UserZoom presents

Rapid Research Framework

How to speed up decision-making and boost agility

Good research takes time. But a rapid research framework can help speed up your time-to-insights. Here’s how to make it work in your organization.

How long are your user research cycles? Weeks? Months? Or longer? You’re not alone. 

Research is vital. It ensures your organization is making the right choices and delivering the best possible user experiences. And that means boosting conversions and supercharging your revenues. 

But good research needs time: in-depth studies with the right participants and full analysis of the results will always take time and effort. It’s an inescapable part of user research. 

But in some situations, such as usability and concept testing, you can speed up your research. The Rapid Research Framework is designed to be a rapid, repeatable, and reliable way to get user research insights. 

Why use Rapid Research?

Because faster research makes your business more agile. You learn from the research results and adapt your user experiences accordingly. The faster you do this, the better your customer experience—and as we all know, that leads to better bottom-line results

Rapid Research differs from traditional research by deploying a number of guardrails (see the chapter below on Making it happen: How Rapid Research works) to ensure the research process, from start to finish, is leaner and faster. 

The main benefits of Rapid Research:

  • More insights, delivered through multiple simultaneous studies
  • More research in the same amount of time
  • More time to focus on strategy

“Rapid Research strips out the fluff and delivers a rapid, repeatable, reliable process”

Thomas Stokes

Lead UX Research Consultant, UserZoom

What are the benefits of Rapid Research?

It’s faster, as you might have guessed. But how is it faster? What makes it ‘rapid’? In short, it removes a number of steps from standard research processes. It strips out the number of meetings required, leaving you with just two 30-minute meetings each week (one for briefing and one for reporting results). 

Rapid Research is:

  • Rapid
  • Repeatable
  • Reliable

Does faster research mean lower-quality insights? 

Rapid Research works fast, but does it mean compromising the quality of your insights? Look at it this way: the world moves fast, and you have to keep or stay one step ahead. Research is an essential way to help you do that. And that means that, in some cases, some research is better than no research. 

It’s just not practical to conduct full in-depth research on every element. By all means, if you have infinite time and resources, then go right ahead and test everything in detail. But the chances are you don’t, and that’s where Rapid Research is so useful. 

When does Rapid Research work best?

Rapid Research works best for usability testing and concept testing studies run with the following criteria. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules—you can make your own judgment of which study type best suits a fast-moving Rapid Research approach.

  • Individual sessions. Any study with a single observation period and single purpose. 
  • Short research sessions of up to 30 minutes. Longer research sessions risk upsetting your timeline, although the industry standard of 60 mins can be made to work if your time management is highly disciplined. 
  • Structured and consistent studies. Instead of freeform, co-creation, or similar study group types, structured and consistent studies work best as they can be run on a tight timeline. To ensure the consistent smooth-running of your research sessions, use a Moderation Guide to define the guardrails and rules.
  • Qualitative studies. In most cases, qualitative is all you need to deliver solid insights. No need to extend to quantitative studies; it will only take up valuable time. 
  • When a prototype is ready and available for testing. Rapid Research can’t have obstacles—and that means a mature, working prototype must be available for testing. It’s also tough to write a Moderation Guide when you can’t use or see the prototype. 
  • When everyone is fully onboard. Not so much a research type as an overall approach. Make sure all your stakeholders are on board with the Rapid Research idea and the reasons for speeding up your research and insights cycles. Give them a warning of its introduction and, ideally, make them a part of your Rapid Research development process.

Hear from a Rapid Research expert

On this episode of the UXpeditious podcast, Devin Harold, Director of UX Research at Capital One, discusses how he made Rapid Research a success in the real world.

"It costs 10 times as much to fix a bug in development and a hundred times as much to fix it in production. Well, think about all the bugs that we fixed by doubling our bandwidth as a team. Now think about how much more we learned because we've freed up time from our lead researchers' time."

