Are You Using AI In Your Job?

We want to understand the real-world applications of AL and ML in business and the impact it will have on all our jobs.

Want to help? Complete the survey, your insights could make a big difference. It will just take one minute.
You'll be the first to get access to the final report.-->

Mobile App User Research: How To Get Into A User’s Mind

Natasha Singh | April 28, 2020

Perhaps the most important step of the mobile app design process is the UX research stage. This stage is monumental in figuring out exactly what your potential user base is looking for in an app and then developing a strategy to meet their expectations.

After all, a lot of apps look great on paper, but they often fall flat when they eventually make their way onto the smartphones of consumers. Getting into your ideal user’s mind through user experience research is the perfect way to release your app without a hitch.

There are two main categories of UX research: qualitative and quantitative. Let’s go over some of the different strategies in each category and how beneficial they can be in mobile app user research.

Qualitative UX Research Strategies

Not all data can be measured in numbers, which is exactly the case with qualitative research. When it comes to user experience research, qualitative research gauges how users are feeling about the app and what their personal experiences have been with the app.

Lab Studies

Lab studies are perhaps the most direct way to get into a user’s mind in a one-on-one scenario. This method allows a mobile app user to engage directly with an app researcher, who will then analyze the user’s movements through the app.

Specificity is key in this approach to mobile app research. The researcher will provide a scenario that the specific user can relate to and then ask them to perform a task or activity related to the scenario. For instance, you might ask a user to open the app and use it to buy a smartphone for less than $800.

The researcher will then watch carefully as the user utilizes the app to perform the task. This allows researchers to understand how people use the app or expect the app to work for specific functions.

Diary Studies

Both written and video diary studies are ideal for getting a long-term analysis of how users are feeling about the app. This allows you to learn how the app relates to the user and why they’re choosing to use it in their daily lives.

Users will record how they’ve used the app, what they were intending to do with the app, and what their overall experience was like. This UX research method gives you greater insight into how users will access the app over a period of time rather than once or twice under your direction.

Focus Groups

The ideal focus group has at least five or six participants, but you don’t want to overwhelm the moderator with groups larger than 12 people. Preparation is the most important part of using a focus group for mobile app research, as you want to make sure that your moderator is asking the right questions.

That means designing questions strategically around the answers you’re looking for, such as questions about features they need in your app rather than how they felt about using the app in general. That way, you can design new features or changes based on user needs.

Quantitative Mobile App User Research Strategies

When you’re looking for hard data to base your app development on, quantitative UX research should be your first priority. The data recorded through these methods might include the bounce rate of the app or how many unique users visited the app.

Surveys and Questionnaires

User feedback is key when you’re in the process of designing an app mockup. The questions you add to surveys and questionnaires are usually a rating scale that’ll allow you to get a more accurate insight into how users are liking the app.

To get great feedback, you can use a mix of closed questions, such as yes or no answers or a rating scale; and open questions, where you can ask users to describe their thought process or opinions when using the app. Remember: Ask them why they liked something rather than if they liked it.

The most important thing with this type of mobile app user research is making sure that your surveys are anonymous and that your users know that. This is the best way to guarantee completely honest answers that you can base further app development on.

Clickstream Analysis

Loading your app up with useful information, features, and sections is a great idea until you realize that users might struggle to get from point A to point B. Clickstream analysis allows you to track how users navigate through the app and get where they need to go.

This type of mobile app research allows you to better adapt your app to highlight user trends. So, if you notice that most users are following a certain pathway to get to their intended destination, you can cut out a few steps or make the initial step much more clear from the get-go.

Eye Tracking

This UX research method is definitely a lot more intensive and more expensive than the other methods, but it’ll provide you with valuable insight when it comes to modifying your current app. That’s because eye-tracking actually records where your users are looking when they’re on your app.

App developers do this through the creation of a heatmap, which shows you where a majority of users are focusing when they access your app. You’ll be given valuable insight into what draws the attention of your user base.

Moving forward, you can make changes based on eye-tracking data. For instance, you might want to move the location of an image that users seem to look at toward a button you want them to click. Or, you might decide to add more of these images or features to keep them on the app longer.

An Example of UX Research in Action: HowUDish

We worked with HowUDish to create a great user experience for people who wanted to find dishes to order at nearby restaurants. Given that our 5-day design sprint process has user experience testing built right into it with a final day of focus groups, we were able to see how people would use the app and the features they wanted even before it was released. Through this, we discovered that one key element of the app would be to help users customize their results based on their food preferences and nutritional needs. We also implemented a left-right swipe function (such as the one seen in dating apps like Tinder) in order to make discovery fun and simple. We also chose bold colors and a simple UI that helped the food stand out even more. 

The Best Mobile App User Research Method

We can’t tell you that there’s any single UX research method that’s better than the rest. All user experience research methods are capable of being useful if done strategically and with a set goal in mind. For all-around great user experiences, a combination of several mobile app user research methods is ideal, and be sure to include qualitative and quantitative methods.

The Next Steps

User research is a complex process, but it’s critical to successful app development. At Blue Label Labs, we’re fully equipped to help you through the entire mobile app development process, from the initial user experience research through the creation and deployment of your app. In fact, prototyping and user testing is directly integrated in our design sprints. We can even help market your app to recruit the wide user base that your app deserves! If you are ready to work on your next project, drop us a line

Natasha Singh
+ posts

Senior iOS Developer at Blue Label Labs

Get the latest from the Blue Label Labs’ blog in your inbox


* indicates required