User Research Basics: How to plan a UX research project | Matthäus Niedoba | Skillshare

User Research Basics: How to plan a UX research project

Matthäus Niedoba, Digital Product Designer

User Research Basics: How to plan a UX research project

Matthäus Niedoba, Digital Product Designer

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15 Lessons (31m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. About your class project

    • 3. What is User Research

    • 4. When to do User Research

    • 5. Competitor Research

    • 6. Patent Research

    • 7. The purpose of your research

    • 8. Research methods

    • 9. Finding the right participants

    • 10. Finding the right research location

    • 11. Data and analysis

    • 12. Your interview script

    • 13. Consent and NDA

    • 14. Communication and time planning

    • 15. Thank you

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About This Class

You want to create meaningful products or services that solve real-world problems or you are designing the next generation user experience. At the beginning of all, you have to do research. In this class, you learn the basics for preparing your first user research project.


We will cover legal aspects, research methods and why user research is so important in every stage of product or service development.

As a class project, we will create a research plan, that you can use for your projects. This plan is like a checklist for all the key aspects you need to know before carry out your research.


No prior experience required!

Meet Your Teacher

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Matthäus Niedoba

Digital Product Designer


A digital product designer challenged to make complex enterprise software easy to use. Creating the right information architecture and managing complexity are the foundation for enterprise software to create a meaningful user experience that matches business goals.

