Turning User Research into Usable Data
Some sites captivate us in a way other sites can’t and that is due to the technology used to develop a site plays a vital role in the experience, also it takes the back seat to content and design for the website. It is important to carry out user research in order to get the raw user data which in deed, if used wisely is can be of great value to you.
What keeps users coming back is the content, but most of the time; it is the design that will capture their attention as soon as they land on your website. User research is a critical component of the design process.
Choosing a User Research Method
Before you start collecting the data and implement it into your designs, you have to decide how you are going to collect the data. Ideal user research process includes surveys, interviews, personas, onsite observations, usability testing etc.
User surveys are a means of finding out how the software or web site is likely to be used by a specific set of users, and who these users are likely to be. They allow you to establish an insight by asking the most basic questions to average users.
Surveys are beneficial when trying to reach a broad audience while gathering quantitative data. They need to have clearly defined goals so as to have the greatest effect. You can distribute your survey via social media or pay for responses.
Interviews focus more on the problem you are trying to solve and they allow you to ask follow up questions. Interviews can be structured however the researcher sees fit. It is important to make sure you leave ample amount of time to follow up questions to add context. The most difficult part is to actually find people to interview.
You can find interviewees by reaching out to your existing customers because they are more likely to respond because the future of their experience is affected by these interviews. Another possible way is to request the users who took part in the survey to include their contact information making it easier to reach out to them for an interview.
You can also go to a public place and ask friendly strangers to talk to you. This tactic is known as “guerrilla” interviews and you should use this only when you cannot get sufficient interviews with your ideal users.
It is a semi structured interview that enables you to obtain information about the context of use, where users are first asked a set of questions and then observed while they work in their natural environment. This could be as simple as going to an on-site location and see how users perform their tasks.
It can give you valuable data as you are observing natural user behavior but at the same time it can be a difficult one because you’ll have to be in someone’s way while they are doing something.
Contextual inquiries can be an important factor as it gives you the best sense of a user’s real choices and actions in a given context. Rather than assuming, here you can observe and document their choices in a real scenario.
This method is a huge advantage over interviews and surveys, as you are not forced to trust what interviewee has said.
I have already discussed about Usability Testing in my earlier posts, so you can take a look at that post.
Raw Data to Usable Data
Once you are done with your research, your desk may be covered with post-it notes, documents and usability test cases. Raw data is good but it is useless until it is compiled into a usable format.
To make this data usable, we need to separate the things we see from the things we know and how do we do this? Analysis and synthesis.
Analysis refers to the act of defining and categorizing the data you have collected. The best you can do is to conduct analysis in conjunction with synthesis.
Synthesis refers to the act of generating insights that you can use to predict your user’s needs.
Usable Data means Usable Design
Spending quality time on research and analysis can help you measure the effectiveness of your design which in turn ensures a better end product. Once you have all the usable and valuable data, you can forward it to the rest of the team.
The rest of the team can use the results from analysis and synthesis phase to develop design guidelines and techniques that can be incorporated into the design of the product.