Here is a sweet user research routine.
Research can be overwhelming, here is how to keep cool and deliver impact.
If you read my previous article on whether or not product managers (PMs) should conduct research, my main recommendation was that PMs shouldn’t lead research because they are too biased. But eh 🤷🏾, sometimes, you don’t have a choice and PMs are the one talking to users and guiding research.
If it’s your case don’t worry! Today I am sharing with you my typical week as a researcher. Feel free to try this routine in full, or a lighter version of it, to keep on collecting insights and become more impactful. With this routine you will:
- Watch 50 users sessions/week
- Launch 2 tests/week and synthesize findings
- Call users twice a week
- Still have time for beers on Fridays 🍻🍻🍻
My weekly schedule looks more or less like this:
Since I am a user researcher and you probably aren’t, reduce hours so that this routine does not take more than 30% of your time. Always leave free space for unexpected meetings, for discussions with the team, etc… Let me deep dive in each activity of this routine.
1-Grab Coffee and Press Play
If you are in a Scrum mode, I highly recommend you to sit down with a hot beverage, ideally before your daily standup meeting and watch 10 user sessions via a session replay tool (Hotjar, Fullstory or any other one…). It will help you remember who you are building your product for and it roughly takes an hour.
2-Test Twice a Week. Period.
You test something new twice a week. Period. Yes, that’s ambitious but deep down you know that’s what Agile is all about: YOUR LEARNING LOOP. The faster you test, the faster you learn. 🙏
“But how?” You may ask. Well, obviously we are not ready to test new features twice a week. Just be creative about your tests, for instance, you can show pen and paper mockups to your customers instead of finished designs. Also, don’t hesitate to ask them to test existing workflows on your website or on your competitors’ websites. You don’t need to be ready to test, in fact, you SHOULD NOT be ready when you are about to test. You should co-create with your users, not just ask for validation. (Follow Teresa Torres for great inspiration about research and Agile)
Also, think small. Maybe it won’t be a revolutionary feature every week, because that’s not how Agile works either. Go for iterations, baby steps and of course sometimes go for a major leap in the future just to keep it fun and exploratory. 💥
Last but not least, to get to this rhythm of testing you need a rock-solid tool. At ManoMano here is how we did it. First, we identified all the steps required to do research:
Then, we looked for a tool that could do it all, couldn't find one. We landed on a stack of tools to cover each step. Since my first article about the tools you need to launch the user research process, we’ve been upgrading our stack. Now it looks more like this and costs approximately 6.5k$/month:
I won’t go through all those tools and why they are great here but it might be the topic of another article. Just know that UserTesting recruits your testers so no time spent on hiring testers for user tests. That’s a relief!
3-Get out of the building
We never say this enough but some answers just can’t be found sitting in front of your computer screen. You have to meet users in person. That’s why I have slots to schedule interviews for the “field study” on Wednesday afternoons. Don’t forget to make sure you have appointments and double-check users presence. I also leave time to review a study guide, as I keep adapting it as you interview users.
4-Spread the word
Research findings need to lead to concrete actions and changes. To convince developers and stakeholders, keep two slots a week to share protocols, methods, and results to your team. Also, in this slot, you can decide all together on what’s next to test with users.
I wanted to illustrate this part and give you templates that work when showing research results. So, the problem was the following: at ManoMano we have too many products on listing pages. Literally, thousands of products to browse. How can you choose a garden lounge set in four hundred eighty-eight products?
Well, sure you can use filters but roughly 10% of users do. Most of them just look at products one by one and move on to the next page without narrowing their choice. One solution that we wanted to try was to display filters in a more visible (but less expected) location and make theses filters about the usage of the product instead of technical filters. We called those filters “Promoted filters” because they were displayed above the “Bestseller” spot. (see “What is your style?” bloc in the image below)
Now that you know the problem and our test let me show you how I presented the results to the feature team (FT).
I did a presentation with the following agenda:
- An executive summary with key findings
- My recommendations for the V2 of the prototype
- Method and user profiles
- A reminder of the tasks and all the screens of the prototype
- Results in details with raw data: video footage and verbatims.
Ok, maybe a lighter version of this routine looks more realistic to you, how about this:
13 hours a week is 30% of your week discovering how your users interact with your website. You will find major insights on what you should build next. Our tooling allows us to spend 0% recruiting users and keep our focus on the analysis. That’s how you stay impactful and make sure your time is well-spent.
How are these ratios looking? Feel free to discuss it in comments below the article.
Final tips: The Gym Coach.
Have you ever been a member of a gym? If you have, have you ever noticed that, as weeks fly by, your motivation to commit decreases? The hardest is probably just to grab your sports bag and go. A very different behavior happens when a gym coach comes to your office or home. Now the appointment is made with someone, it feels harder to bail on it. You tend to commit more. I feel like this is the same as getting out of the building and interview users. If it is scheduled for you, on your agenda, and you know someone is waiting for you, you will go.
Set up an automated process where users can book timeslots on your agenda, that way you will commit to talking to users. Same as with your gym coach.
Oh yes! One last thing, we are still working on how best to do research so if you suggestions feel free to comment on this article or ping us on Twitter!
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