What’s Trending in UX Research Right Now? Hear from Our Experts.

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Posted by AnswerLab Research on Mar 23, 2022

We’re always looking across our projects and clients to keep a pulse on what’s trending and evolving in UX research, from how methods are changing to the audiences brands are pivoting to reach. As the first few months of 2022 come to a close, we’re sharing some of the latest insights from our team as you consider where your research roadmap is heading this year.

1. Cross-product research can make a big impact for your customers.

In this “new normal,” many users have flexible work arrangements, working partly from home, partly in-office (and everywhere in between), all while trying to find that elusive work-life balance. Between work and home devices, the average US household now has 25 connected devices to keep their personal and professional lives running smoothly. Users expect to be able to seamlessly transition between devices so they can go from in-home smart displays to in-car infotainment systems to their laptops without missing a beat. Conducting research to understand how device and context-switching impacts the user experience helps identify product improvements to maintain a consistent and delightful experience when switching devices and locations.

2. Build trust by helping customers better understand privacy policies and settings.

Privacy, security, trust. These three distinct, but related concepts continue to get attention from users and brands alike. Many of our clients are continuing to conduct regular research on privacy concerns, but we’re seeing a larger shift to go beyond the fine print to gauge users’ understanding of and desire to control their privacy and data settings. If users can’t find privacy settings, or don’t know they exist at all, they sense a lack of transparency. If users can’t change how their information is stored and shared, they feel out of control. If users have to read long, wordy, and confusing privacy policies, they don’t feel informed. To address these concerns, brands need to think outside the box of the typical privacy and security tools, and build new solutions that increase user trust.

3. Don’t just focus on Gen Z. Start thinking about children and youth too.

Last fall, we predicted that brands would start looking to Gen Z as their next generation of users to understand their influence on the digital landscape and how to reach them most effectively. But, we’re also seeing companies intensify their focus on doing right by children and youth— starting with implementing age assurance technologies and developing frameworks for age-based defaults that ensure a developmentally appropriate experience for young users. Internationally, pressure on tech companies to better serve and protect kids is poised to increase, fueled by work of the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child in the digital world, and new IEEE standards for age-appropriate design. In the US, cultural momentum on providing better products for children is growing as lawmakers increase their attention to child safety online, which galvanizes those across the political spectrum. 

This year, tech companies have the opportunity to get ahead of the curve and chart their own strategic path for how they will leverage research to design products and platforms, and even reinvent elements of their business models, in ways that center the unique needs of young humans as they develop.

4. Accessibility makes its way into emerging technologies.

As smart products become more integrated into daily life, brands are focusing on ways to make emerging technologies more accessible. Some virtual reality (VR) apps now include Comfort Ratings to warn users of the intensity of the experience prior to usage. However, the rating system itself is an inexact science and more user testing is needed to improve comfort ratings to better manage user expectations. 

Accessibility continues to be top of mind in the gaming and social media spheres as well. Just last month, Xbox rolled out a free in-game update for its popular Forza Horizon 5 game to include American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL) support for in-game scenes. Social media platforms and browsers are also focusing on using AI to generate more accurate alt text.

5. Cryptocurrency research is popping up across the financial services industry.

We’re seeing research on cryptocurrencies emerge as a new trend across our clients from big traditional financial services firms to FinTech and crypto-specific start-ups. While this is still early days in terms of our research, we’re hearing from several clients that they’re interested in learning how to drive the adoption of cryptocurrency, and even more specifically, who they should be targeting. 

As a result, we’ve conducted a few studies to learn more about who’s interested in crypto, understand those users’ mindsets and behaviors, and identify how and where our clients can find and engage with those potential customers. Another big research question is what prevents interested users from engaging with crypto and how our clients can overcome those barriers, whether through product features, marketing messaging, promotions, or something else. We expect this will continue to be a trend for financial companies of all sizes this year.

6. Innovations in advertising are around the corner

As a part of privacy efforts to give users more agency over their data, new laws and regulations have come into effect over the last few years, from GDPR to CCPA to most recently, the end of third-party cookies. Apple’s recent privacy initiatives limit app and website tracking which in turn limits data for big companies. As a result, advertisers are struggling with how to personalize ads simply because they know so much less about their potential customers.

This change is causing a massive shift in how businesses approach ads work, and we’re seeing a big push towards fast and necessary innovation in the ads space. Across clients, we’re seeing a bigger focus on discovering and building new ad formats, exploring new ways to monetize content, testing settings and help text to help educate users on their data, and incentivizing users to re-opt-in to sharing cookies and data. And with privacy concerns sticking around, we only expect this need for innovation to grow.

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AnswerLab Research

The AnswerLab research team collaborates on articles to bring you the latest UX trends and best practices.

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