Published on February 25, 2014
A Guide to User Research For people who don’t like talking to other people
I’m an introvert. I’m also a Strategist in Brooklyn.
I used to be an academic.
For me, research used to look like this
Now it looks like this
Here’s a toolkit for folks like me... but ﬁrst let me explain.
You need more than one tool.
These are just some tools.
Speciﬁcally, they are methods the team at FreeAssociation and I used to get to know Cornell University’s users.
Anyway, here are some research methods available to everybody 1. 2. 3. 4. Long interviews Short interviews Card sorts Surveys Scheduled, broad 1:1 interviews with users Targeted 1:1 interviews with potential users, scheduled An exercise in organizing topics and themes. A way to gauge initial perception of the brand you’re working with
Long 1:1 Interviews
The Point Get face time with your audience. Build empathy with your users. Figure out which questions to ask next.
Figure out what you want to know & how.* Figure out who you’re going to interview.* *And start recruiting if you’re responsible for it
Our sample* 2 High School Students 2 Professors 4 College Students *This is not statistically signiﬁcant. That is OK right now.
Figure out what you want to know & how.* Figure out what you want to know & how.
Start by mapping your user’s journey, even if you don’t know it yet.
Awareness Browsing Serious Browsing Application Admission Consideration Attendance They’re looking at general information about Cornell. They’re browsing majors to look for their interests. They apply through the common application. They’re accepted to Cornell. They weigh Cornell against other options. They decide to attend.
You will need to ask about it anyway, because you’re probably wrong.
Asks friends. Fights parents. Advice & Exploration, Independent Online Browsing They’re looking at general information about Cornell. They’re browsing majors to look for their interests. Counselor cornell.edu cornell.edu admissions.cornell.edu College prowler Guides & lists Maps & contact info $$$?! Has a magical summer. Application Admission Consideration They apply They’re accepted through the common to Cornell. application. Common application admissions.cornell.edu Worries. They weigh Cornell against other options. Digital acceptance communication from Cornell PROM?! cornell.edu Guides & lists studentaid.ed.gov collegeboard Attendance They decide to attend. Oh...oh... livin’ on a pra-yer
Figure out what you want to know & how.* Write a script and vet it with teammate(s).* *Always good to have an extra pair of eyes
Leverage insights from analytics and keyword research to think of questions.
We Asked Questions Like... What made you How important was choose Cornell? ﬁnancial aid to you? What other schools were you considering? What does “Ivy League” What digital tools mean to you? did you use to apply?
Set clear goals and expectations.* *Include numbers where possible.
Leverage insights from analytics and keyword research to set goals.
DISCLAIMER: PEOPLE LIE.* *Plan accordingly
I mean... not everyone is honest* *Plan accordingly
DISCLAIMER: YOU ARE LYING TO YOURSELF.* *Plan accordingly
I mean... conﬁrmation bias.
Interview, learn, Figure out what you want adjust, repeat. to know & how.*
Tips Don’t Lead.* Ask open-ended questions. *Vet your script for leading questions with a mentor or teammate.
Tips Write clear questions. Partner up.
Tips Embrace awkward silence. Actively listen.* *More like “mhmm,” less like “YEAH, TOTALLY”
They are not 1:1 interrogations
Unless you suck
DISCLAIMER: THIS ONE IS SCARY.* *I’m here for you.
Basically, you ﬁnd your target Figure out what you want audience in the to know wild... & how.*
...and you talk to Figure out them. what you want to know & how.*
The Point Get insights from real users who aren’t in focus groups. Conﬁrm pain points. Quickly validate assumptions.
Pros Quick access to a large sample size. Instant validation.
Cons It’s still self-report data. Gotta talk to people.
Look, talking to strangers is scary.
It’s going to be awkward at ﬁrst.
And you’re going to feel weird.
It Gets Better.
Tips Start with the bored-looking people. Clearly deﬁne the questions you are testing.* *And quantify what success means. ...but don’t marry your script (or the bored people)
Because if it’s not working...
Some of our assumptions... Cornell’s weather and location are a turn-oﬀ Students care about school-sponsored traditions Prospective students use cornell.edu to research the university, but no one else really uses the site.
Some of our assumptions... Cornell’s weather and location are a turn-oﬀ Nope! Students care about school-sponsored traditions Yup! (If their friends are there) Prospective students use cornell.edu to research the university, but no one else really uses the site. Yes.
Reporting Interview Insights
Personas Keith Emily Marcelo Roberta
Everything Else Behaviors Audience Summary Messages User Stories
Other User Research Methods
Neat and mostly free
17 Keiths and Emily’s Total* *Nielsen recommends 15.
Tips Start recruiting early. Oﬀer incentives, even for remote tests.* Stay in touch. *But supervise participants on Skype or phone, even when remote.
Pro Insight Into Mental Models of Target Users
Con Data Is F*!#ing Hard to Make Sense of
Here’s How We Did It
Reporting the Data Tallied Everything Up* Made it Client-Friendly *Includes counting on ﬁngers, sobbing audibly, underestimating how long this would take.
Next method! Surveys
The Point Get a lot of perspective without a lot of resources. Gut check whether or not we understand learnings.
Tips Cast a wide net. Take results with many grains of salt.
Neat and mostly free
Cheat Sheet Method Purpose Timing* Long 1:1 interviews Build empathy, understand the journey, identify opportunities ~2 days - 3 weeks Short Interviews Test assumptions drawn from longer interviews ~1 day - 1 week Card Sort Inform IA and content relationships ~3-5 days to conduct and process Surveys Guide decision towards meeting high-level project objectives and gut check assumptions ~1 week Usability Test Evaluate eﬃciency, learnabilty, memorability, errors, and satisfaction ~1 week Google Analytics Learn about audience, traﬃc sources, traﬃc ﬂow, top content, and conversions ~1-2 days *DOES NOT INCLUDE RECRUITING
Thanks. Stay in touch. @stephbwills
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