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1. Introduction: My name is Mathias [inaudible] and I'm a User Experience Designer at maximum automakers of Cinema 4D. For those of you who don't know what Cinema 4D is, it's an easy and intuitive to use 3D application, mostly to create motion graphics. My job as a User Experience Designer, is to do user research to design workflows and interfaces. In this course, I want to share with you my experience on doing user research. User research comes into the beginning of every design project and user-driven business. In this course, we will take a look how user experience fits into the design thinking process. We will look at the research types like qualitative and quantitative research. We will look also in other areas like competitive research or patent research, which is important when you have a technology-driven project, but it's often forgotten and we want to make sure that you are safe on the legal side. When we are done with the theory, we will dive into the class project. Our class project is going to make a research plan. A research plan is like a checklist with all the important bullet points you need to know when you plan a research. You will use a language learning app as an example to go through each of these bullet points. This is a beginner's course. If you are a UX designer or you are new to UX design. If you're an entrepreneur or you have an idea for a business, user research will prove that your idea is truly relevant to the people. By the end of this course, you will know how to plan your research, that you can carry it out for your own project. So let's get started. 2. About your class project: All right, let's talk about a class project. We are going to making a research plan. The research plan is a two pages long cheat sheet with all the important bullet points you need to know to plan your research. We're going to talk about all of them. We will start about the purpose of research. Why are you doing the research? What is the information you need to collect? What is the problem you need to solve and the questions which needs to be answered. We're going to look at the method of research. The method is deriving from the purpose of the research. There are multiple ways to do user research, and we're going to choose one of them. We will also look at the participants we want to recruit. Basically we will look how many participants we're going to recruit and where to recruit these participants. We also going to take a look at the location. Where do you want to do the research? Because it matters if the research is done at the home of the participants for example or in another place. We will take a look at the data we want to collect. It's important to know at the beginning of the research that you know which data you want to collect, what are the tools to collect this data and how you want to analyze this data. Then we will take a look at a interview script. Here you can see that we're going to focus on a qualitative user research. We're going to prepare a user interview with the research plan. Then we will take a look at the consent and the NDA. It's important to know that the participation in the research is always voluntary and you need to communicate this to your participant. If you have to share confidential information, then you need your participant to sign a nondisclosure agreement. At the end we will talk about communication. The participant has to know who will have access to the research data, so to whom you will communicate all the data you collect. We will use this language learning app called [inaudible]. This app is currently in a design phase. It's pretty at the beginning and a designer needs to know which features he has to put in this language learning app. On the other side, the editors team also needs to know how to design a class. So both of them, both groups need user input and that's where research comes in. 3. What is User Research: What is user research? User research is investigating your users into the process of designing your experience. It sounds a bit academical. It's basically just getting opinions from your users. You want to prove if you are on the right track. There are multiple ways to do this. First of all, we have quantitative methods. Qualitative methods are something like user interviews. In this case, you apply them when you're not really sure how to formulate your problem, you want to get some data, but you cannot really precise a question. The qualitative methods are pretty good because you can get information which you didn't expect at the end, but there is not a problem. Qualitative methods, you, as a researcher, you are influencing because you will interpret data from interviews so the results can be biased. Keep that in mind when doing user interviews. Then you have also quantitative methods. Quantitative methods are something like surveys and alerting, formal experiments. They measure a user behavior in a statistical weights, so usually they measure it in numbers. You answered a question for a specific problem and it's so good. Let's say you want to get an answer for a specific problem that you can express a number. For example, how many people use this particular app? How many hours people are spending per day using a smartphone? These are questions where you can get answers with quantitative methods. User research is part of design thinking. Design thinking is used in ideation and development. It's a human-centered and iterative process. Human centers means it solves problems of users. Iterative means it runs in circles, and a circle consists of five steps. The first step is to empathize fewer users. In this way, you are getting away from your own assumptions. We all make assumptions. We all put ourselves into the place of the user. We always think we are the users. But when you empathize with your real users, you should get away with your own assumptions. This is where you do user research. You can start with qualitative methods like surveys. You will get a feeling what a real-world wants, you will observe your users. Don't analyze them too fast. But get as much data, as much insight as possible. When you have all your data, then you go to the next step. This is defined the core problem. You know what your users basically want. Define the problem you can solve. You'll analyze all the data you collected in step before. It's so good when you have a team where people have multiple backgrounds. You have a mixed team of designers, developers, sales people, managers because then your definition is going to be more precise. I mean, it's not good to have only engineers who will define the problem of analyzing the data or have only salespeople. Because again, the definition will be very biased based on the perspective where they come from. Then if you define your problem, go to the next step and be creative. In the ideation process, you are generating ideas. You will find solutions, multiple solutions for the problem you define. Again, it's so good when you have a team of people of multiple backgrounds. You will get more ideas and more ideas from different perspective. Try to think outside the box and look for alternative ways to solve a problem. When you have your ideas, prototype them, start to evaluate your ideas. Keep it fast. Keep it cheap. Don't put too much time and make your prototype like a finished product, because the probability is so high that you're going to drop it and you will waste your time on it. When you have your prototypes done, use only the best ideas, of course, for your prototypes. Test them, give them to the people. This is where usability tests they come into play. Here we can go for some quantitative user research methods. It can happen that in a test phase you see that none of your prototype worked out. You may have to run the whole cycle again. During the cycle it can also happen that you have to go one step back. Maybe in the prototyping phase, you see that none of your ideas really worked out. You have to go back and create new ideas. When you may be defining a problem, you see that we cannot really get a precise definition because we need more data than you have to go back to step one and two more user research, more interviews to get more data from the users. It's an iterative process. The more surplus you do, the better your product would be. The good thing about design thinking. You will come up with solutions and ideas you have never expected. 