Careers in user research

From large corporations to startups, there is a growing demand for skilled user researchers in India

Published - March 16, 2024 10:12 pm IST

In India, user research is evolving into a crucial instrument for strategic, user-centred innovation. 

In India, user research is evolving into a crucial instrument for strategic, user-centred innovation.  | Photo Credit: Freepik

User research is a foundational element in strategic decision-making, placing users at the forefront of business and product strategy. Rooted in Human-Centred Design (HCD), it involves a comprehensive exploration of real-world dynamics, including users, products, and competition. This includes the meticulous curation of real-user stories and market data, which is then translated into actionable insights. The process aims to identify target user segments, product-market fit that addresses core user needs, uncover unmet challenges, identify untapped markets and understand user behaviours through methods that involves immersion, observation, and feedback.

A distinct aspect of user research involves delving into user engagement with a product or service, aiming to reconcile disparities between perceived, stated, and actual user needs. This holistic approach ensures a comprehensive understanding of user requirements, guiding the development of user-centric design from the initial stage of ideation to launch. User researchers strive to connect expectations with deliverables, shaping products or services that not only meet user standards but also add significant business value.

User research vs. UX research

The terms ‘user research’ and ‘UX research’ are often used interchangeably but have certain nuanced differences. User research has a broader scope, influencing decisions before product inception, guiding innovation opportunities, and informing business, sales and marketing strategies. In contrast, UX research is a subset focused on studying user interactions with a product or service, dissecting responses before and after product use.

User research bridges the gap between stakeholders (business leaders, sales and marketing heads, product owners and designers) and customers. By conceptualising research inquiries and delving deep into the user narratives, researchers help teams empathise with the user by communicating useful insights. It also plays a pivotal role in shaping the success of a product or service. The results help marketers identify target audiences and create relevant new products, direct designers and developers in improving existing products, thus significantly impacting the overall customer experience.

Educational requirement

Becoming a user researcher does not require a specific educational background. Individuals come from diverse academic paths such as Design, Psychology, Human-Computer Interaction, Engineering, Literature, and more. The central tenet is empathy, understanding user perspectives, and effective communication. Proficiency in qualitative and quantitative research methods, coupled with a deep understanding of human behaviour, is also important. Continuous skill enhancement is encouraged through short courses, boot camps, and online resources.

Career avenues

User researchers find opportunities across sectors, from technology companies and startups to digital marketing agencies, telecommunications, banking, and retail. Companies like Google, Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple maintain substantial UX research teams. Freelancing roles offer avenues for diverse projects. User research consultancies and smaller companies provide opportunities for impactful contributions within the field.

In India, user research is evolving into a crucial instrument for strategic, user-centred innovation. The focus has shifted from fixing poorly designed products to envisioning future possibilities. Executives acknowledge that user research enhances company efficiency and positively impacts product and service quality. There is a growing demand for skilled user researchers in India, not only in large corporations but also in start-ups. Various industries such as technology, e-commerce, entertainment, recruitment, design, paint manufacturing, computer hardware, and social media have begun prioritising user research.

User research is not just a component of product development; it has become a strategic imperative for organisations thriving in the user-centric landscape. As India progresses in the global tech industry, the demand for skilled user researchers is set to grow, making it a compelling field for individuals passionate about understanding and meeting user needs in the evolving digital landscape.

The writer is Founder and Director (User Research),User Connect Consultancy.

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