Understanding your users is the key to delivering the best solution for potential customers. Conducting user research provides you with the tools to create a better user experience and ensure your website fully supports your business requirements.
Planning user research
When planning how to conduct user research it’s best to start with the outcomes. Whether you are researching in the discovery phase of a project or planning to get insights during a later development sprint there are a variety of UX activities to call on to find valuable insights. So where do you start?
I’ve found that, as with most things, each web development project I’m faced with is completely different and requires a unique set of research outputs. On some larger projects there can be a lot to do so I prefer to start by looking at what the end goal is with this research, AKA what we need to find out. For example, what information users need instant access to on the home page.
Then I can break the project down further into the tasks my team will undertake. This might include interviewing stakeholders, conducting a programme of usability testing, or creating customer journey maps.
The next stage is to think about what form the reporting will take from the research. How we will analyse the findings and present the insights. On a recent project, as I was structuring a test plan, I began by stating what the objective of the test was and listed the assumptions I wanted to validate to guide my user research plan and resource planning.
Things to consider
- Time. We need to factor in how much time we will have to find out the information as this will influence how we do the research. All of our activities take a different length of time and can have unexpected obstacles to overcome. Having insurance time and highlighting difficult areas ensures we have the resource to complete every project.
- Resources. Once time has been defined we must also define the resources needed. We might use an online tool for quantitative research, carry out in person design research and analyse data. Having these resources pre-planned means no nasty surprises for you or the client.
User tasks and questions
Now we know what we want to find out and how, we can prepare the research in detail. This might be tasks, questions, or setting up a sites tree structure. When designing a questionnaire brainstorming an extensive list of questions and then refining the list to the most valuable fields ensures all the data captured is useful. This also ensures the questionnaire isn’t too long and will be conducted to completion within the time available every time, ensuring a better response rate.
Time is something we’re all short on. Structuring research in this way ensures a logical process is used allowing us to save time and money. Planning the process ahead of time also allows us to keep clients involved at each step. Not only is this good for the client to feel involved, but the ongoing conversation keeps us aware of the latest goals and trends for their customer base, and allows us to quickly review our approach with each set of findings. Here's a helpful cheat sheet to give to clients to ensure they understand everything you're telling them.
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