Unlock the power of user research: Building delightful business applications

Ibrahim Alkali
Ibrahim Alkali
On Jun 19, 2023 2:24:00 PM

With over 20 years of experience in web applications across various business verticals, our Vaadin experts have discovered the remarkable benefits that well-researched and -designed business applications offer. From reducing errors to delivering delightful user experiences, this distinction is pivotal in the workplace. And it all starts with user research.

But what exactly is user research?

User research refers to the methods used to understand target users' needs and pain points. Its goal is to gain valuable insights that can be used to build a useful and delightful product. User research is a continuous iterative process that begins with the collection of ideas at the onset of a project and evolves through the ongoing evaluation of a working product with users.

Continue reading to explore diverse approaches and methodologies for user research that can effectively guide you in building business applications with great UX.

Benefits of user research

It helps in building the correct solution

A true understanding of a problem is the first step to building the right solution and validating ideas with users helps product teams develop solutions that work for the users without wasting effort.

When building workplace apps, involving users in the design process provides more information about their work routines and their particular needs. These insights, gained through observing and interacting with real users of the system, lead to solutions that work best for them. 

For example, when designing an app doctors use to manage surgeries, interacting with these doctors provides more accurate insights than obtaining information from other sources or not carrying out any research at all.

User research helps nurture empathy

Designers are advocates for the user and need to be in tune with them to be effective. This means setting aside any personal or preconceived notions and being willing to learn about the user. User research helps bring users closer to product development teams, challenging assumptions and reminding them of users’ emotional aspects.

Empathy enables product teams to create solutions that truly advocate for the user instead of taking advantage of them through deceptive UI patterns. Ultimately, users have a positive experience with a product that is developed with their best interests in mind.

Gaining insights directly from users helps software designers to put themselves in their users’ shoes and uncover subtle nuances that would otherwise be missed. 

Helps build accessible products

About 16% of the world’s population suffers from some form and degree of disability. Inclusive design advocates for designing for a wide range of users. 

To effectively address accessibility concerns, it is essential to include people with disabilities in the user research process. This means researching how people with disabilities use a system and improving it to accommodate their needs. 

Overall, a system that empathically ensures usability for people with disabilities is also more user-friendly for everyone else.

Quantitative vs. qualitative research

Based on the type of output produced, user research methods can be categorized into quantitative or qualitative research.

Quantitative research

This type of research produces numerical data. It’s useful for uncovering hard data that can be used for analysis, comparison, monitoring trends, and providing a generalized representation of the target users.

Examples of quantitative research methods include:

Usability tests

Usability tests involve giving users tasks in a system and allow researchers to observe how well users complete those tasks in order to uncover difficulties in the interaction. Quantitative metrics include conversion rates, time-on-task, drop-off rate, etc.


Surveys are suitable for collecting data to gain insight into the opinions of users. Quantitative surveys are numerical and can be used to measure trends.


Analytics tools can be used to monitor how a product performs to uncover usability issues. Such tools offer additional insights into user acquisition and their behaviors which can be used to improve the usability of websites and applications.

Funnel analysis

Funnels facilitate understanding the steps users take in an app or website to reach an outcome. They are great for identifying drop-off points and potential optimizations to increase conversions.

Qualitative research

This type of research produces data that can’t be quantified, such as observations, opinions, motivations, and emotions. Qualitative research is useful for gaining a more in-depth understanding of specific target users through observation.

Examples of qualitative research include:

User interviews

Interviews involve asking open-ended questions and observing users’ verbal and non-verbal responses. Interviews provide the opportunity to get close to users and extract valuable information.

Focus groups

Focus groups involve bringing together a small group of people for questions and discussions around a topic of interest to understand their attitudes and preferences. Their responses can provide clues about how a product or service would be received by the public.

Usability tests

Usability tests can also be qualitative. Qualitative usability tests focus on observing the users and collecting non-numerical information on their emotions and motivations while using a product.

Contextual inquiry

This involves observing and interacting with a user within the context of their activities to understand their workflow. It puts the user researcher in a position to see users “in the wild,” reflecting their true ways of working and providing clues on how to build solutions that integrate seamlessly into users’ work life.

Foundational vs. evaluative research

Depending on the intent, research methods may also be classified into foundational research and evaluative research.

Foundational research

It’s aimed at uncovering users’ needs, motivations, and pain points, as well as opportunities to solve real-world issues they are facing. 

This is typically carried out early in a project's lifecycle to guide product teams in understanding what needs to be built. It provides opportunities to thoroughly explore the problem from new perspectives.

Foundational research is also referred to as generative research.

Evaluative research

Evaluative research is aimed at evaluating an idea or concept for improvement. This is typically carried out continuously throughout a project’s lifecycle whenever there is something tangible that can be tested. 

Continuous testing keeps product teams on the right track, ensuring that additional features are verified with users. This makes it easier to correct courses when new features don’t work well for users.

The way forward

Embarking on user research in your product development workflows might initially seem overwhelming. However, it's important to note that not all user research methods need to be utilized by every team. They can be tailored to match available resources. Remember, even a small amount of research is better than none at all, as user research is a rewarding endeavor that outweighs its development costs.

Our design experts have built considerable experience over hundreds of successful projects and can help you elevate your apps.

Explore our design services, or contact us for more information!

Ibrahim Alkali
Ibrahim Alkali
Ibrahim works as a Designer at Vaadin, planning and implementing top-class UX for customer projects.
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