It’s never a bad time to conduct user research. Whether you work on an ecommerce, SaaS or lead generation site – user research is key to understand your users, increase conversions and create an optimal User Experience.
As a UX and Conversion Specialist at FIRST Digital, I frequently run user research programs for my clients and I’ve compiled my top tips to create a structured research program.
1. Start with questions
One of the greatest pitfalls when running user research is diving in head first without asking key questions. If you lead with questions, then there is always a purpose for your research.
Start with a site run through and list out the key business, industry and customer questions at each stage of the user journey. Breaking it down into these areas gives a clear structure to your research program.
In the following example, some key questions for a product pricing page could include:
Business question: Is there ability to change our price offering?
Industry question: How are our competitors displaying their prices?
User question: Do users find our price offering appealing?
Some of your questions might easily be answered with an analytics review or previous research insights. Others will need more in depth analysis such as surveys, competitor analysis or user testing. The end result of this exercise will be a list of questions grouped under these 3 main areas and prioritized based on business needs.
2. Choose your research method
There are a range of user research methods and tools available at your fingertips – again it will all depend on your budget, resource available and business needs. If you don’t have the budget to invest in the latest shiny new tool – there are plenty of other options.
Back to the product pricing page example:
Business question: Is there scope to change our price offering? This could be answered by conducting a key stakeholder focus group
Industry question: How are our competitors displaying their prices? This could be answered with a competitor analysis and price comparison
User question: Do users find our price offering appealing? This could be answered by a range of research methods such as on site surveys, first click tests or user testing and most tool providers have a range of budget friendly options
3. Plan your research
“Fail to plan. Plan to fail” – let’s face it, we’ve all been there. This is equally as important when it comes to user research.
Having a simple research plan which outlines the goal of the research piece and key details, will not only act a guide but also as a point of reference which can easily be shared between stakeholders.
Remember it doesn’t have to be fancy – just a document which outlines the following:
The research question(s)
Goal of the research piece
Research method and/or tool
Timescales i.e. how long the research piece will take or how long to run it for
Key details, tasks or demographics that are relevant for the research piece
4. Run it and iterate
So you’ve narrowed down your questions, chosen your first research piece and made a plan. Now time to run it and build momentum.
‘But how long should I run it for?’ I hear you say. The honest answer is – it depends, especially when it comes to qualitative research. For example, as a rule of thumb the magic number of user testers is 5 and for surveys a minimum sample of 200 is advised. Timescales will differ for each site according to levels of traffic – but using these as a reference point will help.
Remember the importance of iteration – if a survey is getting a low response rate, switch it to another site area or change the question. If your heatmap or analytics tool isn’t giving you the insight you had hoped for – trial a different tool or method to answer your research question. As long as you’re learning and iterating – then any insight is better than no insight!