A user research plan is a document that outlines the goals, objectives, and logistical considerations of a research project.
A well-written user research plan ensures that the research focuses on the right research questions and that the findings are collected systematically and rigorously. This approach helps ensure that the research findings are reliable and actionable and can be used to improve the user experience.
Why is creating a user research plan essential?
Here are a few reasons why having a well-defined research plan before conducting the study is important:
It helps to ensure that the research focuses on the right questions. By developing a research plan, you can identify the best questions to answer about your users. It will help you to collect the most relevant data and to make the most of your resources.
It provides a structure to your study. To gather reliable and trustworthy data, you need to collect it in a rigorous and systematic manner. A research plan should outline your research methods and data collection procedures. Data collected this way will provide reliable insights on which you will be able to base your design decisions.
It helps with communication across teams. A research plan should also include a section on how you will present the research findings to your stakeholders. I would ensure that your stakeholders understand the findings and that they can use them to make informed design decisions.
What Benefits Come from Using a User Research Plan?
A well-executed user research plan can provide a number of benefits for the entire development project:
Streamline processes and add structure – a well-written user research plan provides a clear plan for conducting your research. It makes researcher define their goals and establish their methodology from the very beginning. This approach helps to simplify or even eliminate unnecessary tasks related to organizing the study. As a result, it can make the entire process more efficient. It also ensures that you are collecting the right type of data and that your findings are relevant to your goals.
Align and engage stakeholders – a user research plan helps align and engage stakeholders in the research process. User research plan in the form of a document or presentation will be shared with stakeholders. It is an important step that will allow researchers to get the support of the stakeholders and ensure that they are aware of the goals and objectives of the research. It helps avoid misunderstandings and ensures the research findings will be valuable to the project.
Save time and money – having a plan provides an overview of the entire study before it begins. It can help researchers to avoid rework and make better use of their time and resources. In the long run, it can lead to significant cost savings.
What User Research Plan Should Include?
A user research plan should include the following key elements:
Research objectives: The most crucial element of the research plan is to define clear research goals at the project’s outset. Research goals will shape the entire study. It is key to ensure you are collecting the most relevant data. Your research objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Target audience: The target audience of your project must be identified. Characteristics like their demographics and abilities must be established beforehand. Once you understand your target audience, you can develop research methods tailored to gather the most valuable data. It may also make the recruitment process easier.
Research methods: There are a variety of research methods that you can use in your user research plan. Some standard methods include user interviews, usability testing, surveys, and focus groups. The best research methods for your project will depend on your specific research objectives and target audience.
Here are some additional elements that you may want to include in your user research plan:
Timeline: Develop a realistic timeline for your research project. This will help you stay on track and communicate with your stakeholders better.
Budget: Consider a budget in your user research plan. You must ensure you have the resources necessary to conduct your research effectively.
Data presentation: It may also be beneficial to consider how you will present your research findings to your stakeholders. Outline the specific communication channels you will use and the key messages you want to convey.
By including these elements in your user research plan, you can ensure that your research is well-organized and likely to produce valuable insights.
How to plan a user research study?
Once you clearly understand your research goals and questions, you need to develop a plan for conducting your research. This plan should outline the specific methods you will use, the participants you will recruit, and the timeline for your study.
The steps outlined in this paragraph will help you develop a comprehensive and well-thought-out user research plan.
Step 1: Identify your research goals
What do you want to learn about your users? What questions do you have about their needs, motivations, and behaviors? Once you have a clear understanding of your research goals, you can develop specific research questions.
Step 2: Choose your research questions
Your research questions should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. They should also be aligned with your research goals. For example, if your research goal is to understand how users are interacting with your new product, your research questions might be:
What tasks are users trying to complete with the product?
What are the biggest challenges that users are facing?
Step 3: Gather available data and existing insights
Before conducting user research, gather as much available data and insights as possible. This data will put your research in context, further sharpening the focus of your study. You may collect this data using the following methods:
Stakeholder interviews: Talk to people who have a good understanding of your users, such as product managers, customer support representatives, and sales representatives.
