If you are creating a product, you are not creating it for everyone. You need to know who your users are to improve your product and tailor it to their needs. User Research also called Design Research, UX Research or Product Design Research is a process used to understand the needs, beliefs, and behaviors of the users to identify the problems and design opportunities in order to improve the product.
How is User Research Performed?
Talking to the right people is the most important thing in user research for building better products. Tools and techniques make it simple and achievable. It focuses on understanding people’s goals, needs, and beliefs. The companies that prioritize the users’ needs perform better.
It helps reduce risk, predict things in advance, reduce errors, and save money. “A stitch in time saves nine”.
However, User Research is not always right and it cannot be prescriptive about acquiring insight. It is sometimes believed to be relevant only to designers and product roles but it actually isn’t. A user researcher has some things in common with product and design roles but there are some unique functions for this role like persona creation, surveying, and understanding user flows.
User Research that focuses on the users and their needs is different from the market research that focuses on buyers. Some buyers never tend to use the product.
User Research Techniques
User Research can be connected with the company-wide goals, department goals, or feature level goals and you can frame the questions based on the goals.
For example, a goal to reduce the number of support tickets that are based on a particular feature of the tool.
Asking questions like who, what, where, why, when, and how helps frame the questions to carry out effective user research.
These questions can be either open-ended or closed
Open-Ended Question: These are also known as exploratory questions, that are asked when the researcher has no answers for it.
Closed Questions: These are also known as assumption questions that are asked by the researcher based on certain assumptions.
Research Questions are the questions that will lead you to the right method of performing the research.
Ex: “Why should I do a survey?”
This question might be able to take the user researcher to the conclusion that an interview might work better than a survey in certain cases.
There are two methods of user research,
Attitudinal Testing: What People Say
There are two major attitudinal research methods
It is a conversation with the user which is designed to be very interesting to the user. It involves talking, listening, and asking the right follow up questions.
To conduct a useful interview
- Define your goals for the interview
- Create a data collection template following the goals
- Conduct the interview allowing a conversation flow and ask questions
In certain situations where you cannot record the interviews, you can have another person or colleague assisting you with data collection while you are performing your interview. Interviewing is a skill and the more you are confident the lesser the mistakes. Keep the questions neutral, avoid jargon, and do not ask the users about their future behavior with the changes in the tool.
When you need to talk to a large number of people and it is not possible with interviews, you can go for a survey to collect the attitudinal and demographics information. A survey is used to gain clear information about wider trends and beliefs
Some of the common errors that occur during a survey are
Coverage Error: This occurs when some people in your sample are not able to access the survey.
Sampling Error: This occurs when you are surveying only a representative percentage of the target population. This error could most times be only small however there are chances that it could be high as well.
Measurement Error: Incorrect questions or questions missing the section where a portion of a population cannot respond lead to measurement error.
Non-Response Error: This happens when some groups in the popular complete the survey more than the other.
Behavioral Testing: What People Do
Behavioral testing deals with two things
Designing and performing tests
- The type of testing that is appropriate for addressing your goals is decided. Ex: scripted vs open-ended
- Pick your tool to perform the testing based on your budget and measuring requirements.
Observing the behavior
- Field research or Ethnography: A wonderful approach to understand how users interact with the world, how they have workarounds. This helps analyze the way users work in the natural environment
- Product usage analytics: Tracking the metrics that align with the goals help get the product analytics data. I will be covering a bit about doing this through Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager in my next blog.
What is a User Persona?
User Persona is a model that describes the user approximately and gives insights into their motivation and goals.
A good user persona is
Three steps in creating a fast and rigorous user persona are
- Collect Quantitative Data
- Statistical Clustering
- Build Archetypes
A fast and rigorous user persona is constructed after a survey that focuses on collecting relevant and actionable insights. Two to four weeks is an ideal time period to create a fast and rigorous user persona and it involves the following steps.
- Collect data
- Identify groups (manually or statistically)
- Build archetypes
Collect Quantitative Data
You can use different tools for using this. Google forms, a simple and free tool, I have used it for many kinds of question forms including the nested questions. However, if you want a lot of flexibility there are other tools like Survey Monkey, Qualtrics, and Limesurvey. Keeping open-ended questions helps in developing archetypes.
Survey on your own website: Hotjar is one of the tools that is used to perform this.
Survey the general population: There are places where people are paid to respond to such surveys online. Amazon Mechanical Turk is a great inexpensive place to do this. Typically 300–1000 people are needed, but you can use cluster analysis if you cannot get as many people.
You can also use metrics like engagement metrics from Google Analytics to do the same and build personas
Perform a pilot test survey before the actual survey. This helps to identify mistakes and analyze the data with your team or colleagues to take opinions.
The data that you collect from the survey has to be organized. There are two steps to doing this.
Exploratory Factor Analysis: Find the key factors that you get from the many different questions. If you have 15 questions, you can identify three key factors from the data you receive. These factors do not have to be planned ahead of time and rather can be framed from the data.
Cluster Analysis: In this analysis, you can group the people’s responses for each of the factors identified in the last step. A cluster consists of individuals who have assigned similar weights to different factors. Some of the packages used to perform this are IBM SPSS, R, Wessa.net, and GNU PSPP.
Start with the user’s needs to build an archetype
Include the quotes that you get from the open-ended questions.
You can use visualizations like graphs and charts to organize and represent your quantitative data clusters.
During the analysis, you can
- Use tools like Word Clouds to visualize the importance of words.
- Add additional resources that you can think of outside the survey.
- Map things in a user journey with the ideas you collect from the survey.
Some things to remember
- Keep track of your research findings and track the performance of your personas.
- Personas from one industry do not carry over to the other.
This is Kiruba Sekaran, a Marketer and Search Engine Optimizer sharing my journey with CXL. I will be sharing more of my experience with the CRO Mini Degree by CXL in the next weeks as well.