UX Desk Research for Beginners: Valuable Insights and Where to Find Them

UX Desk Research for Beginners: Valuable Insights and Where to Find Them
Choosing the right tools and methods for UX desk research is like entering a huge candy store for the first time. In the beginning, you enjoy having so many options, but then you feel overwhelmed. After a while, you’ll get better at defining your own ways to go, but let us help you until then. Take a look at our propositions of tools and see how to use them in a project of your mobile app.

Desk research starts with a plan

Before you dive into the world of data and tables, define your goals. You can form them as questions if that’s easier for you. Point out what you really want to find out with desk research and be as specific as possible. Otherwise, choosing the best tools would be really hard, and you wouldn’t know where to look for them.

Not sure what you should focus on? Desk research usually follows qualitative methods of gathering data, such as user interviews. It’s natural that they complement each other, so you can keep that in mind while figuring out what you want to know. You can also prepare a few sets of questions, dedicated to each source.

One last thing, before we begin: get used to the idea that your new best friend is Google Spreadsheets. And make sure your entire team has access to the documents stored on a shared drive.

You are likely to need a table every time you gather and analyze data. Of course, depending on the source you will need different tags in the columns, but the last one should always be dedicated to ideas. This way you can type your thoughts right away. It will turn out useful in the future, during the ideation stage.

With the table waiting to be filled out with observations and numbers, you’re ready to go. First, we suggest focusing on the competition, then you can check the owned channels, reports available online, and a few other resources that we think may come in handy. The more you know, the more chances you have to design a functional mobile app that brings value to the business.

1. Competition

Recommended tools: Excel, Google Keyword Planner, Wordtrucker or Ubersuggest

Mobile apps

Since we focus on mobile development here, let’s take a look at the five most popular apps made by your direct and indirect competition. The latter term refers to those brands that provide the same products or services as you, but they don’t consider them a part of the main offer.

You can gather an impressive amount of data this way, so (as mentioned before) start with creating a table that will help you analyze it. In rows type the names of apps and in columns put the categories (i.e., goals or questions) you are going to focus on.

Below you’ll find some questions you can base on when preparing your own research:

  • What is the main purpose of the app? 
  • What problem does the app solve and how? 
  • What are the main fields the app revolves around?
  • What kind of content does the app offer?
  • What features does the app have? Which ones are the most important? 
  • What makes the app special? 
  • Other remarks.

Those are just a few examples of issues worth consideration. Feel free to add more questions related to your product: check how the apps generate income if you’re planning to build a review platform, or see whether they have a dark mode if you’re going to create a solution that will be used mostly at night. Additionally, you can read the comments on Google Play and App Store for more info on the competition.

What can you find out?
This data is essential for those who think about a product strategy. It can help you figure out what are the market standards, and what features users might expect from you, among others.

Navigation structure in competitors’ apps will help you define elements that are the most important, so designing your own information architecture should be much easier. Such research also shows you the empty gaps your business could fill.

Analyzing the competition isn’t hard, but it can be time-consuming. Questions above are based on Jaime Levy’s book UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products that People Want. If you want to know more about it, check it out.


Data from the websites can move your ideation process (and then search engine optimization) to the next level. All you need to do is to let Ubersuggest or Google Keyword Planner analyze them. As a result, you’ll get to know pages and keywords that drive the biggest traffic to the websites of your competition.

What can you find out?
This knowledge is usually important for SEO specialists, but it can also have an impact on UX. How? It shows you what information users search for (that is relevant to your product) and what problems they want to solve. Your job is to make sure your app will allow them to find the solutions and features they really need.

2. Owned channels

Recommended tools: selected Google tools (Spreadsheets, Analytics, Search Console)

Your website

If you already have a web version of your app, you can gain insights from Google Analytics. The amount of data it provides can be daunting, so let’s start with a few factors that have big chances to turn out important, such as:

  • pages with the highest view rate,
  • pages that lead to conversion,
  • sources that drive traffic to your website,
  • audience (demography, interests),
  • pages users spend the most time on – note, that it doesn’t need to be a good thing if a user has the page open for a long time (maybe content is so hard to read, it requires more focus), so don’t forget to visit and check the pages first.

