How to get the most out of user research activities.
User research is an integral part of any project. To gain a valuable insight into the problems faced by your users, you must immerse yourself into their world and ask the correct questions to uncover their needs, expectations and goals. As a designer/researcher you must be able to put aside any personal bias or pre-existing ‘knowledge’ of user expectations, and instead draw out information from a range of users.
Discover project goals with user interviews.
One-on-one interviews can be a valuable way of extracting information from users. These interviews can be split up into a number of categories that are useful depending on the context. A general chit-chat or non-directed interview can be used to gain insight by setting a rough guideline of conversation, and prompting the user to open up regarding their needs through general conversation. A more direct route can be taken with a common question and answer setup, asking the user a series of specific questions to directly target key opinions and thoughts. Possibly the greatest insight into a user’s workflow is to observe them throughout the course of their day to understand the challenges they face, and how they carry out tasks. Also digging deeper by asking “why” at every opportunity allows you to further understand the reasoning behind user decisions.
Explore user needs with personas and user story creation.
After any interviews have taken place, a solid starting point to begin digesting the information collected is to create user personas. After interviewing a number of people, it should be possible to organise the users into a few different categories and create personas to represent each of them. These personas can be used as a benchmark to question design decisions against throughout the project. Personas help to keep a product user-focussed, with a clear picture of each user’s expectations and how they are likely to use the product.
Personas can be further expanded on by creating user stories for each persona. Starting off with key “epic” stories is a good place to start, before expanding on each epic in more detail in order to fully understand the requirements of each persona.
Identify touch points with user journey mapping.
Once identifying and creating personas has been completed, pinpointing pain points for a user can be a valuable exercise. Creating user journey maps is not only a great way to identify where the product’s touch points are, but also helps think about the bigger picture and where there is scope to improve the overall satisfaction and experience of the user.
The above activities are usually conducted in the early stages of a project. Understanding your users from the start is a must when it comes to creating a focussed product that solves key user goals and business objectives. However, user research should be something that is continuous throughout a project. Taking every opportunity to test and learn from your users will always prove to be a valuable use of time.
An example user journey map. Source: https://medium.com/sketch-app-sources/user-journey-maps-or-user-flows-what-to-do-first-48e825e73aa8
Evaluate with user groups and usability testing.
User groups can be a solid way to receive feedback on design aspects. Walking a number of people through designs and noting down feedback can be great, but can also require some facilitation in order to avoid louder voices within the room overriding the opinions of others. At Komodo, we have found success by providing large printouts and allowing workshop participants to write down feedback onto the printouts in small groups, before a final round up and discussion regarding the feedback involved.
For more focussed user testing, a program such as Maze can help identify key flaws with a flow of a product. Maze allows you to link up an InVision prototype and set a number of tasks for the user to complete. You are able to then send this link to individuals and receive data regarding their success with the set tasks. The users are prompted to complete the tasks you have set out, and can navigate the prototype as they wish. All of their clicks are tracked and evaluated against the “happy path” you set when defining the task. This can be a cost effective way of evaluating a prototype and first click testing. Jeff Sauro of Measuring Usability states that when a user’s first click is down the right path, 87% eventually succeed. When they click down an incorrect path, only 46% eventually succeed making it an interesting aspect to look into throughout a project. Testing one-to-one negates the possibility of any bias from other users, and using a tool such as Maze allows a data-driven review of your project. Check out Maze in more detail here.
Maze Dashboard. Source: https://help.maze.design/en/article/how-to-read-your-results-dashboard-1fwx3d8/
Ultimately, user research should be a constant feature that is incorporated into a project at multiple stages. The activities covered in this article only scratch the surface of user research and testing – there are a multitude of different activities that can be used depending on the context of the project. Nielsen Norman Group provide a great insight into user experience research methods here and when to use them.
Keep up to date with the Komodo blog for more insights into UX, and get started with user-centred thinking by requesting one of our free Bonsai Discovery Kits to walk you through the initial stages of a user workshop.