Planning user research

User research isn’t just about going and chatting to people, to make it valuable it needs to be planned and considered. Following these steps will help.

Step 1 — Identify what you need to learn as a team

Set aside an hour, get some post its and sharpies and book a room with a decent sized wall.

Note: It can be useful to include stakeholders in this to help identify and understand their assumptions. It also makes them feel involved and bought into the process

Give people 5-10 minutes to write down their questions and assumptions. (These questions are things the team need to learn, not questions they will ask users). For example:

  • ‘why are people visiting the Co-op website’
  • ‘what are the main things people search for’
  • ‘How do people use recipe websites’

As a team, sort the post its into groups/themes.

Add any new questions that crop us as you’re doing this.

Refine the groups/themes down and summarise them.

Give everyone 5 votes and ask them to vote for the questions they feel need answering most. Good prompts here can be:

  • What scares you the most?
  • What are the biggest or riskiest assumptions we’re making?
  • What do we need to answer first before we can progress?

Document the things you need to learn however you want (one example available in Trello) and move on to the next stage.

Step 2 — Sense check

Before planning or conducting any research, ask yourselves the following questions:

  1. Do you need to do this research or do we or someone else already have the answer?
  2. Are you committed to doing something with the findings?

If you cannot answer ‘yes’ to both of these questions you should not being doing the research as it would be a waste of time, effort and resources for both the Co-op and the research participants.

Step 3 — Decide how best to learn it

Decide on the most suitable way to answer the question you have that will give you enough confidence to help you make the decisions you need to make.

Take into account the level of risk associated with the question vs the level of effort/cost required to conduct the research.

For example, if you believe a change you can make is likely to improve the experience or solve a problem and the impact of getting it wrong is low, then document a hypothesis, put it live and monitor it closely — you can always revert back if it’s unsuccessful. You don’t need to usability test everything.

Feel free to ask a member of the user research team for advice if you aren’t sure of the best approach to take or of how to use the method.