User-experience research methods are great at producing data and insights, while ongoing activities help get the right things done. Alongside R&D, ongoing UX activities can make everyone’s efforts more useful and valuable. At every stage in the design process, different UX methods can keep product-development efforts on the right track, in agreement with actual user needs and not imaginary ones.
Building a product without understanding industry is risky. Before taking any actions, make sure we gain enough knowledge about domain insights, as well as competitors in the same market. It is essential to research industry to bring the right value proposition to the right target users and meet the business goals.
Market research involves collecting and analyzing information about the market, including target users and competitors.
- Desk research: Using existing information from the internet and industry associations
- Field research: Gathering the data yourself using surveys, questionnaires and other research tools
- Commercial agencies: Hiring external organizations that carry out the research
User research is about enhancing the entire experience people have while interacting with a product and making sure they find value, satisfaction, and delight. This user research can help us understand who customers are, what is their problems, how they use the products, what their biggest impediments are and how to fix them. And the most useful UX research is well-planned and organized, which should give us the confidence that the insights are derived relatively and accurately.
Surveys and Questionnaires
Surveys and questionnaires allow us to get a larger volume of responses, which can open up the opportunity for more detailed analysis. This type of research can be relatively inexpensive to run. The downside of this method is that there’s no direct interaction with the respondents and thus, it’s impossible to dive more deeply into answers provided by them.
Gathering information through direct dialog is a well-known user research technique that can provide a huge of information about users. This technique can help us assess user needs and feelings both before a product is designed and long after it’s released. Interviews are typically conducted by one interviewer speaking to one user at a time of 30 minutes to an hour. They can take place face-to-face, over the phone, or via video chat.
Analysis is about breaking down complex concepts and problems into smaller, easier-to-understand constituents. We do that when we observe and document details that relate to our users. Synthesis, on the other hand, involves creatively piecing the puzzle together to form whole ideas.
A competitor analysis means knowing the product or service and stacking that up against the competition out there. There are standard principles for user interface design which can be used when conducting a competitor analysis. Usually, we use our value propositions or advantages as standards to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of competitors. In another way, we learn from their strengths and make their weaknesses become our opportunities.
Try to research and list out around 5-10 direct and indirect competitors, so we can easily maintain and track what competitors are doing.
- Direct competitors: consists of those people and companies who share the same customer segment with us and they offer the same product or service that we do.
- Indirect competitors: is composed of those who offer something similar to our products. Maybe it is not the first part of their product or service but the second or third.
- The tone and copy of the competitor
- Good and bad features
- User reviews
- Wait/load times
- Customer service
Don't forget to check the standards we mention above.
With a general idea of every brand's attributes, we start to visualize our position with a Cartesian graph.
Do several variations, plotting other competitors based on different polarities, such as:
By the end of the competitive analysis, we should be able to answer this simple (and most significant) question: Why should a customer choose our products instead of the competition?
A deep understanding of a target audience is fundamental to creating exceptional products. Personas help us to find the answer to one of their most pressing questions, "Who are we designing for?" By understanding the expectations, concerns and motivations of target users, it's possible to design a product that will satisfy users' needs and therefore be successful.
1. Build Empathy
Empathy is a core value if we want to make a product that is good for the people who are going to use it. Personas help to create understanding and empathy with the end users.
- Gain a perspective similar to the user’s. Creating personas can help to step out of ourselves and recognize that different people have different needs and expectations. By thinking about the needs of a fictional persona, we may be better able to infer what a real person might need.
- Identify with the user they are designing for. The more we engage with the persona and see them as 'real,' the more likely they will be to consider them during the design process and want to create the best product for them.
2. Provide Direction For Making Design Decisions
A deep understanding of user behavior and needs makes it possible to define who a product is being created for and what is necessary or unnecessary for them from a user-centered point of view. This allows product teams to prioritize feature requests (for example, features can be prioritized based on how well they address the needs of a primary persona).
