How my team and I defined a User Research process

Overview

In 2021 my team was responsible for creating the first User Research process for the company that could be adaptable to future demands to gain valuable insights and an in-depth understanding of the target user’s needs, pain points, and behavioral characteristics to improve the design process of our digital product.

For a while, we were a Cross-Team that took care of tasks from all the company's squads and we didn't strictly follow the most recurrent agile methodoly for the teams, wich is Scrum. In short, we had our own backlog, we prioritized our demands on our own, which aligned tasks with different product owners, according to demand.

Even though this process gave us more autonomy to practice our power of prioritization and argumentation with stakeholders, it became increasingly complex to insert new processes into a routine that we already followed and meet different demands from different squads and POs, without centralization.

With the help of POs and the Scrum methodology, we were able to exercise much more our power of UX evangelization and especially our need for research focused on the users of our products, since most of the demands that were assigned to the team were demands that stakeholders generally already imagined would be validated in a certain way. So previously we just had the job of visually materializing, which made us more confident with our need for real validation through research and testing.

My contribution

Product strategy Product research DesignOps

The team

3 × Product Designers 1 × Product Owner 1 × Scrum Master

Year

In progress

Process

We created a research process with the steps that will be necessary during a project, according to its purpose and objective, we have a vision of the process as a whole but its steps can change according to the situation and demand.

Mapping the stakeholders

To start the research process it is necessary to know who the people involved, as they will have essential roles. This table allows us to have a more comprehensive view of the project decision makers and with whom we will have to perform our activities, depending on their impact, power, and interest in delivery.

We defined 2 essential characteristics of each stakeholder:

Attitude

  • 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.

Role

  • 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 we understand who the stakeholders involved in the delivery will be, we need to map the research generically guiding questions, defining a more general perspective of how and what we will address.

For this, we need to mobilize all the stakeholders listed above so that we can debate and discuss as a group what will basically be a kick-off, in a format similar to a brainstorming session, to define the doubts and informations that we will need to raise in structuring the research.

We ask questions like:

  • Who is my survey for?
  • Can users find the information they need?
  • Are users satisfied with my product?
  • What experiences did users have while using my product or similar products?
  • What are the frustrations/problems my product has that people have encountered?

Defining our hypotheses

According to the guiding questions that were raised in the initial alignment step, we can start mapping and defining a CSD matrix with our Certainties, Assumptions and Doubts.

When we start to map our csd matrix, we still have some doubts and assumptions that can be solved through secondary data, so we don't discard these questions and we always take them to the prioritization stage to know if it is feasible or not to access this data.

As our doubts and hypotheses have a direct impact on the way we will approach and execute our research, the points prioritized here must be aligned with the business team and experience, thus having a strategic vision of where we want to go, actually adding value to the product and the Business model.

By filling in the Impact x Effort Matrix, we can map the relevance scores for each assumption and doubt raised in the CSD Matrix. We always take into account the issues with the highest impact index and the least knowledge, as they have a greater influence on the research objective and we have little knowledge about.

Defining the research method

With the material completed in the previous steps, we arrived at the stage of planning the type of research that will be applied. This matrix has some questions that help us to define which type of research or method we are going to follow, according to the data we need to obtain at the end.

Planning the research

In this Research Plan stage, we centralize all previous information and definitions so that everyone involved has clarity and to ensure that the entire process is mapped and clear for everyone, having experience and business views. Therefore, this table must be completed together with all the people involved.

Consolidating the data

With the survey data in hand, it is necessary to analyze and synthesize from the affinity diagram, so we group the answers based on affinity and similarity to identify patterns for the synthesis of results. There is no single rule to build the diagram, it all depends on the analysis and the scenario, as well as the research objective, that is, we can define that our affinity diagram is through criticality, recurrence or topics/subjects.

By completing our Suggestions Matrix, we can graphically score the suggestions proposed after the analysis and synthesis of the research, according to their impact and complexity for its implementation. Through this filling, we facilitate the organization of our ideas to define an action plan, always taking into account the improvement and improvement of the product based on the users' perspective.

We separate the questions raised previously, in the Affinity Diagram, according to the topics most addressed in our answers, such as functionality, communication, accessibility, functionality, flaws/bugs, etc... After that, we arrange these topics according to their resolution complexity and product impact. The ideal is to prioritize the topics with greater impact and less complexity, as it would be of a simpler resolution and that will bring greater return to the business. However, this type of priority depends on how the business strategy is defined in each team.

Presenting the data

For the presentation of the data, we explain the research as a whole in a more simplified and didactic way, according to the profile of the stakeholder to whom we will present it, and with the most expected data.

In the "Summary and introduction" stage, we present all the essential findings in an accessible and fast way, the contextualization and presentation of the research and objectives, and the limitations and decisions that were made in the initial phase that guided the research.

In the steps “Main findings and general suggestions” we present and explore the insights we had and the problems they evidence through evidence (such as quotes, sentences, comments, prints, and any information that defines the user’s discomfort), the impact of the mentioned problems and addressed and how to resolve them in an understandable way.

The “Other information and data” step is very similar to the previous one, however, here we address secondary and less impacting issues, and even insights that were not in the scope of the research but that interfere with the user experience.

"The Research” stage is the most detailed stage of the presentation, where we present everything that was done in the research, such as dates, periods, methodology used, numbers and profile of the interviewees, given in expressive numbers.

Last but not least, we present the "Matrix os technical suggestions" in a more technical and accessible way.

Following the data

After the report is delivered, it is important to closely monitor whether the implemented suggestions had the expected impact, especially for the product's users.

Even if the research was carried out with responsibility and dedication, there is a possibility that we have taken a wrong suggestion that, instead of improving usability, worsened it. Realizing this allows you to correct the error in time.

Outcome