Imagine this: you are in charge of gathering user feedback on problems, pain points and potential ideas for enhancements of your product. You want to gather useful insights that you can take back to your manager and your team and that will lead the development of new features or improve existing ones.
You have access to thousands of users, but they all have different needs and use the product in different ways. So… how do you get started? How do you keep your team and users engaged in the research process? Would focus groups work? Maybe 1:1 interviews? Would surveys work at all?
These are all normal questions to have at the start of a research project. So let’s outline a process you can use to narrow down our focus and get actionable insights that move the needle forward.
1 - Define What You Want to Know
If you have thousands of users, you really need to focus on what it is that you want to discover before you do the research otherwise it can get messy really quickly. A good place to start is to talk with management about high-level business goals and vision, so that you can direct your research towards the company vision. Are the goals related to revenue, churn, improving the overall user experience? All of these will get you on a slightly different path.
2 - Narrow Down Your Audience
After you’ve decided what to focus on (a specific journey, persona, feature) you’ll need to narrow down your user base to people that might provide helpful feedback for your research goals. For instance, if you’re researching improvements for a specific feature, you can get some usage data about who’s actively using that feature, who has tried the feature and stopped using it, or people that never used it at all but would fit the criteria of potential users. All of these users will be able to provide valuable feedback about what’s going on.
3 - Emerge Patterns from Quantitative Data
Surveys are a great way to get some general feel of where most problem areas lie. You can have large quantities of results, without needing too much analysis time. Avoid having too many open-ended questions in the survey, but having one or two is a good way to filter out who might be worth to talk to in an interview. Another great way to gather quantitative feedback is to use a feedback pop-up on the specific page you want feedback. For instance, if you’re trying to improve your billing feature, having a pop-up with a single question when users visit that page is quite useful and will get you even more focused answers.
4 - Dig Deeper with Interviews
After the survey, you can do some 1:1 interviews with a few of the people that gave you the most insights and get a more in-depth understanding of the problems and realities of the users. Focus on what problems your users are trying to solve, what parts of their job are difficult, and not necessarily on the tool itself. Interviews are a great way to understand the day-to-day of your users and some of the needs and motivations for using your product. And you can be sure that you’ll find insights that you’ve never even thought about. Every time you get a chance to talk to people and find out more about them, the better.
5 - See Your Users in Action
So far we’ve talked about ways of getting attitudinal data, but it’s really important to get behaviour data as it shows you exactly what you’re users do in the wild, instead of what they hope to do. There are multiple tools where you can actually see users interacting with your product and analyse a specific journey or feature they identified as problematic. You’ll immediately see what is not working, where they are getting stuck and gain deeper empathy and understanding. You can also go on a field trip and shadow some of your users. I find that people do not interact with your product in their regular way when you do this, but it’s incredibly helpful to see the environment and situations they use the product, how focused or distracted they are and so on.
And that’s it, really. You might not need all of the steps, and you can skip multiple even, as long as you don’t skip the first one. Following these steps, you will have a pretty clear idea of some themes and what it is that your user is hoping to accomplish and what is getting in their way.
To get the most out of your research, don’t forget to keep your team in the loop and share the insights as you get them. Research is a team sport and a quick debrief after each session will go a long way into giving your team a clearer understanding of your audience and is a quick way to course correct your project.
So, what are you currently learning about your users?