User Research Workshops: It’s All About Scope


When you come to us with an idea for an app or software project, one of the first things we ask is whether you’ve done any user research. By that, we don’t mean coming up with assumed user personas and traditional marketing demographics – we mean genuinely contacting your customers to ascertain their wants and needs.

Many businesses fail to do user research – whether that’s through lack of knowledge or fear of cost. Unscoped research can become wildly expensive and unwieldy – but doing too little also spells doom for most projects.

After all, as we’ve pointed out, again and again, startups and new apps fail mostly due to a lack of user need. What your business THINKS your customers need is often not what they actually need.

How do you bridge that gap? How can you ensure that the project is going to fulfil user needs and find success? How can you go beyond simply asking customers what they want and instead really delve into what they need?

Enter user research scoping workshops.

Workshopping doesn’t mean doing the research

When we work with new clients, we run workshops that help you understand your product, customers and, most importantly, outline your user research requirements. So don’t let us confuse our scoping workshops with our actual user research method of workshopping.

You might assume that you can simply do user research, but to actually get started you need a strong plan or you’ll watch your UR process soar beyond the scope in terms of both cost and time. Without a defined user research structure, you’ll either spend too heavily on surveys etc, underspend and get poor results or commit too much resource to UR.

Mapping user research requirements in our workshop helps establish your goals and estimate how much investment you need to get the results you want. It also helps give you an outside perspective of your business and your project goals. Unfortunately, many businesses are steeped in internal bias, leading to messy product launches afflicted by:

  1. Stakeholder intervention: feature bloat and requests for functions based solely on ‘I think we need this’.

  2. Incomplete user research: using marketing personas or other creative user types to form product decisions.

  3. You are not your user: businesses often make assumptions about their customers based on experience, but this leads to a failure in empathy where you may not really understand your user’s needs.

User research creates a more complete picture of your users and their requirements – but is also a significant investment in both time and money. Moreover, it is a specialist skill and a field of study all on its own – so it’s very difficult for businesses to do it well or know how much, or how little, is good for their project. Hence, our workshop focuses on putting the right framework in place for research and showing the value it brings to your project.

The initial discovery process often results in a second workshop session where we will interview genuine users.

If you’ve used our User Research Objective Setting workbook, you’ll understand that there’s a difference between asking questions and asking the right questions using the right techniques. In addition, some businesses will not benefit as much from user surveys or interviews, while others will find them invaluable. Working with KOMODO in our workshop helps you distil these requirements.

What to expect from our workshop

When you work with us, you’ll attend a research scoping workshop session where we’ll help refine an idea or requirement into defined output. To do that, we’ll start by deciding on the workshop’s outcomes and then drill down into your product’s proposed challenge or problem. We’ll work with you to establish the following:

  1. What is the problem/is it what you think it is?

  2. Can we solve this problem with UR? If so, how will we achieve that?

The session is an interactive one, which makes it different to a classic focus group style session. You’ll work with us to build out a picture of your problems. Some of the elements we’ll cover include:

User journeys

Remember when we talked about user assumptions earlier? While you shouldn’t complete a project based on what you think your user journey is, at this early stage, it’s good to come up with some journeys you can then bring to real users at a later stage.

Without an example for them to agree/disagree with, you often find users can’t give definitive answers.

We’ll also build out your user personas, whether you have them already or not. At this stage, personas are based on your business’ internal thinking – but having them does help narrow the focus on user research. We can map our user research approaches, techniques, and questions by establishing roughly who we want to target.

Problem statements

We’ll come up with problem statements together, then invite you to rate them with us. This helps establish concerns and direction – but must be ‘proven’ by further user research such as interviews.

Value proposition canvas

often we’ll use this technique to help agree on how your proposed app will match customer values and needs. It includes the following elements:

Customer Profiles:

  • Gains – benefits a customer expects/needs.

  • Pains – negative experiences, risks and emotions that prevent customers from completing tasks.

  • Customer jobs – functional, social and emotional tasks customers try to perform/problems they try to solve/needs they want to fulfil.

Value map:

  • Gain creators – how the product or service will create customer gains/value.

  • Pain relievers – how does the product alleviate customer pains.

  • Products and services – what are the products and services that alleviate the pain. In software, you’d consider these as the features and functionality.

    We can implement many different workshop techniques, but the most important factor is that doing a User Research Workshop helps you define what your actual research should look like.

    It’s not about getting it all done up-front; it’s about scoping the scape of what sort of user knowledge you need to make sure your product A) works to meet user expectations, B) gives an indication of genuine user journeys as opposed to estimated ones and finally, C) avoids the challenges and pains associated with your customer’s journey.

    User research is not always the answer. Some workshops may define other objectives more vital to your project, but you’ll never know without doing one. Instead, you’ll be operating on solely assumption and stakeholder direction – meaning software is going to be developed without any real understanding of users.

    With such a high failure rate in-app and software launches owing solely to lack of user need, why risk it? Get in touch with KOMODO today, and we’ll arrange a workshop focused on defining your research goals and understanding your customers. Alternatively, complete our UR-focused workbook and learn more about how to do research and objective setting in a way that’ll skyrocket your success.

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