All of these data could be particularly helpful if you filter the users of mobile devices.

What can you find out?
Pages with the highest view rate and those on which the users spend the most time indicate what content seems to be the most interesting. So, chances are it should appear in your app too.

Pages that lead to conversion are worth checking because they give you a hint on how to prioritize content within the app.

UX design is usually based on a user journey – a path that you can follow with data from GA. Sources indicate how people get to your web app (e.g., via Facebook or from search results in Google). For further examination, check users flow to see how people move around your website.

And if you want to know more about your audience – how old users are, where they come from, what interests they have, at what time they usually visit the website – GA is also at your service. Such information will let you adjust a language or navigation properly and can help you make a decision whether to design a dark mode or not.

Google Search Console

Now, you can move on to another tool which is Google Search Console. Here you can find the keywords that allow people to see your website in search engine results.

What you can find out?
Search Console is a great source of data about the products, services, or information users often look for. You’ll need to know them when designing new features and planning the content because they tell you what is important for people.


With data from GA, you can see the products or services that are the most popular. Check the top 10 and go to the comments section.

What can you find out?
Comments will tell you what users ask about or what they like or dislike. This info can be really valuable concerning the selection of features and personalization options, among others.

Social media

If you run social media channels, make use of the data they collect. Start with your Facebook account. Just like with the website, comments can be a source of information, but let’s be honest – there are many profiles with almost no comments at all.

That’s the case with your business? Then move on to the next step and see the posts that gained the biggest number of redirections to the website or shares. Then check the publications with the highest engagement rate. You can also take a look at the stats of the paid campaigns and analyze them in the same way.

Last but not least, find 2-3 Facebook groups that gather people who fit the profile of your target user. Analyze around 10-15 posts in each of them to find the answers to the questions you prepared earlier.

What you can find out?
Social media data shows you what users are interested in, but also the problems they want to solve and the solutions. All this can make you see the elements that should be improved or those that require a special focus. Eventually, this will help you design information architecture and define the most important features.

Apart from social media, you can gain insights on other platforms where people ask questions and search for advice. Think about where you can find the potential users on the Internet. Such a place can be Quora or Amazon, for example.

3. Insights gained from conversations

You may find many people with valuable knowledge within your organization. Talk to the New Business manager and ask him about the concerns customers have and the information they often want to obtain. Depending on your business model, it might be better to get friendly with client service. After all, they know your target group like anybody else.

What can you find out?
Insights gained this way can help you discover fields that need to be improved. You’ll get to know what kind of content should be included in a design project, and what mistakes to avoid.

4. Reports

Recommended tools: Google Spreadsheets

Finally, we move on to probably the most obvious but still a very important source – the reports. It’s hard to list all the websites that offer reliable data online, so we suggest only a few websites to start with:

Chances are your company had conducted research before that focuses on your target group. Even if these reports are not directly linked to your product, check them out. Maybe somewhere there is information you can use.

What can you find out?
Reports offer a vast amount of data, so it’s particularly important to focus on the goals set at the initial stage. With a bit of luck these documents will let you answer the following questions:

  • who is the target group – how old they are; what they do professionally and in their spare time; what environment they live in, etc.;
  • what challenges do they have to face (that are relevant to your product);
  • how your potential users try to solve the problem and what is their motivation,
  • what makes them happy/ unhappy concerning the available solutions.

When searching through the reports always check how the research was conducted. Sometimes samples are not representative, and methods do not allow to get credible results. Also, take a look at the date when the research has been conducted to make sure it’s not outdated.

Sources mentioned above are examples that can be considered an inspiration when you prepare for your own desk research. But we realize it’s hard to predict which ones will work best for your project, especially if you’ve never done it before.

What is our recommendation then? Take your time, grab a cup of coffee, and methodically check all the available options. We specifically focused on the materials you can access without leaving a comfy place behind the desk, so it could be easier for you. At the ideation stage (and even later on) you’ll see that this effort will pay off!



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