UX research is a combination of the methods that companies use to design successful products and services that delight their users.
A great UX research plan is essential to the UX research process.
Let’s take a look at an example of a UX research plan, that begins at the discovery phase. Although do please bear in mind that UX research (and the plan) can happen at later stages of design and development.
At the beginning of any design process, there is usually a product idea. This can be stated in a problem statement that sets out the personas and an early understanding of the problem, for example:
“A group of friends wants to go on holiday together and they want to coordinate the process of booking hotel rooms and flights without one person having to pay for the other members of the group.”
There may be some initial ideas about the type of product or features that might solve the problem. But, this discovery phase calls for divergent thinking where initial assumptions are challenged.
In this phase, researchers ask open-ended questions to a variety of internal and external stakeholders to establish if there is a real problem to be solved and, therefore, a real opportunity.
UX researchers might use who, what, where, when, why, and how questions to frame research questions:
At the end of the discovery process, the UX researcher should have an understanding of the problem, the users, and the nature of the opportunity.
If the discovery phase is genuinely open-ended the outcome might be anything at all, even something entirely expected, including the possibility that there is no problem to be solved and, therefore, no opportunity for a new product.
The plan is a written document with the following parts:
Who or what instigated the project? Is there a new product opportunity that has been flagged by a colleague or a stakeholder? Is there a problem with an existing product or feature? Has there been any previous research into the problem?
What research questions need to be answered by the end of the project?
Is the research an attempt to understand a user journey, gauge customers’ feelings about a particular problem, estimate the value of a new product or solution, or measure the popularity of a product against a competitor’s products?
This section might also include business objectives. For example, increasing the number of customers, enhancing customer loyalty, increasing profits by improving the inefficiency of a process, etc.
The ideal participants of the study might be potential customers, existing customers, competitors’ customers, or a mixture of all three. It is useful to state at the outset whether geographical, demographic, or behavioral factors are important.
Also, how are the participants to be recruited, and what screening processes will be applied to qualify or fine-tune the test group? External participants might be recruited using a solution like UserZoom which has a panel of over 120m testers and a suite of intercept, screening, and remote usability tools to facilitate recruitment and testing. Internal participants (e.g. existing customers) can usually be recruited using the company’s own internal systems.
Which methods are going to be employed? If the research is for a new product or service the initial methods will be mostly qualitative, using interviews and surveys to gather the opinions of stakeholders and potential customers prior to designing solutions.
If the research is being used to identify a problem with an existing product then design components and usability testing will also come into play.
What questions should be put to interviewees to answer research questions?
For example, this research question:
“How do groups of friends negotiate the challenges of booking a holiday together?”
Might lead to this interview question:
“Walk me through your last holiday with friends, right up to the point where all the flights and the hotel were booked.”
Interview questions should be open-ended, for example:
“Describe what you mean by…”
“Walk me through…”
“Tell me more…”
Interviews and usability tests throw off a lot of data that needs to be analyzed and turned into insights. This data includes information about the participants, their opinions, and any qualitative and quantitative metrics. What is the test group’s success rate in completing a task? How long does it typically take?
What kind of data is collected? How is the data represented? What types of insights are expected? What decisions will they inform?
How long will it all take? It’s a good idea to create a Gantt chart or similar diagram, that shows the anticipated duration of each of the elements of the research, including any dependencies.
It is easier for stakeholders to be patient with any delays if they can see how an issue in one area of the research might affect the rest of the schedule.
The UX research plan is an opportunity to literally get everyone on the same page.
A draft of the plan should be shared with stakeholders (including other team members) as early as possible. The plan is the first part of the project so feedback should be encouraged. If internal stakeholders are asked to contribute to the plan they are more likely to buy into its objectives and crucially its findings.
You have reached the end of our complete guide to UX research. We hope you've found it useful.
For a deep dive into one of the most popular and integral research methods in the UX toolkit, please read our Complete Guide to Usability Testing.