User Research
eBook - ePub

User Research

A Practical Guide to Designing Better Products and Services

Stephanie Marsh

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eBook - ePub

User Research

A Practical Guide to Designing Better Products and Services

Stephanie Marsh

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About This Book

Many businesses are based on creating desirable experiences, products and services for users. However in spite of this, companies often fail to consider the end user - the customer - in their planning and development processes. As a result, organizations find themselves spending huge sums of money creating products and services that, quite simply, don't work. User experience research, also known as UX research, focuses on understanding user behaviours, needs and motivations through a range of observational techniques, task analysis and other methodologies.

User Research is a practical guide that shows readers how to use the vast array of user research methods available. Covering all the key research methods including face-to-face user testing, card sorting, surveys, A/B testing and many more, the book gives expert insight into the nuances, advantages and disadvantages of each, while also providing guidance on how to interpret, analyze and share the data once it has been obtained.

Ultimately, User Research is about putting natural powers of observation and conversation to use in a specific way. The book isn't bogged down with small, specific, technical detail - rather, it explores the fundamentals of user research, which remain true regardless of the context in which they are applied. As such, the tools and frameworks given here can be used in any sector or industry, to improve any part of the customer journey and experience; whether that means improving software, websites, customer services, products, packaging or more.

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The fundamentals. What good research looks like

Part One explains how to avoid gathering biased and inaccurate data by asking the right questions and using the power of observation (you can’t necessarily rely on what people are saying).
There are some things we need to think about before we delve into the nitty gritty of choosing the right research method, how to implement it and then analyse the data. There are fundamentals that go across all methodologies.


Planning, objectives and legalities in user research

When is the right time to do user research?

The pragmatic (and simple) answer is: any time. The ideal answer is: all the time. You can also pinpoint when user research will have the most impact and the greatest positive effect.
If you are working in a truly agile and user-centric environment, you could be planning for and doing user research on a regular, cyclical basis. Problems identified in the user research could be rectified in the next round of work, and then researched and tested again. But you aren’t necessarily working in this kind of environment, and you may never work this way.
If you can, choose a point in time when the results of the research will have the most positive impact.

Be clear what your research is about

What’s your problem?

To do effective research you need to be clear about the purpose of the research. Research is most effective when it is focused. Problem framing, also known as opportunity framing, is knowing what problem you are trying to solve or understand or, from a positive perspective, what the opportunity is that you are trying to understand and what its parameters are.
It is useful to articulate and share with stakeholders (anyone somehow involved in the project), the aims and objectives of your research. Get everyone to agree them before you start putting effort into doing the research. If you don’t know exactly what the problem is, that’s ok: the aim of the research is to understand the problem. Getting agreement on the aims and objectives upfront should help you avoid feature creep. It is best to keep the focus of the research fairly narrow, unless your aim is at first to understand the problem or context. Stakeholders will want to expand the scope – you’re likely to hear: ‘As you’re doing some research, can you also look at x, y and z?’ If it isn’t relevant to the agreed aims and objectives, say no. I realize this isn’t always possible, so at least make your objection known and the reasons behind it.
Part Two looks in much more depth at understanding the problem and then choosing the right method to address it.

Be aware of the ethical and legal issues

Do not skip this section!

You need to be transparent about what you are doing and how you are doing it. You need to share this with the people who are taking part in the research. At the beginning of any research session you need to give them some details (whether they’re filling in an online survey or you are conducting a face-to-face interview). It is a legal requirement to get consent if you are going to collect, use or store data.
What to tell participants
  • Whether you are going to record data in some way (video, audio, screen, survey data capture, etc).
  • What you will do with the data (will it be used only for this research? Who will you share it with: people in your organization; people outside your organization?)
  • How will you sort the data? Will it be secure?
  • How long will you store that data: until the end of the project, for a year, forever?
Also, if you have people observing the research you need to say so (it may not be obvious, for instance if they are in another room).
For research where you are talking to/interacting with people you can give them a verbal explanation. It’s a good idea to have it written down, especially if you are conducting remote research; you may want to send people an explanation and consent form prior to the research session taking plac...

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