4. When to do User Research: When to do user research. You can do user research basically at any time of your project. They are three milestones where you should consider to do user research. The first one is in the idea phase, the second one is the development stage, the third one is the release. In the idea phase, you want to know that your design is truly relevant. Does it solve a problem? Does it help people? Does it add value to their lives? For example, consumer electronics producers, they found out that adding features to product is not what their customers want. The customers want a meaningful user experience. They want devices which are basically easy to use. In the development stage, you want to know if your design is easy to use. You have done your concepts, prototypes, and you want to do usability testing. Apple is so successful with their products because they are easy to use and they do a lot of prototypes and they test their products. In the release stage, you want to know if your design is giving Return on Investment. For example, you want to increase your sales in an online shop. You are doing this by redesigning the whole website and you want to measure if customers bought more items after the redesign of the website, which is mostly the case. In our language learning app LinGo, we're at the end of the idea phase. We want to know if our design is relevant to the users. We want to know if there are people who want to learn a language in a playful way and we want to know if there are people who would like to buy an app like this. So that's why we do user research. 5. Competitor Research: Competitor Research. Back in the days, Pablo Picasso said that good artists copy and great artists steal. Please don't take this word by word. Don't do plagiarism and repeat what competitors are doing. First of all, you will run into legal issues and if you just copy or steal from one competitor, you will always be one step behind your competitor. But why stealing? But think about thieves. You have thieves that don't rob only one person. They rob multiple people. They're stealing from multiple people's houses, so they're not doing it once, they do it multiple times. In creating art, it's the same. For example, a painter. When he starts a new painting, he can look at photographs from other people and he will say, "Okay, from this photograph, I will take the light because I like the light in this photograph, in this photograph, I like the composition, so I'll use the composition from this photograph, in this one, I like the color," and he is mixing all the stuff together to create a new artwork. That's what you are doing as well. Look what is there, put everything together and add additional value. So let me show you some techniques, how you can do this. The first thing is make a framework. So get a name, get a website, get your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is the shortest way to express what somebody is doing or what yourself are doing when you are creating a pitch for your company. Elevator pitch because usually an elevator moves in a very short amount of time and if you meet somebody in the elevator, you have only a few seconds to tell somebody what your company is doing and you have to create the tension and interest in this case. Look what their mission is. Good companies should have a mission. A mission is something more high level than a vision. So a mission is something that the whole company is standing for. A mission is not targeted to one specific product. A mission is targeted to the whole company. Look up their products and services. What products do they offer? What services do they offer? Don't forget the price and what are their key brand differentiations? Why are they different than another competitor? What is the brand they are building? If you have done this part, then move to the SWOT analysis. The SWOT analysis has four main points which are the strengths, what they are doing good? The weaknesses, what are they doing bad? The opportunities, what can they do? For example, software companies, which I established, they usually have manpower, they have money. So they basically could launch a product pretty easily, could produce something because they have the resources for it. What are the Threats? It can happen that big companies don't recognize technological trends. For example, Kodak was a main player in the photography market back in the days where people used to photograph using analog film. But then digital cameras came in and they haven't recognized this trend that people will move from analog to digital. So other companies recognize the trend, launched these products and became big players on the photography market. There's all these four points they are based on interpretation. Ask people. Don't do this alone. Get information from other people. At the end, when you have done your framework, when you've done your SWOT analysis. You can look at the specific product into a feature stable. This is something pretty simple. Get the product of each competitor and look at the features. So you can sum up all products and features they offer to the people. 6. Patent Research: This is another topic which is not really user related, but it's so important if you have a technology driven product, it's patent research. If you forget it and later violate patents of other companies, you can run into serious problems at the end. In the worst case, it will cost you the whole company. When I started to work in the software business, I was not aware how many things can get patented, it's not only about algorithms, but for example, user interfaces and workflows can be patented as well. I will show you two examples. The first example is about Amazon. Everybody knows Amazon. When I want to buy something from Amazon, I can add it to the cart that I can continue shopping. Then I will go for the payment process, for delivery process, and then the product gets delivered to my house. Or I can buy this product using the buy now with one click button and in this case, everything once automatically. Before that, I have to enable this function in the browser. So I will enter my account details and then I can continue shopping with one click. Did you know that this buy now with one click button was patented? When you look at Google patents, we see this method and system for placing a purchase order via communications network. Here on the right we see the process, what happens in the background when you press the by now with one click button. It was granted in 1997 and assigned to Amazon. After 20 years, it discontinued. It was a controversial patent