Primary user research is the most important part of a user intelligence effort. There is no substitute for doing your own research. Important detail can get lost in a report. You need to see users' frustrations first hand or experience their delight when they find something new to truly understand their needs.

Although user research is usually done with broader considerations in mind, this section focuses on some of the methods that are most relevant to navigation design. No matter what your goal, planning a strategy before you begin will make your research far more effective.


First and foremost, establish what you'd like to get out of the research before you begin. Ask the wrong questions, and you'll get the wrong answers. Consider these questions in determining your research goals:

  • Why is the organization undertaking user research?

  • What questions would you like answered?

  • When will research take place?

  • Who is the audience for research findings?

After setting your goals, choose a research method. Don't make the mistake of doing this the other way around. Fit the method to the research questions. Secondary research and existing user data greatly shape the open questions you may still have. They point to the gaps in knowledge and to larger issues that require further investigation. The various methods are covered in detail in the next sections; for now, just consider the two fundamental approaches:

  • Qualitative methods tend to be exploratory ...

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