Devin Harold

Director of UX Research at Capital One

When Rapid Research DOES NOT work

Rapid Research doesn’t work for every situation. We don’t recommend using it for: 

  • Longer Surveys. As a rule of thumb, surveys are too time-consuming and in-depth for Rapid Research. But small targeted surveys could work if paired with very clear, tight guardrails. 
  • Diary studies. Take too much time by its nature—not suited to rapid research. 
  • Co-creation. Study sessions based around design-thinking activities, participatory design, and/or concepting research. This is all valuable, but takes too much time. 
  • Gathering longitudinal, attitude-driven results. Again, valuable, but multiple measurements and observations take too long.
  • Long interview sessions of 30 minutes or more. Any longer risks upsetting your tight Rapid Research timeline.
  • Quantitative research. As mentioned in the ‘does work for Rapid Research’ list above.
  • Unstructured, fluid research sessions. Take time, and although they’re useful, it’s not suited to Rapid Research.
  • When no prototype is yet available. No prototype means slower study sessions or different types of study sessions. Not ideal for Rapid Research.

How do I decide what kind of tasks are right for Rapid Research?

This is where the Rapid Research briefing document comes into play.

We’ve already created a briefing doc template (you can download it here) that helps you decide what requests work for rapid research and what doesn’t.

The Rapid Research brief will help you:

  • Narrow your focus to a limited number of key objectives (we recommend no more than three)
  • Allocate eight participants per study
  • Indicate deadlines and timelines. When are the insights needed?
  • Researchers, not stakeholders, submit the brief

You can download a pdf version of the briefing form here.

Making it happen: How Rapid Research works

Here’s a step-by-step visual tour of what a Rapid Research Framework can look like.

This includes setting up the study and agreeing on the research questions, preparing materials, conducting, analyzing, presenting the findings, and finally repeating the whole process to keep your research moving at speed.

#1: Study setup

The requester (anyone from within your organization that needs user research) submits their research brief through the normal channels.You’ll review the brief, check it works with the Rapid Research Framework, prioritize multiple requests (if you receive more than one) and schedule the studies. We’ve suggested a new Rapid Research briefing template below. 

#2: Getting started

You’ll meet with the requester to talk through the brief, their objectives, and to refine the questions to be asked. This meeting should be limited to 30 minutes. Yes, that isn’t long—but this is rapid research!

#3: Planning

Prep your study materials. Gather what you need, enlist your participants, and arrange your study date(s). 

#4: Doing the research

Conduct the study, and analyze the results as they come in. No delays! 

#5: Preparing and presenting your findings 

Finalize the analysis and prepare your study report and report back to the original requester and (where applicable) the wider team. Again, limit the reporting meeting to a maximum of 30 minutes.

#6: Rapid repeats 

The most important part is to keep the system moving. Jump straight back to Step 1 or Step 2 and repeat the process. 

Rapid Research Framework timeline

Your own work schedule and your organizational setup will determine how this looks on your own calendar, but here's what a Rapid Research timeline could look like:

Running multiple Rapid Research studies

If you want to run multiple rapid research studies then you can consider staggered projects, allowing multiple studies to run in parallel. 

Here's what a two-track version of Rapid Research could look like:

The impact of Rapid Research

While Devin Harold was UX Research Manager at a major UX telecoms company, the Rapid Research program delivered on its promise.

After just six months, Devin and the team saw the following results:

  • Speed. By systematizing the research process they gained the capacity to run three research swimlanes simultaneously, so the team could deliver more insights to the organization, faster.
  • Scale. With automation in recruiting and analysis, Devin’s team ran over 100 studies and 650+ moderated user interviews.
  • Impact. Through thoughtful program design, the core research team doubled its foundational research capacity and is empowered to focus on delivering strategic insights.

"When I built the rapid research program team at Verizon, we saw an almost double amount of research that we were doing as a team. Our bandwidth had drastically increased."

Devin Harold

Director of UX Research at Capital One

How UserZoom helps you run Rapid Research

UserZoom makes setting up Rapid Research quick and easy by offering:

  • A tool that’s purpose-built for user research. For example, if you moderate, you can create hashtags and notes all from within UserZoom.
  • Advanced software automation to speed up common tasks.
  • Help recruit participants, with UserZoom’s Panel tools helping you reach fully screened participants.

If your team is ready to adopt the Rapid Research Framework taking advantage of UserZoom’s features, or if you'd like our expert Research Delivery team to execute, learn more here

Get started with Rapid Research today

If you’re already a UserZoom user, you can get started today. Haven’t tried UserZoom? Find out why companies like Google, P&G, Microsoft, PayPal and Santander trust us to help them deliver exceptional experiences.