Personas also help prevent common design pitfalls:
- Self-referential design. This happens when we design as if they are making the product only for us, when in fact the target audience is quite unlike us.
- Elastic user. An elastic user is a generic user, which means different things to different people. Designing for an "elastic user" happens when product decisions are made by different stakeholders who may define the 'user' according to their convenience.
While it's easy to select a set of user characteristics and call it a persona, it's hard to create personas that are truly effective design and communication tools.
Here are a few characteristics of a good persona:
- Personas reflect real user patterns, not different user roles. Personas aren't fictional guesses at what a target user thinks. Every aspect of a persona's description should be tied back to real data (observed and researched). Personas aren't a reflection of roles within a system.
- A persona focuses on the current state (how users interact with a product), not the future (how users will interact with a product).
- A persona is context-specific (it’s focused on the behaviors and goals related to the specific domain of a product).
1. Collect The Information About Users
The first step is to conduct user research to understand the target audience’s mindsets, motivations, and behaviors. The most accurate personas are based on actual field research — they are distilled from in-depth user interviews and observation data of real users.
Read: Research & Gather data
During this step it is very important to avoid generating stereotypical users (users that don’t have any relation to the actual user’s reality). Completely fictional stories of imaginary people based on little or no research bring no value for the design process and in fact, can bring harm. Furthermore, poorly constructed personas can easily undermine the credibility of this technique.
2. Identify Behavioral Patterns From Research Data
The next step is analyzing research findings. The goal during this step is to find patterns in user research data that make it possible to group similar people together into types of users.
- ist all of the behavioral variables
- Map each interviewee (or real-life user attributes) against the appropriate set of variables.
- Identify trends (find a set of people clustering across six or eight variables). These grouping trends will then form the basis of each persona.
3. Create Personas and Prioritize Them
Next, it’s important to assemble a persona’s descriptions around behavioral patterns. The researcher’s task here is to describe each persona in such way that expresses enough understanding and empathy to understand the users. During this step, it’s best to avoid the temptation to add a lot of personal details: one or two bits of personality can bring a persona to life, but too many details will be distracting and will make the persona less credible as an analytical tool.
4. Find Scenario(s) Of Interaction And Create Persona Documentation
A scenario is an imaged situation that describes how a persona would interact with a product in a particular context to achieve its end goal. Scenarios help understand the main user flows – by pairing the personas with the scenarios, ather requirements, and from those requirements, we create design solutions. Scenarios should be written from the persona’s perspective, usually at a high level, and articulate use cases that will likely happen.
Generally, a personas should include the following information:
- Persona name
- Demographics (gender, age, location, marital status, family)
- Goals and needs
- Frustrations (or “pain points”)
- Bits of personality (e.g. a quote or slogan that captures the personality)
- Similar products they are
After the research step, we organize, interpret, and make sense of the data we have gathered to create a problem statement. A problem statement will guide us and provides a focus on the specific needs that we have uncovered. A good problem statement should thus have the following traits. It should be:
- Human-centric. This requires to frame problem statement according to specific users, their needs and the insights. The problem statement should be about the users going to use our product to solve their problems, rather than focussing on technology, monetary returns or product specifications.
- Broad enough for creative freedom. This means that the problem statement should not focus too narrowly on a specific method regarding the implementation of the solution. The problem statement should also not list technical requirements, as this would unnecessarily restrict and prevent us rom exploring areas that might bring unexpected value and insight to the project.
- Narrow enough to make it manageable. Problem statements should have sufficient constraints to make the project manageable.
1. “How Might We” Questions
“How Might We” questions are questions that have the potential to spark ideation sessions such as brainstorms. They should be broad enough for a wide range of solutions, but narrow enough that specific solutions can be created for them.
2. The 5 ‘W’s — Who, What, Where, When and Why
- Who does the problem affect? (i.e specific groups, organizations, customers)
- Who are our primary/secondary users?
