make an informed decision. Here are a few user experience techniques and longer explanations below:

UX Techniques Stage Duration
Personas Early Development 2-5 days to 2 weeks
Field Visits / Ethnographic research Initial Problem Definition 2-4 weeks
Focus Groups Early Development 2-4 weeks
Usability Testing Throughout 1-3 weeks
Surveys Development, Post Development, Redesign 2-6 weeks
Diary Studies Post Development, Redesign 4-6 weeks
Usage Data and Customer Feedback Development, Post Development, Redesign Variable
Table: UX techniques and best-suited phase during development.


They represent your generalized or hypothetical users. Personas are created to replicate your actual users who are going to use your end product. They serve a great reference point in your development phase, as they resemble your users.

Stage: Best suited for Early Development phase.

Duration: Two to Five days, over two weeks.

Field Visits

This technique helps you understand and learn how your users use your product or your website on their turf. You get to evaluate your users’ mental model and get a close look at the usage of your product. This helps you analyze their needs and use it to improve your website or products.

Stage: Best suited for Initial Problem definition.

Duration: Two to four weeks, not including recruiting.

Focus Groups

These are group interviews conducted to understand what the users want. Focus groups are great to learn the ideas, likes, dislikes, and priorities of your users and also to get feedback from your users.

Stage: Best suited for Early Development phase during the feature design.

Duration: Two to four weeks, not including recruiting.

Usability tests

These tests are interviews with specific tasks that are given to users to test your product. They help to uncover the flaws in design, interaction and other user experience problems.

Stage: Throughout the Design and Development phase.

Duration: One to three weeks, including recruiting.


Surveys are questionnaires about your products, distributed to a larger audience to get statistical results. You can understand your users’ choices, priorities and get feedback anonymously.

Stage: Beginning of the Development phase, After launch and before redesign.

Duration: Two to six weeks.

Diary Studies

User analysis to study the daily activities of your user. Diaries can help to uncover the actual documented usage of your product and are maintained by the user.

Stage: After Launch, Before redesign.

Duration: Four to Six weeks.

Usage Data and Customer Feedback

It analyzes your website traffic, usage, and customer feedback. User data can reveal the pros and cons of your product. User comments and feedback can be obtained.

Stage: Beginning of the Development phase, After Launch and before Redesign.

Duration: Varies.

How it Works

So let’s take it for a spin. Let’s say, for instance, you’re in redesign phase and have two weeks to perform the user analysis before you hand it over to the tech team.

  1. Identify the Stage—You’re in the Redesign stage

  2. Choose a User Experience Technique—For the redesign stage, we can choose from three UX techniques: Usability tests, Surveys, and Usage Data & Customer Feedback.

Now that you know what you can do, go out and give it a try! And let us know how things went.

Good luck!

Pooja Sawant is in her second year at University of Maryland, College Park, earning an MS in Information Management. She is interning with the DigitalGov User Experience Program at GSA this summer.