A quick introduction to User Research

User research is quickly becoming an essential part of every design team’s toolkit. But but the barrier for entry is often high for a lot of teams, because of the perceived complexity of research, and the DIY nature of the process.

The benefits that teams see from building user research into their product development process is massive — it dramatically improves the value and usefulness for your users, and in turn increases the likelihood your products and projects will succeed.

In an effort to make user research more accessible for all design teams, we want to provide some simple tools and instructions to help anyone get started running user research on their products and projects today.


An overview of the user research process

The goal for running user research should always be to get actionable learnings and insights to your team, as quickly as possible, so you can continue to build a better product.

Below we have outlined the typical phases and activities you will go through when running user research.


1. Make a plan

  • Set learning objectives — write out the high level goals for your research based on the questions you have about your users, and assumptions you have made about your solution
  • Define your audience — write out the criteria you are looking for in your participants, focused more on needs and behavioural criteria, as opposed to demographics
  • Choose a research method — based on your learning objectives and audience, determine the best method of research for your needs — interview-focused vs. screen-based, in-person vs. remote, interview vs. activity, etc.

2. Recruit participants

  • Set a budget — determine how much money you have to spend as that will inform where, who and how many participants you can recruit for your research
  • Recruit participants — reach out to existing users, find participants with Koala, or recruit through Craigslist, depending on what type of participant you are looking for
  • Schedule sessions — book time slots with your participants and team using a shared calendar tool like Powwow. Try to book them over the course of one or two days

3. Conduct research

  • Create a discussion guide — using your list of questions and assumptions as a basis, create a list of Topics and tasks or questions for your participants to get the learnings you need
  • Run your sessions — typically 30 mins to an hour spent with each participant work through your discussion guide, and digging deeper on where you need to during the conversation
  • Identify insights, issues and important feedback — as you take notes during your sessions be sure to tag an feedback you feel could be important
  • Outline your learnings and next steps in a report — review your notes and outline the key learnings and immediate next steps that stood out for your team

4. Act on your learnings

  • Discuss learnings with your team — discuss what feedback you got and why it was happening with your team, so that everybody has a shared understanding
  • Identify next steps — assign to-do’s based on what you learned in research so your team has clear next steps

We go into more detail on all of these points in other posts, so hopefully this will give you a good sense of what the process looks like at a high level, and is a good starting point for further reading.


Get your team started running user research — sign up for Field Guide