From insight to action

Save 58% of your UX research time without loosing any value. Here’s an efficient way to synthesise client and user feedback.

Introduction

Making sense of client or user feedback can be a tricky task, and recently I learned how time consuming and painstaking it can really be.

I’m a Product Designer at Ve Global, a marketing and advertising tech company focused on personalising online shopping experiences. At Ve we are encouraged to experiment with processes, discovering new ways of working that maximise productivity.

Problem

Over an intense period of product improvement and innovation, we conducted numerous feedback sessions, trialing new methods and tweaking them along the way.

Traditionally, feedback sessions were recorded and involved two product designers asking questions and taking notes, sometimes a product manager and possibly another key stakeholder would join too (both of whom would also ask questions), and of course the client or user.

After each session the team would return to their desks full of thoughts and ideas. The product designer would listen back to the recording, to take further notes and digitally document anything missed in the session, which acted as a resource for product managers and key stakeholders if they missed the session, or in case they felt the need to reference client or user feedback throughout the project.

At the end of each round of feedback sessions (typically between 3–5 sessions per round), the team would synthesise the feedback in a workshop by tagging each insight with a category and then grouping insights into themes to look for trends.

An affinity mapping session with product designers and key stakeholders

The problem with this method is that it took way too long and caused a huge amount of frustration within the product design team. Each feedback session would take about 2 hours in total, with transcriptions needing a further 3 hours or so each. Further to that, insights from the discussion were quickly forgotten or misinterpreted by those not involved. Once all sessions in a round of feedback were transcribed, synthesising the insights could take the team a full day.

Session and transcription: 2 + 3 = 5 hours
5 hours x 5 feedback sessions = 25 hours
1 day synthesis = 6 hours
Total design hours per round = 25 + 6 = 31 hours (per product designer)

Total design hours per project (3 rounds) = 31 x 3 = 93 hours (per product designer)

93 hours worth of synthesis equates to over 15 days on a single project. This was simply not scalable, and when there’s multiple projects running simultaneously the problem is amplified. We had to find a better process to ensure we could work quicker, without sacrificing valuable learnings from our clients and users.


Solution

Before each feedback sessions we agreed upon a process, and held retrospective meetings after every one to see how we could improve. Each time we learnt more about our biggest pain points, adjusting the process bit by bit.

Finally we landed on a solution that stuck, here’s how it goes:

Before the session

Preparation is key. There’s nothing worse than not knowing who you’re speaking to, what to say, their situational context (where/when they’d be using your product), why they’ve been chosen for the session or how you’re going to conduct the session.

Preparation tips:

  • Do you due diligence on the client or user
  • List the research objectives you’re hoping to discover during the session
  • Write a script to give you guidance and structure to the conversation

During the session

Each session is restricted to one hour, which helps focus the conversation. They’re recorded so the team can reference key quotes in presentations or send the recordings around if there’s a general interest from the wider team.

One product designer (UX researcher) leads the conversation with one other capturing key quotes or important insights by taking notes. We found that by having fewer people involved our clients and users began to relax; sessions went from being overwhelming interrogations to a flowing conversation.

A simple diagram of the people involved in a feedback session

Feedback session structure:

  • 5 minutes | Introduction to a feedback session
  • 10 minutes | Getting to know your client or user
  • 5 minutes | Introducing the session task
  • 30 minutes | Sharing the prototype and asking the right questions
  • 5 minutes | Summary and next steps

Key stakeholders that are involved in making design decisions follow the session through a conference call, digitally documenting notes of their own. A product manager might have vastly different priorities to product designer, therefore can ask questions by instant messaging the note taker in the room. When the appropriate moment arises the note taker asks the questions to the client or user to ensure no stone is left unturned.

Learning together shares the workload and eradicates the need for transcriptions all together, avoiding misinterpretation of notes and bias opinion.

After the session

After the session, everyone (other than the client or user of course) comes together for an hour long debrief to talk about anything glaringly important. This is also an opportunity to discard duplicate notes, proving to half the time it takes when synthesising feedback insights. These notes are then added to a shared document for later (we have found Dovetail to be a great tool for this).

Debrief session structure:

  • 30 minutes | Debrief and summary conversation
  • 20 minutes | Discard duplicate notes
  • 10 minutes | Record notes in a shared document
Using Dovetail to document feedback insights

At the end of each round, the team holds a workshop to synthesise all insights that came from the feedback sessions. This includes grouping similar insights into themes that are added to the shared document, along with a supporting HMW statement for each problem.

Synthesis workshop session:

  • 15 minutes | Briefly review all feedback sessions to refresh memory
  • 1 hour | Theme similar notes into groups and label them
  • 45 minutes| Think of HMW statements for each problem
  • 15 minutes | Prioritise HMW statements starting with the riskiest first
  • 45 minutes | Plan tactics of how to address the riskiest problems
Each research session is labeled with the client or user name
Similar insights are tagged with a theme

HMW statements are great because they avoid people jumping to conclusions of what possible features could solve the problem. Instead, they ask non biased and open-ended questions addressing how clients or users could achieve their goals.

Using HMW statements to begin planning actionable next steps

These standardised questions determine actionable next steps, for example a job story could be a starting point to begin building and testing possible solutions. Each HMW statement is prioritised, splitting big problems into sizeable chunks that can be addresses one by one.

Session and de-brief: 1 + 1 = 2 hours
2 hours x 5 feedback sessions = 10 hours
0.5 day synthesis = 3 hours
Total design hours per round = 10 + 3 = 13 hours

Total design hours per project (3 rounds) = 13 * 3 = 39 hours

39 hours of synthesis seems much more manageable, equating to about 6 days for each project, This is a whopping decrease of 58%.


Summary

Learning about problems, building possible solutions and measuring them can be applied to almost any situation. Design thinking can really help you improve your own process, so don’t forget to design for yourself sometimes too!

Sounds good? Try it out for yourself and let me know if it works for you too!