6 Tips on How to Successfully Plan Your User Research Project from Start to Finish

Aldrich Huang
5 min readNov 14, 2022

User experience research enables you to better understand how people feel, engage, and react when using your product or service. This allows you to make informed decisions that correspond to people’s needs. Essentially, UX research is the first step in the user experience design process. From legal documentation, incentive distribution, and choosing the right research methodology to an interview script, there are many things to consider when planning your user research. In this article, I will provide you with 6 tips on how to prepare your user research project from start to finish successfully.

1. Handling legal documents

It might not be the most exciting part of being a UX researcher, but it is important to have the right documentation prepared. While GDPR topics have been greatly discussed in recent years, legal issues still arise during user research. In order to comply with data protection policies, it is therefore essential to have written contracts in place. We will shortly discuss two important documents: NDAs and consent forms.

  • NDA (Non-disclosure Agreement)

Why do you need the NDA? Do you want someone else to make your prototype or your future product plan in public before launching? NDA can protect your business plan with the product. Any disclosure before launching will lead to the situation not being under control in the market. NDA stands for a non-disclosure agreement. As described by Investopedia, “NDA is a legally binding contract that establishes a confidential relationship”. This simply implies that parties signing the agreement keep information that is shared confidential. In a research study, UX researchers use NDAs to protect sensitive information shared amongst participants.

  • Consent form

Another important legal form to let participants sign is a consent form. They are sometimes used interchangeably with NDAs but are in fact, two very different things. As mentioned earlier, UX researchers use NDAs as a document to protect you and your company from sensitive information leaks. The consent form’s primary purpose is to protect your participants. They are set in place to inform your participants about the kind of study, how their data will be used, and if needed how to opt out of the study. In short, consent forms are a best practice to ensure a safe and ethical study.

2. Budget planning and incentive distribution

As with any project, planning and budgeting are important. Whether your company has many resources at its disposal or is on a limited budget, we will discuss some important financial considerations.

  • Budget

First of all, you’ll need to set up a clear UX research budget. It is a misconception that UX research is very expensive. However, this is not necessarily always the case. Rather the cost of UX research depends on the scope of the research and the complexity of the problem you aim to solve. As a UX researcher you may want to ask yourself: Where is the budget from? Do we have an allocated budget? What problem(s) are we trying to solve? You also may consider collaborating with an alliance team to ensure the research can support the KPIs or ORKs.

  • Incentive distribution

When recruiting participants, UX researchers will need to reward participants for taking part in the study. Hence, incentive distribution is another important financial consideration UX researchers need to think about. The type of incentives, and how much you will pay out can vary widely depending on the company and research study. For instance, you may decide to provide coupons, gift cards, or cash money. At this moment, you need to clearly understand where the budget is from and how it works with financial departments.

3. Choosing the right research methods and tools

There are many different research methods that can be used. Depending on the project expectations and study characteristics, one method might be preferred over another. One way to different research methods is by categorizing them into quantitative and qualitative research. Quantitative research relies on objective data and metrics, whilst qualitative research is about gathering in-depth insights into people’s opinions, behaviors, and experiences.

Another decision to make when conducting research is to conduct remote or in-person usability testing. Remote usability testing may be the best solution if you have limited time and budget. You can further distinguish remote usability testing: unmoderated or moderated usability testing.

Once you have carefully considered the research methodology for your study, you can think about the UX tools. If you are doing remote usability testing, you will need a virtual meeting tool to perform your interviews. There are many online testing tools available. You can easily find lots of online resources going into this topic in depth.

4. Preparing for an interview script

To make your user interview a success, another best practice is to prepare a script. The script will be your guideline during the interview and includes example questions with key moments during the interview (icebreaker, introduction, tasks, important interview questions, closing, etc.).

Tip: When performing interviews, it is important to aspire to trust and make participants feel comfortable. Let participants know at the beginning of the interview that you’re not testing them. The goal of the interview is to test the prototype, software, or product and get their insight to offer a better experience. If at any given time, they are confused, reassure them it’s not their fault.

5. Connecting with your test participants

Finding the right test participants for your study can be challenging. For more information on this feel free to check our article “How to find the right test participants for your UX research”. One insight to remember is depending on where your testers are located, you may need to adjust your communication channel. Whereas in some countries email is the preferred method to communicate, other countries rely on different channels.

6. Make a backup plan

Let’s assume you have made all the preparation from legal documents, setting a budget to recruiting test participants. There is still one thing to prepare for: a backup plan. Tech problems may occur or at the last minute a tester may drop out. To avoid such problems you can have backup participants on stand-by.