This answer does not discuss any UX methods but highlights the process that I follow. UX research is very critical to the subsequent design process and thus is as much important as the design itself.
“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”Zora Neale Hurston
Don’t get to the solution first!
One might have done similar projects before and might be knowing solutions to the common problems. However, do not hurry into finishing research and jump to design. Chances are one will overlook the important points. However obvious this may sound, one will still try to design solution due to client’s demand or tight timeline. Rather, the first step is to get a clear brief from the client. Also, this is not easy!
Inflate the brief. Detail out the objective, intent, requirements and everything which is necessary for the research and make sure it is in conjunction with the client. Build an understanding of the client – get closer to the problem; this might help in strengthening the empathy. UX Research is a very exhaustive process if done in its fullest. Many times if the scope is not defined correctly, there are chances that one does not know where to end the research and that pushes the timeline.
At this stage, one should have everything to begin the research. Yes, the actual research has not started yet. One’s vision now should reflect the objective of this inquiry. On the other hand, he should list the sources of carrying out this research (such as technical papers, interviews and field trip). The plan will be the primer for the research – the process, methods, deliverables will be its ingredients. Now, one will find hundreds of techniques and deliverables for UX research, generalized enough so that he can apply them in the context, but sometimes it is not sufficient to follow the existing schema. They may need improvisation and planning here means thinking ahead and selecting what will be relevant here. Of course, there may be detours, and that is part of this process.
Observe and Research
However simple this may sound, this is exhaustive and goes mundane if the plan is not adequate. Don’t decide the solution or result before actually reaching there by the facts.
“We tend to be distracted by the voices in our own heads telling us what the design should look like.”Michael Bierut, Partner at Pentagram Design
The chances are that one will not be able to find if he is biased by himself. Peer reviews can be of help here. Organize and document the research and don’t be afraid of picking facts that may not sound relevant directly. The mode of the investigation drives the quality of the study, what information is from the target user and what from the publications or experts. Many researchers select the users based on ease of accessibility. Picking friends and family for the user study for the research who does not qualify in the desired target group should never be done. The sample size is another thing which is critical and should always have a basis. Also, It is hard to end the research because one may not know that if this research will suffice the intent set in the plan or not; and this is why that analysis of the research should happen simultaneously with the research.
The analysis is often the final step; one should deduce all the facts collected till now into (valuable) insights and implications. The selection of methods will be based on the kind of research till now and don’t be afraid of applying multiple methods to the same observation to find hidden patterns. Stay away from personal opinions and in case if one finds a possible pattern but not enough evidence, go back to the research.