During the past few weeks, I’ve been able to speed up our approach to user research. Instead of taking five days to turn around our research findings and recommendations, we’ve managed to do it in one day. This has helped my team deliver insights when the organization needs it most.
Why is pace important?
Our organizations, like our families, are having a difficult time trying to cope with all of the changes that are happening. Our current environment necessitates that decisions are made at a fast pace. Your user research needs to keep pace with the organisation’s new pace to be useful.
If you can facilitate user research and deliver your findings and recommendations quickly, it can help your organization:
- Pivot to focus on customers’ emerging needs, or
- Design and deliver new services and features, or
- Identify gaps and issues with existing services or features.
Without this kind of pace, you run the risk of conducting research that has no impact, because your work isn’t there when it’s needed.
So, how did we increase the pace of our approach?
The first step we took was to start fresh and remove the constraints from our minds.
Instead of trying to change the process we’ve been using, we created a new process. To help with this, we asked ourselves a few key questions:
- Who needs the results of the research?
- How and when do they need it?
- How can we meet their needs?
- How can we make sure the research we do is as impactful as possible?
Ultimately we decided that for our audience, short reports worked best, with a prioritised set of recommendations.
The second step was to design a process to help us deliver our findings and recommendations in one day.
We decided findings were best done individually, as it means our team can parallel process a lot of the work. Each person would take the data from some of the interviews and generate their findings based on the questions and topics you explored during your research. You’ll find our Miro template at the end of the article.
For research synthesis, we decided to do it together as a team. This proved to be effective because of two reasons.
- It meant each team member can use their working memory to quickly synthesize their findings into high-level themes.
- We can run 10-minute bursts where we synthesize, talk to ask questions and explain sticky points and then synthesize some more.
The third step was to create a concise report that helped communicate our findings and recommendations.
Our team split our report into four sections:
- Executive summary. What are our top recommendations?
We based our order of priority based on two factors. The first was importance. How critical is this issue? Did it stop customers in their tracks? Were users left frustrated? The second was occurrences: how often did this issue occur? Was it a once-off with a specific type of user, or did it happen regardless of task or demographic?
- What did we research? This included our key questions and screenshots of the prototypes we tested.
- What did we find? This was broken down into what worked well, what needs to be improved, and user suggestions.
- What approach did we use? This section highlighted the approach we used (e.g. online testing, remote research, etc.), how many people we spoke to and their cohorts and demographics.
What you’ll need
To help us shorten the cycle between research and action, we created and used a few things.
- A report template — you probably already have a template. Try to design a template to make your report as concise as possible. For example, we had one slide for an Executive summary, one slide for What did we test?, and one slide for What approach did we use?
- A new process agreed on by the team. Use a principle of “silence is disagreement” to help the team commit. Make sure everyone is committed before you start.
- A way for your team to collaborate on findings and synthesis. We used Miro but you can also use Mural or Figma. You can find our template here: https://miro.com/welcomeonboard/3RDtzIXjNS7XQ07zuOZ3dsCtjwxK7pETVz9CbfNACkXvWHa8iBXMIR1gjEYz57JI
- A way for your team to write together. You could use Google Slides/Docs, Microsoft Online, etc.
A note from UX In Plain English
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