UX Design: designing a marketplace based on user research

This article describes the role of UX design within the startup promotion: why user research is performed and how it can increase the effectiveness of a business project. The topic is explained by Eugene Polev, who has been working as a UX designer for UsabilityLab for four years and is currently working at Ciklum.

UX design (user experience design) is a process of designing interaction between a user and a product. It should enhance user satisfaction by increasing the usability. UX design includes designing the human-computer interface as well as all aspects of the interaction of a user with a product, service, and a company in general.

UX design solves two main tasks:

  1. It facilitates users achieving the goals (people should get into the purchase funnel and leave it being satisfied)
  2. It increases loyalty (prolong subscription, make clients return to the web platform).

User experience: interface changes can generate $300 Million

In early 2000, a team of Jared M. Spool’s, a well-known usability specialist, started an investigation of a conversion path at Best.Buy online platform — one of the biggest Internet marketplaces of electronics in America.

The situation went as follows: when users added goods to the cart, a registration form popped up. Having talked to people, Jared Spool found out that they wanted to focus on their shopping, not registration. He changed the button’s caption to «Proceed to checkout» and added a notice below «You will be automatically registered on the site.» During a year, the company's sales increased by $300 Million.

This is a good example of how UX design works — user-experience research provided a clear understanding of the problem.

The value of User Experience (UX) Design for e-marketplaces

A user centred design is an iterative process. If something is not working, the project is returning to the initial or stable stage and then designing starts again. The UX design process looks like this:

  • Define the context of consumption and needs.
  • Develop a design solution.
  • Create or implement a website prototype.
  • Evaluate if it meets the requirements and KPI.

UX design iterative process

Audience research can help make decisions concerning the necessary corrections more quickly. You can:

  • Make sure that the product target audience is chosen correctly;
  • Understand the goals, motives, and context of the usage;
  • Find out usability problems in the current solution;
  • Check ideas and new concepts for the product development;
  • Find out the way the product is perceived in comparison with competitors.
  • Preliminary analysis of the market and target audience

This is the primary stage of the project. The information necessary for developing an ideal design solution is collected.

The stage includes:

  • Interview with business and subject matter experts;
  • Analysis of statistics;
  • Analysis of competitors and their audience;
  • Study of the product and own experience of its use;
  • Analysis of social networks and profile resources.

The collected material is used for developing an initial UX design of a web marketplace.

UX research: two main types and their explanations

All UX research methods can be divided into two types. Let’s talk about each of them.

Qualitative UX research

This UX research is focused on information regarding the product reputation, usability and relevance etc. These entities cannot be measured in figures. UX research can provide an analysis of  customers’ behaviour, explain why they act this way and help adapt a product to their needs.

Quantitative UX research

These UX research methods are used for the analysis of data with numbers: how many users visit an online platform, how often they follow certain patterns of behaviour and which functions do they use regularly. Along with statistics, this information helps understand, how effective the previous solutions were, which of them were popular and which were not.

User-experience research is mandatory in everyday work

For convenience, I’ve created a chart for choosing the right research method. The first one has guides:

  • behaviour — user's actions are evaluated;
  • relation —  which emotions a user experiences;
  • quantitative — how often he visits the web platform, how long he remains on the page;
  • qualitative — what can be improved.

ux research

The second chart represents which UX tools can be used for measuring various criteria. They are located in the corresponding sections

ux research 2 

Here are the top-priority methods with explanations:

  • Field research

It presumes to observe users in their natural environment and conditions.

For example, we undertook some research within an online electronics marketplace, «Allo» net — we observed the way potential customers act whilst shopping for a mobile phone. Many of them were interested in the processing power and the number of megapixels the camera had. It was obvious that the behavioural pattern was about to be repeated so we highlighted this information on the goods' cards on the website.

  • Focus group UX research

A group of people that relate to any segment of your target audience are gathered and investigated.

  • In-depth interview

It has a one-to-one format, with communication sticking to a loose discussion.

It's necessary to conduct about 15-20 of such interviews to find out the customers' previous experience, their expectations of the product, fears, and motivation.

  • Card sorting

It helps organise the navigation on an online marketplace, divide it into segments and prioritise. A UX designer should create a preliminary «route» within the site — a customer journey map: distribution of the information that will lead a user to his destination point — a purchase. Journey maps facilitate a customer in achieving his goal, and that means they increase the project effectiveness.

  • Concept testing

While showing screen-concepts to respondents (sketches, wireframes), this method helps understand the way users treat the UX design solution and the functionality being suggested.

Feedback from users helps to get new insights based on their experience. The earlier the testing is being conducted, the cheaper it is to correct mistakes. The UX method is rather objective — it has low detalization and no actual prototype.

  • Usability testing

Observing a user as he is performing tasks with a product or a website prototype, assigned by a moderator. This method helps determine about 80% of the problems for 5-8 sessions for a segment. It gives an understanding of expectations, motivations, and fears of users when fulfilling the tasks; how clear UX design patterns are for them.

  • A/B testing

it relates to implementing solutions and comparing them to the original.

This is one of the major UX tools for quantitative testing. It answers the question of what users are doing, but it does not explain why. It's better to constantly test small changes. If there are global  changes, it is unclear what has lead to such results. For conducting an A/B test, a rather large audience is needed (500-1000 visitors per day).

Research conducting can be significantly simplified by applying additional techniques such as an audience questionnaire survey, click analytics, and eye tracking.

What if there is no product, budget, or competence

If there is no product or a product is still at the development stage:

  • Test a website prototype;
  • Test the solutions of competitors;
  • Conduct interviews, a questionnaire survey, field observations;
  • Create an MVP and gather statistics;
  • Study competitors' statistics.

If there is no budget or time:

  • Guerrilla testing — 5-second test;
  • Decrease iterations (lean, MVP);
  • Undertake a complete UX research at your own expense (experience and knowledge);
  • Use statistics and A/B test results.

If there is no competence:

  • Apply to an agency so you can outsource your work (insufficient understanding of tasks and high price)
  • Conduct a UX research at your own expense (learn on the job);
  • Invite a specialist on user centred design methods on a temporary basis.

For the sake of inspiration on how to run a usability test with ordinary pencils, watch this video:

Header photo: wacomka /

Preview photo: enotmaks /

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