Human Factors vs. UX Research

Human Factors vs. UX Research

Summary: When it comes to comparing Human Factors vs. UX Research, they’re really pretty similar. Depending on your industry, and whether your focused on products or systems, you’ll likely be looking for one or the other, but there is a lot of overlap between skill sets. UX Research might be a little more aligned with UX Design in terms of application and industry, but they differ more with respect to skill set than UX Research and Human Factors research do.

By Greg Hallihan on April 18, 2024

Human Factors is the science of understanding human physiology and psychology and applying that understanding to the design and operation of better systems. Human Factors researchers provide knowledge and expertise to study and design human-centred products, environments, organizations and policies. Human Factors researchers are commonly found on projects in process-focused, high-reliability industries where safety and efficiency are paramount. Human Factors researchers leverage a large body of literature regarding human characteristics, including capabilities and limitations related to their performance when interacting with systems.

UX Research is a discipline that studies the people who use a product or service, and provides insights to make their experience with that product or service better. UX Researchers are commonly found on projects in product-focused, consumer-centric industries where customer satisfaction is critical to competitive differentiation. UX Researchers leverage often leverage a large body of literature regarding Often individuals looking for UX researchers are focused on improving their competitive advantage in a market place by improving consumer satisfaction and product-market-fit by understanding opportunities and pain points for product optimization.

What about UX Research vs. UX Design

Okay so there is a difference here worth emphasizing… the design process is a creative endeavor. Designers leverage tools, literature and experience focused on creating, well, experiences for people. From experiences involving digital technologies to experiences involving service delivery, the goal is to create the products, services and environments that people are going to be interacting with. The research process is an exploratory endeavor, and researchers leverage tools, literature and experience focused on providing an understanding of the way people are likely to react when they are interacting with something. Those reactions could be cognitive, think thoughts and emotions, or physical, think behaviours. In this way, UX Research and UX Design are leveraging different skill sets and knowledge, and applying them in different ways.

In our experience where we see the push to combine these two disciplines (and there is push particularly in the tech sector) is when budgets constrain staffing and a decision has to be made between allocating resources to either UX Design or UX Research. In these instances, it’s fairly common to prioritize UX Design; this process is more directly related to building whatever it is the organization is commercializing. Which makes sense, you can’t offer a product or service you haven’t designed, but you can certainly offer one you haven’t researched. But along the way, because people still see the value in UX Research, UX Designers inevitably end up being tasked with both designing AND researching user experiences.

It’s not to say that UX Designers don’t have the skills to perform UX research, or that UX Researchers don’t have the skills to perform UX Design, but they involve different skill sets. And, considering skills are developed through practice, (i.e., focused attention and the allocation of time on studying and applying the skill), time spent designing is time not spent researching and vice versa. So, if you’re wondering whether UX Research is the same as UX Design, the short answer is they aren’t. If you’re wondering whether you have the right people to design experiences for your customers, and to study those experiences, the short answer is, it depends on how much time they’ve spent practicing the skills required for each. We didn’t have a UX Designer on this website… and we know it shows.