Make your efforts more effective and valuable with user research

Need to wrangle a new global website, improve a mobile app, or design a chatbot? Could your product be more usable—or useful? User research provides the insight to make informed decisions to create a better experience at any design stage.

While you don’t need all of the available user research options, the right combination of a few methods can make a project more successful. I can plan, design, facilitate, analyze, and present qualitative and quantitative research from discovery and design through deployment. My experience ranges from complex, multi-lingual responsive websites with enterprise content management systems to product configurators and landing pages.


Understanding the Possibilities: Discovery and Exploration

Discovery Sessions or Immersions
Facilitated meetings or workshops with stakeholders and users to help define a project and goals, gather requirements and constraints, gain group understanding, or arrive at consensus.

Customer/User Journey Mapping
A collaborative exercise to create a visualization, step-by-step, of what the customer is doing, thinking, feeling, and interacting with throughout the buying process. Journey mapping helps determine the “moments of truth” or areas that will have the biggest impact. (I’ve also done empathy mapping.)

Persona Development
Based on research, persona development is the creation of fictional archetypes to represent users and capture their goals, needs, expectations and behaviors. (Read about the benefits of personas.)

Heuristic Evaluation
An expert review (in this case, me) to identify potential problems arising in a system or interface likely to be encountered by novice or “normal” users. The review is based on compliance with a set of formal usability principles and UX guidelines. 

UX and Usability Review
A mini, less vigorous version of an heuristic evaluation for usability best practices and to remove barriers to conversion. (This as a “quick and dirty” option when time and budget is limited.)

Design Workshops
Participatory (co-design with users), collaborative, and iterative design or ideation sessions to rapidly brainstorm and create solutions. (e.g. design studios, charrettes).  

More meeting design and facilitation services.


Understanding What Users Do: Behavioral Research Methods

True Indent Study
A survey to ask random users what their goal or intention is upon entering a site or app and whether they were successful in achieving it before exiting. (They don’t have to be annoying.)

Moderated User Research Studies (Remote or in-person)
Based on responses to interviews, users are given tasks or scenarios to perform under observation. These can be conducted in person or remotely through screen sharing and may include performance, free exploration, and/or competitive reviews.

Unmoderated User Research Studies (Remote panel studies)
Participants have video and data collection software installed on their devices to record their actions. They perform tasks using the prototype or product while “thinking aloud” to capture behaviors and thoughts.

Usability Testing
More formal and tightly scripted then the user research studies above, usability studies have specific predetermined performance metrics to benchmark or improve upon.

Contextual Interviews
A combination of interviewing and observation, these informal sessions held in the user’s environment are great for learning about natural behaviors and reactions while watching and listening in the user’s real setting.

Analytics and Click-stream Analysis
Analysis of recordings of screen/pages, heatmaps, and actions users take when interacting with your site or product (e.g scrolling, navigation paths, click actions). Proper installation is required.

A/B Testing and Multi-Variant Testing
Testing versions of designs by presenting changes to a random sample to see the effect on behavior. (If you aren’t doing this, here’s 5 steps to start A/B testing now.)


Understanding What Users Think: Attitudinal Research 

Properly designed surveys can help you collect valid quantitative or qualitative data by reaching your audience through intercept, feedback polls, email, or recruiting methods. (Writing an effective survey is a real science.)

Card Sorting and Tree Testing
Learn how to organize, group, and label content to match users’ expectations and mental models by evaluating the findability of information without visual design. Great for designing new structures and taxonomies or validating an approach. (I love information architecture!)

Concept and Prototype Testing
First-impression and first-click testing can be done with sketches, wireframes, or live user interfaces. Users are shown a design and asked to select where they’d expect to find the answers to a series of tasks by asking where they would click first. 

One-on-one information gathering conversations with stakeholders, users, or subject matter experts. (If you want to improve usability, I am not going to suggest phone interviews.)

Focus Groups
Moderated small group discussions to learn about people’s needs, attitudes, beliefs, and reactions to ideas or concepts. (Ditto on parens above.)



UX, IA, and UI Deliverables

Varies by project but may include:

  • Research findings and strategic recommendations
  • Business, user, functional and technical requirements
  • Personas
  • Journey and empathy maps
  • Creative briefs and concepts
  • Site maps, naming conventions, taxonomy
  • User/process flows
  • User scenarios and use cases
  • Content strategy
  • Sketches
  • Low and high-fidelity wireframes
  • Interactive and responsive prototypes
  • Documentation and training

(Check out how to avoid fuzzy deliverables.)

User-First, Content-First

I believe in user-first, content-first approaches. Learn how I can help with content creation and copywriting.