because it was a trivial one. It prohibited other shop owners to create this easy and quick buying experienced like Amazon, it's so Amazon was superior, in this case. Here we are in Adobe Illustrator. When I move the circle and I moved close to the rectangle, I'm getting these purple lines here. This feature is called smart guides. Smart guides help me to work really precise because they are intelligent snapping feature. When I go to Google patents and I type in, the first entry that I get guideline snapping society to Adobe Systems Incorporated. This is basically the patent for smart guides. Let's say you are in a situation where you develop a technology which can be an algorithm, it can be a process and interface or workflow. You're doing a patent research and suddenly you find an entry, but it's pretty close to your technology. First of all, you're checking out the images. Stay should give you a rough idea what this patent is doing. If this is not enough you can go to the description. Patents are pretty hard to read because they are written for lawyers. The description, however, should give you a rough idea what this patent is doing? If you still feel that it might clash with the technology you developed, I suggest that you contact a lawyer. It's worth the money because it will make sure that you are on the safe side. 7. The purpose of your research: Let's dive into our class project, the research plan. You will find it as a download in the description of the course. The form of your download file is already filled in, but in this case you will start with the blank pages. First of all, the project title. In this case, it's language learning app- idea phase research, because we are in the idea phase. Then we will jump to the purpose of the research. The purpose of research is the question you want to answer. You already have an idea of what to find out and why to find it out. Everything after that, the method, participants, and everything that comes next derives from the purpose of the research. In the case of the language learning app, we want to find out why people are learning languages and how people are learning languages. To put this in the research plan, I would form it like this. We want to find out how our target group is learning languages. First of all, we want to know the reasons, what motivates them to learn a language. We need to get an understanding of this, to know which features to add and how to market the app properly. 8. Research methods: The research method follows from the purpose of your research. You are looking up for the best way to answer your research question. Each method answers the question in a different way. You also have to consider cost and value, which will be different depending on your research method. Let's look at surveys and interviews. Surveys are typical for quantitative research. Interviews are typical for qualitative research. First of all, surveys gives you unbiased result. The results are free from interpretation. They are usually exposed in numbers and they are good for hard facts. For example, you want to know how many times Americans are looking up on their smartphones per day, and you can get an answer like 80 times. This is a nice way to answer a specific question. You have a specific question, you'll get a specific answer, usually expressed in numbers. However, the drawback on services, that they require a certain sample. The number of participants in a survey has to be high enough so that it represents your target group. Construction of the questionnaire also takes time, because you have to be careful in constructing your questions so that you get valid results. Of course, the response of your users is only limited so you will not get any information that you didn't expect. Interviews however are good for soft facts. They give you unexpected answers. A lot of times you are in a talk with your participant and sometimes an idea can come up, which you didn't expect, so they generate hypothesis. Remember back in the design thinking process, after you empathize with your user, you defined a core problem. This hypothesis can help you into defining your core problem. However, interviews give you biased results because they have to be interpreted by the researcher. The time cost on interviewing is pretty high. You can't expect one hour per participant. The time costs on evaluation is also high. You cannot just put numbers in a spreadsheet and then get pie charts out of it. You have to interpret them and you have to write reports on interviews. For the language learning app, we went for the interview method, because we are at ideation phase. The Research Plan rewrote, we will do around 15 contextual interviews with people from our target group. We want them to tell us about their motivation and habits of learning a language. What I didn't do here, I didn't explain why I chose this research method, but I think, because we are in ideation phase, the choice of interviews is pretty clear in this case. 9. Finding the right participants: In this section, you are describing who is involved in your research and how to recruit these people. I would like to give you some tips on that. First of all, keep in mind that you don't recruit your colleagues because like you, your colleagues are biased. There is a French term for that. It's called [inaudible] , and it tells that people use methods and habits which they've gained from their job in other areas and without being aware of them. Recruit more people than you need because it can happen that people get sick when you have the day of the interview or that people forget, so always recruit more people than you need. The most important point is, find people that match your target group. Don't recruit random people, recruit your potential customers. For the language learning app, we will look for people between 18 and 40 years because we assume that in this age group people are interested in learning languages, and we will recruit on social media. Social media is a great way to recruit people, especially if you have a lot of followers, you can easily get in contact with your followers. They know who you are because you have a certain standing in front of them. In the research plan, we are writing. Participants will be people aged 18-40 who will be reached by social media. Participants have to be interested in learning other languages and cultures, or actively learning a foreign language. 10. Finding the right research location: The research location has an influence on your research result. It's a difference if the participant is at his home or if he's comfortable, or if he's in a lab which can feel artificial. Make sure that the research location matches to the place where your potential customer will use your product. If you send consumer devices which will be used at people's homes, it's the best that the research location is of course at a participant's home. If you have to book an external research location because you cannot reach out to your participants' homes, makes sure that there's an environment for that. Make sure that it's in a calm place so you don't get disturbed, and it's also easily to reach on a map. Maybe there's a good connection to public transport and of course all the technical stuff. Let's say you need to record a video. Where you need cameras, where you need lights, where you need audio recorders, or you want to do a usability test where you need to set up a whole work station. Your research location has to provide all the technical environment for that. There has to be enough space, there has to be the right furniture for that, and of course there has to be Wi-Fi and electricity. In the case of the language learning app, we assume that people will learn languages at their homes. That's why we do interviews via teleconference. This way we can easily reach out to our participants, it's a cheap way to do research, and we believe that we will get the most accurate research results. 