7 steps of Lean User Research
At Furthermore we carry out user research pretty much every week. We believe in using lean methods to get the most insight for our time. This enables us to achieve ongoing validation of our ideas and designs. This post describes how we run research projects or the research phase of a wider development brief.
Step 1: Kick-off!
Meeting the team, receiving our brief and setting objectives are the first steps to project immersion.
We interrogate the brief to ensure we fully understand it’s requirements and opportunities.
From this initial session we plan time and effort and carefully prepare for our deliverables, ensuring the client is kept up to date and is happy with our approach. Relevant communication tools and methods are also agreed at this stage.
Step 2: Initial Analysis
Once we have understood the objectives of the brief, we begin with examining any existing desk research, such as analytics data, consumer feedback, metrics or click flow data.
This data is typically quantitative and helps us form our initial hypotheses. If there isn’t any appropriate data available at this stage, then we carry out our own studies, these can include customer surveys and heuristic evaluations.
Buckinghamshire Business First is a recent example of a project where we used a survey to canvas potential users. We needed to find out what it is like to run a business in Buckinghamshire. We learnt the major challenges businesses face, what motivates them and what techniques they use to promote themselves.
Step 3: Customer Journey Analysis
This stage sees us explore what it is like to be a user of the product or service. This involves:
- Empathy mapping, is where we examine what users are thinking, seeing, saying, hearing and doing.
- Customer journey mapping is where we consider the needs and goals, concerns and pain points and any questions users have at each stage of their journey.
- Stakeholder interviews allow us to understand any business rules that could affect the customer journey.
Step 4: Form Initial Hypothesis
An hypothesis, is basically an assumption. Something from to our initial research, that we believe to be true.
These are proven, disproven or refined during our next stage — user testing. The results of the research tell us whether we understand our user’s behaviour and how accurately we understand the potential or the pitfalls of the product or service we are optimising.
We recently spoke at London Tech Week about improving digital products and services, using Hypothesis Driven Design.
Step 5: User Research & Testing
User research is an essential step on the way to validate our thinking.
We use a combination of traditional, new and lean methods to gather qualitative insights from users at this stage. These include, face-to-face, guerrilla and online user testing, as well as ethnographic field studies, multi-variant tests, 5-second tests and click-flow analysis.
Captevate, an online video editing tool, is a recent project where we carried out lots of user research. At the end of each week-long sprint, we arranged for users to come in for a face-to-face chat about the prototypes we had created.
We also performed 5-second tests to help us fine tune landing page UI and calls to action. Flow tests helped us combine multiple screens into funnels to help identify which elements were causing users difficulty when completing a multi-step processes. Multi-variant testing was used to choose the most appealing subscription packages.
Step 6: Insight Analysis
After gathering insights it’s important we analyse our findings. We start by affinity sorting.
This involves gathering all observations and grouping them into similar themes.
These themes are then mapped against our early hypotheses to highlight relationships and establish insights. Referenced against our customer journey map, we ensure we have findings related to each stage of the customer’s journey.
Step 7: Refine design hypothesis
The last step in our research process is to deliver actionable insights. These take the form of refined hypotheses.
Each hypothesis highlights three things, the first part is a statement we believe to be true about the product, service or feature, next is the recommendation we think will improve the situation or create a new opportunity and the final part is where we explain what we expect to see if the recommendation is implemented. Each hypothesis is discussed and priorities given to each one.
At this stage, these hypothesis statements either become our final deliverable or are fed into our design sprints.
User research of all forms is beneficial to creating a compelling product or service. When an idea has had sufficient research during it’s development, the benefits are obvious. So act fast, prototype rapidly and iterate often. Have fun and carry out research in the most lean ways possible.
Furthermore are a multi-platform digital product and service design studio based in London. We have one mission: to create innovative digital products that stand out in the landscape, are beautiful, purposeful and a delight for the user. Hot on user experience and user research, we believe good ideas can come at any point in a project, so we utilise agile methodologies. Hypotheses are always tested using prototypes and real users, with improvements being constantly fed back into our user experience and visual designs.