Understanding your users is fundamental to your product's success. But there are many research methods and it can be overwhelming to pick the right one. Therefore, we recommend starting by looking at the goal of your research. What is it that you’re trying to answer:
- What users say or want to do?
- What users actually do?
- When & how often they do it?
- Or why they do it?
Once you’ve selected a goal, you can use the below framework and exercise to find a matching research method.
Quadrant 1: 'Why & How to Fix, and What Users Do'
- Usability Lab: A controlled environment where researchers can observe users interacting with your product and identify usability issues.
- Ethnographic Field Studies: Researchers visit the user's environment (home, office, etc.) to understand user behaviour and needs in their natural context.
- Eye-tracking: This technology tracks where users look on the screen, allowing researchers to understand what draws user attention and what might be overlooked.
- Mockup Testing: Users interact with a simplified model or prototype of your product to give early feedback on design, functionality, and user experience.
Quadrant 2: 'What Users Do, and When & How Often'
- Clickstream Analysis: This involves analyzing the sequence of clicks each user makes, giving insight into user behaviour and preferences.
- Heatmaps: A visual tool showing where users have clicked, scrolled, or moved their mouse on your website, revealing popular areas and potential areas of neglect.
- Scroll Analysis: Similar to heatmaps, but specifically analyzing how far users scroll down on your website pages.
- A/B Testing: Comparing two versions of a webpage or other user experience to see which performs better.
- Session Recordings: Recordings of user interactions that allow you to see firsthand how users experience your site.
- Event Analysis: Tracking specific actions that users take on your site and analyzing these events to understand user behaviour.
Quadrant 3: 'When & How Often, and What Users Say'
- In-app Surveys: Surveys are delivered to users while they're interacting with your app, capturing real-time feedback.
- Email Surveys: Gathering user feedback via email, which can be more comprehensive and detailed.
- Feature Sorting: Users categorise and prioritise features, helping to understand what's most important to them.
Quadrant 4: 'What Users Say, and Why & How to Fix'
- Interviews & Chats: One-on-one conversations with users to gain deep insights into their needs, preferences, and experiences.
- Focus Groups: A group of users discuss their thoughts and feelings about your product, providing a range of perspectives.
- Participatory Design: Users are involved in the design process, helping to ensure the product meets their needs and expectations.
- User Feedback from Support Team & Social Media: Gathering feedback from customer service interactions and social media comments to understand common user problems and suggestions.
- Competitor Testimonials: Review platforms like G2, Capterra, Trustpilot, and Feefo are full of golden nuggets about what customers love and hate about alternative products in the market.
- What-Did-You-Expect Pop-ups: Pop-ups that ask users what they expect to happen after a specific action, shedding light on potential confusion or misunderstanding.
To familiarise the team with diverse user research methods and understand when and how to employ each one for maximum insights.
- Divide the team into four groups, each representing one quadrant:
- Provide each group with a brief description of their respective research methods. Allow some time for the team to familiarise themselves with each method.
- Provide each group with a hypothetical product issue or improvement scenario that aligns with their quadrant. For example, Quadrant 1 could have a scenario where users are struggling with a particular feature; Quadrant 2 could be assigned the task of identifying user behaviour on a new website layout, and so on.
- Ask each group to select the best user research method(s) from their quadrant to address their given scenario. They should justify their choice, detailing why they believe the chosen method(s) would be the most effective.
- Each group presents their scenario, selected method(s), and reasoning to the rest of the team.
- After each presentation, encourage a brief discussion where team members can provide feedback, alternative suggestions, or ask questions.
- Conclude the exercise by having an open discussion about the importance of choosing the right user research method depending on the nature of the problem, user behaviour, and desired outcome.
Early-stage startup example
Let's consider an early-stage startup named "GreenBox", a part of an accelerator program, that aims to build a SaaS solution to make supply chain operations more sustainable for businesses. Here's how the 'Navigating the User Research Compass' exercise might look for them:
- The GreenBox team is small, so they remain as one group. They aim to learn more about their potential customer's needs, preferences, and pain points concerning sustainable supply chain operations.
- They familiarise themselves with the methods in each quadrant of the user research compass and discuss how each method could contribute to their understanding.
- They list down key questions or uncertainties they need to answer in order to decide what product to build. For instance, they might need to know how often businesses review their supply chain's sustainability, what existing solutions businesses use, what users find most frustrating about the current solutions, and what users wish they could do with their existing solutions.
- They match each key question to a user research method from the appropriate quadrant. For instance, to understand what users find most frustrating (Why & How to Fix, and What Users Do), they might choose to conduct interviews and chats. To learn what users wish they could do with existing solutions (What Users Say, and Why & How to Fix), they might opt for participatory design sessions.
- They plan and implement these research activities, ensuring that the research objective is focused and understanding how each piece of insight fits into the larger puzzle.
- After gathering data, they convene to discuss their findings. They decide on the features and value propositions for their product based on their newly acquired understanding of the customers' jobs and the constraints that stop them from achieving these jobs.
This exercise helps GreenBox to build a product with a clear value proposition, catering to real and pressing needs of their potential customers. The insights also provide compelling narratives to pitch their idea to investors, mentors, and stakeholders within the accelerator program.
Later-stage startup example
Let's consider a B2B SaaS startup named "SecureFlow", which offers cybersecurity solutions to businesses of all sizes. Here's how they could perform the 'Navigating the User Research Compass' exercise:
- The SecureFlow team was divided into four groups, each representing a quadrant of the user research compass:
- Quadrant 1: 'Why & How to Fix, and What Users Do'
- Quadrant 2: 'What Users Do, and When & How Often'
- Quadrant 3: 'When & How Often, and What Users Say'
- Quadrant 4: 'What Users Say, and Why & How to Fix'
- Each group was given a brief overview of their respective user research methods, allowing them time to familiarise themselves with each technique.
- Each group was given a hypothetical product issue or improvement scenario. For example, Quadrant 1 might deal with users finding it difficult to navigate the software's dashboard; Quadrant 2 could be tasked with finding out when and how often users use specific features in the software.
- The groups were asked to select and justify the best user research method(s) from their quadrant to address their given scenario. Quadrant 1 might choose usability lab and mockup testing, while Quadrant 2 might select clickstream analysis and heatmaps.
- Each group presented their scenario, selected research method(s), and reasoning to the rest of the team. This led to engaging discussions, alternative suggestions, and a wealth of shared knowledge.
- The exercise ended with a reflection on the importance of choosing the right user research method for the right situation, reinforcing the value of the user research compass.
This exercise would have helped SecureFlow to better understand the nuances of each research method, ensuring more effective user research and subsequently more tailored, user-friendly cybersecurity solutions.