In 2021, my team was responsible for creating the company's first User Research process, designed to be adaptable to future demands. Our goal was to gain valuable insights and a deep understanding of the target users' needs, pain points, and behavioral characteristics to enhance the design process of our digital product.
Initially, we operated as a Cross-Team, handling tasks from various company squads. We did not strictly adhere to the most common agile methodology used by the teams, which is Scrum. Essentially, we maintained our own backlog and prioritized our tasks independently. This approach allowed us greater autonomy in prioritization and provided opportunities for meaningful discussions with stakeholders.
However, as time went on, it became increasingly challenging to integrate new processes into our established routine and manage diverse requests from different squads and Product Owners without centralization.
With the collaboration of Product Owners and the adoption of the Scrum methodology, we found a way to promote UX evangelization and emphasize the importance of user research. Many of the tasks assigned to our team were previously assumed to be validated in a certain way by stakeholders. Our role was primarily to visualize these assumptions. The shift towards real validation through research and testing boosted our confidence in advocating for user-focused practices.
Product strategy DesignOps ResearchOps
3 × Product Designers 1 × Product Owner 1 × Scrum Master
2021 - 2022
We established a flexible research process with adaptable steps that align with a project's purpose and objectives. While we have an overarching vision for the process, its specific steps can be adjusted as needed based on the situation and demand.
Mapping the stakeholders
To initiate the research process, it's crucial to identify the key individuals involved, as they will play essential roles. This table provides a comprehensive overview of the project's decision-makers and those with whom we will collaborate based on their impact, influence, and interest in the project's delivery.
We defined 2 essential characteristics of each stakeholder:
- Satisfy: More power and less interest on demand;
- Manage: More power and more interest in demand, manage the entire process.
- Monitor: Less power and less interest in demand, they monitor and guarantee the quality of the process and its steps as a whole.
- Inform: Less power and more interest on demand.
- Authority: Person who will validate the task delivered by the responsible;
- Responsible: Person responsible for the task and delivery;
- Support: Person who, in part, will also be responsible for the task, however, will only assist the main person;
- Consulted: Person who will be consulted to perform the task, however, does not help with support;
- Informed: More distantly interested people who need to be informed of the task's progress;
What do we need to know?
After identifying the stakeholders involved in the project, the next step is to create a set of guiding questions for the research, offering a general perspective on what and how we will address the issues.
To accomplish this, we engage all the previously listed stakeholders in a collaborative session, similar to a brainstorming session, to define the key questions and information needed for structuring the research. In this session, we ask questions such as:
- Who is the target audience for our survey?
- Can users easily access the required information?
- How satisfied are users with our product?
- What experiences did users have while using my product or similar ones?
- What are the common frustrations or issues encountered by users while interacting with our product?
Defining our hypotheses
Based on the guiding questions established in the initial alignment phase, we proceed to create a CSD (Certainties, Assumptions, and Doubts) matrix.
While mapping our CSD matrix, it's important to note that certain doubts and assumptions may be resolved through secondary data sources. We do not dismiss these questions but rather bring them into the prioritization stage to determine their feasibility in obtaining the necessary data.
As our doubts and hypotheses significantly influence our research approach and execution, it's crucial to prioritize these points in alignment with the business and user experience teams. This strategic alignment ensures that our efforts contribute effectively to the product and business model.
To prioritize these points, we use the Impact x Effort Matrix to assign relevance scores to each assumption and doubt identified in the CSD Matrix. We prioritize issues with the highest impact and the least available knowledge, as these factors greatly influence our research objectives, and addressing them can yield valuable insights.
Defining the research method
Having completed the preceding steps, we now reach the planning stage for selecting the appropriate research methodology. To guide this decision, we use a matrix with specific questions that assist us in determining the research type or method to follow, based on the desired data outcomes.
Planning the research
In the Research Plan stage, we consolidate all the preceding information and definitions to ensure clarity and a well-mapped process for everyone involved, incorporating both experience and business perspectives. This table is a collaborative effort that involves all stakeholders.
Consolidating the data
With the survey data in hand, we proceed to analyze and synthesize it using an Affinity matrix. This diagram allows us to group responses based on affinity and similarity, enabling us to identify patterns for result synthesis. The construction of the Affinity matrix can vary based on the analysis, scenario, and research objectives. It can be structured by criticality, recurrence, or topics/subjects.
In the Affinity Diagram, we categorize the questions based on the most frequently addressed topics in the answers, such as functionality, communication, accessibility, and bugs. These topics are then arranged according to their complexity and impact on the product. Ideally, we prioritize topics with high impact and low complexity, as they offer a simpler solution that can bring significant benefits to the business. However, specific priority criteria may vary based on each team's defined business strategy.
To further organize our findings, we use a Suggestion Matrix to visually score proposed suggestions based on their impact and complexity for implementation. This helps us create an action plan, always emphasizing product improvement from the user's perspective.
Presenting the data
In the data presentation phase, we aim to communicate the research findings in a simplified and pedagogical manner tailored to the stakeholder's profile and their specific data interests.
- Summary and Introduction: We provide a quick and accessible overview, including the research's context, objectives, and any initial decisions or limitations that influenced the research direction.
- Main Findings and General Suggestions: This section delves into key insights and issues supported by evidence such as user comments, quotes, screenshots, and other pertinent information. We emphasize the impact of these issues and offer clear, understandable solutions.
- Other Information and Data: Similar to the previous step, here we address secondary or less impactful issues, as well as any unexpected insights that may affect the user experience.
- The research: This stage offers a more comprehensive view of the research, covering dates, methodology, sample sizes, and interviewee profiles with relevant statistics.
- Matrix of Technical Suggestions: In this section, we present technical suggestions in a manner that is both technical and accessible.
This structured approach ensures that we effectively communicate the research's outcomes, tailoring the presentation to the stakeholders' needs and preferences.
Following the data
After delivering the report, it's essential to closely monitor the impact of implemented suggestions, particularly on the product's users. Despite conducting research diligently, there's a possibility that a suggestion meant to enhance usability might have an adverse effect. Recognizing such issues promptly allows for timely corrections.