With the rise of remote working, users are giving even more importance to their experience with daily tools. This is particularly true for productivity and collaboration apps, given how critical they became for remote and hybrid teams.
For product teams, user research is essential to understand your customer base and how they interact with your products. By using customer insights to guide your decisions, you can ensure that your business remains relevant and attractive to new and existing customers.
What is user research?
User research is a process that helps us understand user behavior and needs. It typically involves gathering data from various sources, such as interviews, surveys, focus groups, and usability testing. The aim is to identify user needs and preferences, and to create design solutions that meet them. By gaining a better understanding of users, product teams can make informed decisions about how to build better products and create more useful and enjoyable experiences.
User interviews are a powerful tool for uncovering user needs, motivations, preferences, and behaviors. It's important to focus on the problem to be solved, rather than the solution. Instead of asking what feature they want, or if they like a feature, it's better to ask:
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- How do you do it currently?
- What are the frictions?
- How can a feature help you address your job?
Something to consider is differentiating the stages of the interview:
- Pre-product: before launching the product, it is important to do an open interview with a set of questions related to understanding the target persona, the job to be done, and other important factors. Additionally, you should try to understand the customer's environment, including their current process and how your product would fit into their workflow.
- Usability: Navigating a prototype (before release) or real product (after release) can be improved by taking a more passive approach. Let users understand what it is about and ask questions when there's friction. A great approach is to ask an open question: "Here is our interface, can you do action X?" and see if they figure it out on their own.
Surveys and focus groups
Another way to gather this information is with surveys or focus groups. This type of research allows you to collect feedback from a wider range of people. It also helps you learn more about the opinions and feelings of different types of users across different parts of the customer funnel (from initial contact through usage).
Surveys are usually shorter and can be sent to a larger group of people, whereas focus groups are longer and involve a smaller group. Surveys provide a snapshot of user opinions at one point in time, while focus groups can provide insights about user behavior over time. Surveys are more quantitative, while user interviews are more qualitative. Combining both offers the benefits of both. However, focus groups can provide more individualized insights, but can also be more costly and time-consuming. Additionally, survey results are less reliable for understanding cultural differences among users.
How to use the User Research Playbook
For the best results, you need to be intentional about your process. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Identify your research goals: What do you want to learn?
- Choose the right research method: Consider surveys, interviews, focus groups, and more.
- Create a research plan: Outline the steps you'll take to reach your goals.
- Gather data: Collect information from your target audience.
- Analyze the data: Look for patterns and insights.
- Share the results: Present your findings to stakeholders.
Use customer insights to guide company decisions
Once you’ve collected and analysed the data, it's time to communicate the results of your research with the rest of the company. To ensure everyone can benefit from your insights, make sure you don’t only share them with your core team. From Marketing, to Sales or Customer Success, any team will benefit from knowing more about your users. Having access to this research will also ensure they can improve their own processes and materials when communicating with users.
So how can you share your user research data internally? A few ideas:
- Create a research repository with key takeways. This can be as simple as a Notion database or using a dedicated tool like EnjoyHQ.
- Share key learnings in a team session. You can organize a lunch&learn session (always a good way to engage remote teams), using a slot in your all-hands meeting, or even a simple slack message with a link to key documentation
- Let your team hear directly from customers. Give visibility on your user research calls by recording them, so everyone can see and hear from users directly, not only scarce summaries. And to make them more digestible, you can use our video annotation feature to bookmark key moments and call out the attention of particular coworkers. We talk more about this here.
- Create personas to share the results of your findings. It is always better to picture customers in a certain way, such as “Christian, a 20 year old Product Manager, who is striving to achieve a certain goal”. This personification of the data helps to bring the findings to life, making them easier to understand and relate to on a personal level.
How often should you do user research?
In product teams, user research should come at various stages throughout the product development process. Initial market research can be conducted early on in the process, while user research can be implemented during the product work, or even after it has already been released. Additionally, user research can be useful in order to understand how users interact with the product and identify any potential areas for improvement. As such, user research should be conducted at multiple stages of the product development cycle to ensure a successful outcome.
As a rule of thumb, do a round of research every time you start something new, or you feel like you don’t understand a part of the problem at hand well enough.
Once you start working on your wireframes, it’s time to test your proposed solution with real users. This is a critical step to avoid developing a product that your users won’t understand or find it easy to use. Check out this article to learn more about design testing.