11. Data and analysis: The data you collect depends on your research method. Here also have to think about how to analyze it. For example, when you do a usability test, you can record how long did it take for a user to perform a specific task or you can record how many errors he did performing that task. You can also use a thinking out loud method. In this case, you can record a video of your user when he is using your product and he will tell every step what is going on in his brain. For example, he will tell you what he's expecting when pressing on a certain button. For interview, you can take notes. You can also record audio and video, but this is not a must have and it depends on your personal preferences. It can be that your participant feels uncomfortable when he knows that he's being recorded. In this case, it's fine to only take notes, collect some demographic data, some stuff like gender or age. Have a table for numerical data. For example, when you ask your participants how many languages he speaks, then you write down the answer in a table and at the end write summary. Here you will write a summary of your whole conversation. For a language learning app, we will take notes during the interview. The report will contain a table of data, demographic, number of spoken languages and so on and summary about each participant. 12. Your interview script: You interview script acts like a guideline. You don't need to read it word by word because it would make the situation artificial. But it makes sure that all your participants get the same information. It's important for you because you know that you will get all the data from your participant, what you will need foreign analysis later. Start with an introduction about yourself, write about a company, then write about you, what's your role at the company and name the purpose of the research. If you want to record video, ask the participant. You need to also ask for a consent. This is something we will cover in the next lesson. Basically, you have to inform them that their participation is voluntary. For a language learning app, we will ask some demographic questions, so like age and gender, and then we will go through a catalog of questions which we will need to analyze our data. We would ask our participants the following questions. How many languages do you speak? What is the reason for you learning languages? What languages would you like to speak in the future? How often do you travel to other countries? Do you meet people from other cultures?What do you think about language learning in school? Did your teacher speak in a foreign language? How much money are you currently spending on education? Do you play games? If yes, names some of them. What do you think about the interaction between playing and learning? 13. Consent and NDA: Even if there is no sensitive data involved, always get a consent from your participant to do this. Inform him about the purpose of the research. Inform what will happen to the data and who will have access to the data. Inform also that the participation is on a voluntary basis and that he can quit at any time. You can get a consent in a written form, or do it verbally. So a good practice, for example, is to do this through e-mail and then on the day of the interview, repeated verbally and then ask for approval. When you do it verbally, don't read a plain text. It feels kind of artificial do it in a free form. To sum it up the elements of a consent are first of all, the purpose of the research. Inform why are you doing the research? Then that it's on a voluntary basis and that your participant can quit at any time and know the legal framework. Because of the general data protection regulation in Europe, when you collect sensitive data from your participant, he can always demand that the data gets deleted. So when you deal with sensitive information, always get a written consent. If you share confidential information, let your participant sign an NDA first. Keep in mind that an NDA is a legal document. You may want to get help to prepare this. So for a language learning app to process of a consent will look like this. Before the interviews, we will send an email to the participants which will explain the purpose of the study. We will ask for permission to record personal data such as country of origin, native language, and age. By the beginning of the interview, we will repeat the same information to ensure that the participant has understood and consents to participate. We will ask for a verbal approval to give an example a verbal information can look like this; hey John Doe, thank you so much for participating in our study the purpose of our study is to learn about people's interest in learning foreign languages. We would like to learn about your habits and preferred ways of learning foreign languages. All your responses will stay in our design and editors team. We will not provide any information to third parties. This interview is voluntary and you can quit at any time if you want. If you're okay with that, we can continue. 14. Communication and time planning: At the end of your research plan, you should also think about how you would communicate your results to your stakeholders. You will always have stakeholders involved, especially the people who you are presenting your results. In the case of the language learning app, it's a design and editors team. A report from a survey, is expressed in numbers. So using pie charts or diagrams, you would expose the result of your research. However, on a survey, you would write the report. You could also quote interesting messages from your participants. For a language learning app, we will write a report at the end, which will summarize the responses from our participants. We will use the data for our design and editors team, which are responsible for creating the app content. The outcome of the research should serve us in defining the needs of our users. It should also include design recommendations. We are at the end of our research plan. What I added here to bottom is also the time plan for a language learning and by estimated a recruiting timeline, the first and the second week. Then I would run the interviews in the third and the fourth week and the analysis in the last week. Having everything in one research plan helps you also to involve stakeholders like for example, upper management. I recommend that before you do the interviews, you run a plot study. You can do this, for example, with your colleagues and in a plot study, you will make sure that you thought about everything before carrying out the real interview. 15. Thank you: Thank you so much for participating in this class. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I enjoyed really teaching it. I hope you learned something, something that you can apply to your own projects. If you have questions, put it in the comments, and I'll be happy to answer you. I really would like to help you out. I really would like to see your class projects which you will do. Now you know how to plan your research. Apply it to your own project. Go out to the world and happy researching.