The Ultimate Guide to User Research Planning
User research is the soul of great products and services. After all, how else do you capture the minds of your customers and build them into your offerings? More importantly, user research planning helps you manage the process of engaging your customers and getting their outlook on how to improve your product.
In this article, we’ll explain the essence of user research in project management and how to plan and execute user research that tells you what you need to know about your customers.
Why does user research matter in a project?
User research isn’t just another formality you bother with to keep the wise men down at head office satisfied. It’s fundamental to the welfare of every organization since it helps you see your product from the eyes of your customers. Here are the key benefits of user research and user research planning.
1. Keeps your UX team focused on your core goals
Maybe your initial objective for a user research project was to assess why users are avoiding or underutilizing a particular feature you launched weeks ago. Along the line, perhaps a few users pointed out another feature they keep having issues with, and by the end of the day, your focus deviated.
Now, you’ve changed your focus to the new flaw users pointed out in your product. Eventually, you realize you have a lot of fragmented information about several of your product’s features but have failed to narrow down to the main initiative you kicked off the user research project for.
This is where a user research plan can help. A user research plan gives you a blueprint to follow. That blueprint, in turn, keeps you focused on your key objectives for the duration of the research.
2. Gives senior stakeholders an easy way to keep up with your research
C-Suite executives and other project sponsors may not be interested in the micro details around the user research you’re carrying out. In fact, they’re not supposed to be. All they need to do is get a general overview of where your research is headed and a breakdown of the resources needed to put the outcomes of your research to work.
A user research plan offers a 30,000-ft. overview of your user research that you can use to engage higher-level project stakeholders, without boring them with minutiae.
3. Saves your customers’ time and energy
Let’s assume you set up a user research session without a detailed plan. Existing customers are invited to share what they think should be improved in your product. And they do. But before long, you realize you’re essentially holding a chit-chat session.
Your conversations are not getting anywhere since customers just ramble on and on about your product and what they think you should do better. There’s no vision directing them to what you actually want from them.
At the end of each session, you have a lot of feedback that now requires a lot of work to segment, touching virtually every branch of your product.
A user research plan helps you narrow down to the particular issues you’re looking to fix in your end-user’s experience and gets users to share the feedback you need faster.
What to include in a user research plan?
There’s more to creating a user research plan than creating a new Word doc and drafting a bunch of questions. Just like user research demands a strategic, planned approach to get to the root of your UX pain points, it takes a process to create a user research plan that empowers you to ask questions that resonate with your customers.
Here are the key components of an ideal user research plan.
A background statement
This serves as a thesis statement explaining your current situation, the user experience challenges you have at hand, and how you intend to interview users to discover how your product can better serve them.
A breakdown of the stakeholders who’ll be involved in conducting the research, their connection with the research at hand, as well as the teams connected with the research you’re about to undertake will also be required.
What do you intend to achieve by interviewing your customers? Do you wish to understand why they use a feature less? Do you seek a clearer picture of what they expect from your product or to better understand their frustration with your product or service? Define what each research session should help you achieve when you’re done.
Outline your research questions
Once you have a clear idea of the issues you’re looking to learn more about, the next step is to structure the tools that’ll help you do that. Compile a list of questions designed to visualize your product from your customer’s perspective and get an honest picture of what they think about it.
- How do you currently use the [specify] feature on our app?
- Do you use the [insert research subject here]? If yes, what pain point does it solve for you?
- Do you avoid our [insert product feature]? Why?
- What could we offer to make this feature more useful to your needs?
Research questions should be simple and specific. They should get customers to analyze how they interact with your offerings and share them as feedback.
Once you have replies from the user research, what do you intend to do with them in the broader context? Maybe you’re just compiling a report for senior management?
Or perhaps you’re trying to understand how to drive up usage for an underused feature?
Or you’re trying to get a particular product feature to become a major revenue driver?
When all is done and dusted, you should have defined the bigger picture goals your user research project must yield.
How long do you expect the timeline for research to last? How will the process progress during that period of time? State that clearly.
Who are the participants you’re looking to profile? Here’s where details like gender, demographics, geography, and income level, etc. come into the picture depending on the types of users you’re building your products for.
A detailed plan serves as a guidebook for carrying out user research so you can focus your efforts on getting the best outcomes efficiently.
Managing user research planning with project management software
It’s important to note that user research planning is a form of project management. Whether you’re outlining the questions to ask or actually engaging with users, user research involves all the typical stages of project management.
You plan your targets, execute them, collect outcomes, and track results. Once you’re done, you can report all the data you’ve collected using a tool that’s easy for all stakeholders to access. Project management software, therefore, offers the ideal tool for managing the user research process from end to end.
A tool like Kissflow Project gives you one cohesive platform where your team can unite to manage the entire project management process.
With Kissflow Project, you can:
- communicate with stakeholders via chat, @mentions, and notifications,
- collect customer feedback via forms,
- assign tasks to team members,
- analyze research outcomes with reports and analytics, and
- visualize research outcomes with visual collaboration tools.
Kissflow Project offers teams of all sizes the perfect tool for planning and executing your user research plans so you can serve your customers better.
Take Kissflow Project for a spin here.
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