Over last few years I have built user research capabilities at Kriyate, 1mg, and Hike. This post is based on these experiences.
You know nothing Jon snow. — Ygritte
Unless you’re Superman or a radiologist, you won’t see the skeletons when looking at a horse or a chicken, but those skeletons nevertheless make these animals very different creatures. Don’t try to ride the chicken, because the skeleton won’t support you. — Nielsen
Empathy has been embraced but is yet to be deployed in the startup world (in India). At corporates, reasonable timelines and guaranteed scale permit user research exercises. At startups though, research typically comes in the way of momentum and opinionated decision making, rendering it into a good-to-have function at best. However, there is enough ROI and easy ways for research to complement product lifecycles in startup world. Below is a short summary for the same.
Primary research can be divided into 4 main processes as following. Please note implementation guidelines for these process are covered in a separate playbook.
1 Ethnographic Research: Go to user’s home/office. Shadow there lives, ask questions, figure out their behaviours and affinities. No need to show any prototypes/mocks at this stage. This is typically pre-product stage when decision makers need to start empathising with users before taking calls on their behalf.
Vitals: 30–50 users, TAT: 2 months.
Deliverables: Personas, journey maps and cultural insights.
- Understanding whether a preconceived need is relevant enough.
- Identifying new needs of the users.
- Identifying new user segments.
- Biasing towards solutions that fit with prevalent user behaviour.
- Higher chances of contextual innovation instead of copying features from competition. Example: Cash on delivery vs online payment.
- Creating greater alignment in organisation by neutralising biases, egos and hierarchies in forthcoming product decisions.
- High motivation (to help users) and confidence while creating solutions.
2 User Validation: Go to users home/office. Show them multiple flows using prototypes/flows/mocks etc. Take feedback on their preferences and also let them co-create new flows/ideas with them. This is typically conducted at solution ideation stage to identify preferred solution/flow for users.
Vitals: 12–15 users, TAT: 2–3 days.
- Identify preferred flows for manifesting solutions, example redeem via paytm vs cashback vs discount coupons, whatsapp documents instead of email, immersive vs summary view, infinite scroll vs pagination.
- Delivering solutions in user’s language (metaphors they associate with) example “garland” instead of “like”, “poster” instead of a “badge”.
- Delight users with some contextual (micro-) innovations. Example:
- Get frugal ideas/flows from users. This is specially powerful for adapting the designed flows to user’s expectations.
- Have higher chances of success with MVP release, means lesser redevelopment cost in future.
- Higher motivation and confidence to invest in tech infra and costlier (but delightful) experiences like animations.
- Creating greater alignment in organisation by neutralising biases, egos and hierarchies in product decisions.
3 Usability Testing: Call users in a facility. Make them use finalised products. See if they are able to use it as anticipated. If not, make changes and iterate. This is typically conducted at final stages of product to make sure nothing is completely off from user expectations.
Vitals: 15–20 users, TAT: 3–4 days.
- Layman users can identify blind spots and edge cases that stakeholders might have missed.
- Identifying redundancies at a holistic level that stakeholders might have missed being restricted by product scope. Example: login with FB instead of creating new credentials.
- Get feedback on prioritising and de-prioritising features.
4 Community/feedback group:Create a (whatsapp) group of users from target segment. Take their feedback on ongoing basis for everything from major releases to minor visual preferences. This this is typically useful for constantly evolving products and these users can compare versions.
Vitals: 100+ users (rotate users), TAT: ongoing basis, few hours.
- Get feedback on how your product stands against competition.
- Co-create with the community (specially power users). Spreads good word-of-mouth as well as users feel privileged and owners of the product.
- Hit the quality bar that users expect.
- Get very quick feedback on early ideas or directions.