- Who other than our primary/secondary users might we affect?
- What are the boundaries of the problem? (i.e organizational, work flow, geographic, customer, segments)
- What is the current issue that require attention?
- What is the ultimate goal/impact?
- What are some background information that we need?
- What does the end goal look like?
- What would happen if we didn’t solve the problem?
- When does the issue occur?
- When does it need to be fixed?
- When are we looking to plan, organize, ideate, design, prototype and ship?
- Where is the issue(problem) occurring?
- Where do we need to focus on the most?
- Why is it important that we fix the problem?
- What impact does it have on the business or customer?
- What impact does it have on all stakeholders (i.e employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders)
3. The 5 ‘Why’s
It’s a strategy where we keep asking “why” so that it helps us to dive deeper into the problem and force ourselves to understand more about the space and motivate to learn.
After defining problem statements, we list out all the problems and sort them by priority:
- Not really
Take the most crucial problems and brainstorm solutions for them. Try to find as many possible solutions to this problem as possible. Then we will vote for the best one.
- Possible Solution
User journey map is a visualization of an individual’s relationships with a product/brand over time and across different channels.
While user journey maps come in all shapes and formats, commonly it's presented as a timeline of all touch points between a user and a product. This timeline contains information about all channels that users use to interact with a product.
Most journey maps follow a similar format: at the top, a specific user, a specific scenario, and corresponding expectations or goals in the middle, high-level phases that are comprised of user actions, thoughts, and emotions; at the bottom, the takeaways: opportunities, insights, and internal ownership.
The actor is the persona or user who experiences the journey. The actor is who the journey map is about — a point of view. Actors usually align with personas and their actions in the map are rooted in data. Provide one point of view per map in order to build a strong, clear narrative.
2. Scenario + Expectations
The scenario describes the situation that the journey map addresses and is associated with an actor’s goal or need and specific expectations. Scenarios can be real (for existing products and services) or anticipated — for products that are yet in the design stage.
Journey maps are best for scenarios that involve a sequence of events (such as shopping or taking a trip), describe a process (thus involve a set of transitions over time), or might involve multiple channels.
3. Journey Phases
Journey phases are the different high-level stages in the journey. They provide organization for the rest of the information in the journey map (actions, thoughts, and emotions). The stages will vary from scenario to scenario; each organization will usually have data to help it determine what these phases are for a given scenario.
4. Actions, Mindsets, and Emotions
These are behaviors, thoughts, and feelings the actor has throughout the journey and that are mapped within each of the journey phases.
- Actions are the actual behaviors and steps taken by users. This component is not meant to be a granular step-by-step log of every discrete interaction. Rather, it is a narrative of the steps the actor takes during that phase.
- Mindsets correspond to users’ thoughts, questions, motivations, and information needs at different stages in the journey. Ideally, these are from research.
- Emotions are plotted as single line across the journey phases, literally signaling the emotional “ups” and “downs” of the experience. Think of this line as a contextual layer of emotion that tells us where the user is delighted versus frustrated.
Opportunities (along with additional context such as ownership and metrics) are insights gained from mapping; they speak to how the user experience can be optimized. Insights and opportunities help draw knowledge from the map:
- What needs to be done with this knowledge?
- Who owns what change?
- Where are the biggest opportunities?
- How are we going to measure improvements we implement?
First, the process of creating a map forces conversation and an aligned mental model for the whole team. Fragmented understanding is a widespread problem in organizations because success metrics are siloed; it is no one’s responsibility to look at the entire experience from the user’s standpoint. This shared vision is a critical goal of journey mapping, because, without it, agreement on how to improve customer experience would never take place.
Second, the shared artifact resulting from the mapping can be used to communicate an understanding of the user or service to all involved. Journey maps are effective mechanisms for conveying information in a way that is memorable, concise, and that creates a shared vision. The maps can also become the basis for decision making as the team moves forward.