Secondary research: Look for existing articles and reports of research studies that have already been conducted on your target audience and that answer your research questions.
Analytics and customer feedback: If you are working on an already launched product, analyze your website analytics and customer feedback data to identify trends and patterns.
Gathering this preliminary data can help you to refine your research questions and to choose the most appropriate research methods.
Step 4: Select the suitable research method
You can choose from various user research methods, such as user interviews, usability testing, surveys, and focus groups. The best research method for your project will depend on your specific research goals and target audience. The few most popular research methods are:
User interviews: User interviews are a great way to get in-depth feedback from individual users. They can be conducted in person, over the phone, or online.
Usability testing: Usability testing is a way to observe how users interact with your product or service. It can be conducted in a usability lab or remotely.
Surveys: Surveys are an excellent way to collect data from a large sample of users. They can be conducted either online or in person.
Focus groups: Focus groups allow to get feedback from a small group of users on a specific topic. They are typically conducted in person.
There are many more different research methods that researchers can tap into. They will be described in detail in another article on Talebook Blog.
Step 5: Recruit study participants
Once you have selected your research methods, you must recruit study participants.
You will recruit participants that belong to your selected target audience. Obviously, if you are researching a new product targeted at young adults, you will need to recruit young adults (from various backgrounds) to participate in your study. By using screener surveys, you can ensure that participants have the characteristics required for your study.
You can recruit study participants through a variety of methods, such as:
Paid recruitment platforms
Word of mouth
It is important to offer incentives for participation. Consider this in your research plan and align it with your research budget. An incentive could be as simple as a gift card or a discount on your product or service.
Step 6: Create a script or guide for tests
If you conduct user interviews or usability testing, you must create a script or guide to help you stay on track and collect the most relevant data. The script or guide should include a list of questions you want to ask and a list of tasks that you want users to complete.
Step 7: Define the time frame for your study
Defining a realistic time frame for your user research study is essential. This will help you to stay on track and to communicate your expectations to your stakeholders.
Step 8: Share study details
Once you have planned your user research study, sharing the study details with your stakeholders is essential. Share the research goals, research questions, research methods, recruitment plan, and time frame of your study – everything in a single document or in a form of a presentation.
Research Plan Case Studies
Here are some real-world examples of successful user research plans:
Airbnb: Airbnb conducted user research to understand how travelers searched for and booked accommodations. The research revealed that travelers needed help finding accommodations that met their needs. Airbnb used this information to redesign its website and search algorithm, which led to a significant increase in bookings.
Spotify conducted user research to understand how people listened to music on their smartphones. The research revealed that people had difficulty finding new music they liked. Spotify used this information to develop new features for their app, such as personalized recommendations and discovery playlists, which led to a significant increase in user engagement.
Google: Google conducted user research to understand how people searched for information on the web. The research revealed that people were having difficulty finding relevant and accurate information. Google used this information to improve its search algorithm, which significantly improved the quality of search results.
These are just a few examples of utilizing user research to improve products and services. Creating a user research plan ensures that your research is focused and likely to produce valuable insights.
A user research plan is a document that outlines the goals, objectives, and logistical considerations of a research project focused on understanding the needs, behaviors, and motivations of users.
Creating a user research plan helps to ensure that the research focuses on the right questions and that the findings are collected systematically and rigorously.
A good research plan considers sharing findings with stakeholders clearly and concisely.
A well-executed user research plan can provide many benefits, including improved decision-making, cost savings, and ensuring the design is user-centric.
A user research plan should include the following key elements: research objectives, target audience, research methods, timeline, budget, data analysis plan, and communication plan.
To plan a user research study, you should follow these steps: identify your research goals, choose your research questions, gather available data and existing insights, select the suitable research method, recruit study participants, create a script or guide for tests, define the time frame for your study, and share study details.
Implement the insights gained from this article by creating a user research plan for your next project.
By planning your research, you can ensure that you are collecting the data you need to make informed decisions about your product or service.