User Research Tools and Methodologies – Morag McLaren (ProductTank London)

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Morag McLaren Product Manager at Whatusersdo.com talks to ProductTank London about User Research Tools and Methodologies.

The Context & Timing of Research Changes the Results you get

You need to find out the context of any insight you are gaining about a user – otherwise you won’t know the why or how, just the what. The timing of the research you run is also key – when you view a user’s behaviour will hugely impact the results you find.

You Need to Work Hard to get Real Insights

You have to dig below the surface to get real insights – generally users want to be nice and so won’t ‘criticise’ your product or service unless given the right environment and questions. They’re not trying to purposefully mislead you, they often don’t know how to evaluate or express their experience and may misremember it.

Everyone owns the Customer

You need to establish a culture within your organisation that anyone can speak to your ‘customers’ and that they aren’t owned by any particular group. It’s likely that you’ll step on some toes, but you’ll build a better product because of it.

Any User Research is Better Than Nothing

Just get started with a phone call or a survey to a user – once you do a lot of the big blockers will start to melt away and you’ll find new solutions to them. You don’t need to be intimidated by best practice and what larger organisations are doing – find the best solution you can for your situation. This will depend on your team buy in, your technical stack and your organisational culture amongst many other things.

Getting buy in to User Research

Look at your internal stakeholders as another set of users. In the same way you would for the rest of your audiences, work to find out what their needs and values are – then you’ll have a greater understanding of how to pitch user research in terms that they can understand. This will allow you to come up with a messaging framework that lets you pitch based on whether they act based on their heart, their head or their wallet.

Use Your Competitors to Make the Case for you

One of the most effective way to generate buy in for products or iterations, at a senior level is to test your products against your competitors and illustrate where you are falling behind.

Show Don’t Tell

There is nothing that can make the case for user research as powerfully as watching a session with a member of your audience. Videos are an effective second approach, but write ups lose much of the context and emotion which are crucial for making the case. When doing this, wherever possible be sure to observe your users, rather than try and lead them through something.

How to get Started – Small & Fast

  • Pick one thing to test that you know you can change and measure your outcomes on. The ability to iterate is more important than the eventual value to the organisation. It is a means to an end.
  • Find something which doesn’t need a lot of resource to change
  • Choose the right test for what you’re trying to find out – eg don’t try and measure happiness through an A/B test. Be sure to pick the right questions for the end results you’re trying to improve.
  • Make sure you come back with the results in terms of Head, Heart and Wallet again

User Research Tools – Choose the Right one for the Situation

  • Informal chats are just as valid a data point as longitudinal, distributed surveys – if used in the right way and in the right situation. Do what you need to do.
  • Be comfortable in bringing different data sources together to give you what you need.
  • Tasks to perform will help guide someone through a user journey – or you can just land them on your product and see what they would do.
  • Choose the right tool based on your organisational situation – some need a lot more buy in and resource than others

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