Follow these 5 steps to an effective UX research plan

Think about what you expect when you eat at a restaurant — a good dining experience, of course, but also a clean restaurant, the right ambiance, and an attentive server. Even if a restaurant serves delicious food, if it takes too long for it to come to your table or if your waiter isn’t helpful, you might leave the restaurant with a bad taste in your mouth.

On the restaurant’s end, it’s worth paying attention to all aspects of your guests’ experience. User research is no different. When you’re setting objectives and designing a UX research plan, you have to keep your users in mind.

The planning stage is essential — you shouldn’t proceed without a clear idea of how you’re going to conduct your research and what types of things you’ll need to look out for in each step of the process.

Here are five steps to creating a UX research plan that will hit all your objectives and produce lasting results.

1. Determine your objectives

Before you can carry out your research, you have to understand what you want to accomplish. This is the “why” of your research. 

You obviously have reasons for conducting user research — think about what these reasons are and write them down. Consider things that you’ve filed away in conversations with customers or past problems you’ve encountered with your business that you’ve always wanted to address.

Also think about the type of research you want to conduct. If you want to study user experience and feelings, consider qualitative research, but if you’re after hard numbers and statistics, you’ll learn more from quantitative research.

Your UX research plan is a series of building blocks, and the process of defining objectives is the ground floor. Your research won’t be effective if you don’t have a solid plan first, and any analysis you conduct at its conclusion won’t be helpful without first establishing your “why.”

2. Pick a sample and formulate questions

The next step in your preparation process should be based on the specific people in your study and how they’ll interact with you. Think about who you want to target with your research and what sample will give you the most actionable results.

Do you want people who use your product or people who use one like it? Refer to your objectives to help inform the call for participants you put out.

Once you know who you’re going to target with your research, it’s time to create questions to ask them. Frame questions that will foster conversation and produce a large amount of data for you to analyze.

3. Choose your methods

You’ve picked your sample and have an idea of the questions you want to ask. Now it’s time to decide how to put these ideas into practice.

Do you want to interview your subjects and ask them how they feel about your product? Or do you want data based on their behavior? Everything ties back to your objectives — they’ll help you decide the type of results that will best suit your research.

Just as you referenced your objectives to create questions, you should refer to your questions when you design your methods. Look at the questions you want to ask and then think about how you can get the most effective answers.

It’s important to be confident in your design because it’s the last step before your research transforms from an idea into action.

4. Consider your variables

In a perfect world, you won’t run into problems during the information gathering phase of your user research. But the world is rarely perfect, so it’s smart to make a list of the different ways your research might go wrong so you can create contingency plans.

If one of your participants is a no-show or if the data you’re producing is drastically different than what you anticipated, you’ll want to be prepared with alternative methods or questions based on what you see. In addition, think about the supplies you’ll need — it can’t hurt to double up or make sure you have backups if something goes awry.

Thankfully, at this stage, you’ve done a lot of thinking about your design and what you hope to get from your research. Now you can get into the fine details and make sure that you’ve thought of everything you’ll need.

5. Plan to debrief 

The ultimate goal of a UX research plan is to produce results that help drive your business forward. If, at the end of your research, you’ve gathered a ton of data but have no idea what to do with it, you’re not going to process it well. That’s why it’s important to take stock of the resources at your disposal to make sure you have easy access to your results.

Jotform is flexible — however you decide to conduct your research, it can fit your needs. With Jotform, all of your data is stored in one place, regardless of the types of research you conduct.

Survey forms give you a record of your participants’ responses. With questionnaire forms, you’ll be able to vary the questions you ask. And feedback forms give you access to a variety of data so you can reference and analyze specific comments and problems your participants raise during the research process. 

Make a plan for that

Every great idea needs a plan to support it. You can have the best intentions and grand ideas for your user research, but without a UX research plan, you won’t get very far. It might not be the most fun part of the process, but it’s the most necessary.

Sometimes you have to do the thing you don’t want to do before you can get to the thing you do want to do. If there’s one thing the process of conducting user research proves, it’s that you can’t have one without the other.

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

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