How can I create a user research plan? UX Question #63

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Sidney J. from New Orleans, Louisiana, asks: How can I create a user research plan?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Sidney. This is UX Question number 63 and I am Ben Judy.

How can I create a user research plan? Well, there isn’t just one way to do it. But I’ll give you five elements that every good user research plan should include.

There’s a really easy way to remember these elements, because they all start with the letter P.

Problem, Purpose, Procedure, Participants, and Presentation.

First, define the problem (or problems) your product team is trying to solve. What are the big, user experience opportunities you’re chasing after? This is the strategic context for your research. Start by painting the big picture before you get to the specifics of your research effort.

Second, state your purpose. User research is usually rooted in questions. You have unknowns—blanks to fill in—about user behavior, attitudes, opinions, and preferences. Your purpose is to fill in those blanks with insights and information. Define the key questions you’re trying to answer with your research in your research plan. What are you trying to learn? Are you trying to measure behavior, or gather attitudinal insights? Will your research be qualitative in nature, or do you plan to gather quantitative data?

Third, describe your procedure. These are the research methods you will use to gather insights and build empathy with your users. Are you relying on a single method, such as interviews or a survey, or will you conduct mixed-methods research? This will largely be driven by when your research is qualitative or quantitative, and behavioral or attitudinal. See, there was a purpose for stating the purpose of your research! Your procedure might also include a timeline and any prior research or secondary research you intend to look into.

Fourth, describe your participants. Who are your users? Where and how will you recruit your research subjects? How many will you need? Consider including a participant profile and screener questionnaire in your user research plan.

Finally, do some forward thinking about the presentation of your research findings. How will go about synthesizing the data you collect, and how will you tell the story of what it all means? Who are the key stakeholders who need to hear the results of your research? When and how will you deliver those results?

There’s much more you could include in a research plan, of course. But the five P’s offer a simple framework to use as a starting point.

Next time you need to plan user research, start with the Problem, Purpose, Procedure, Participants, and Presentation.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: What are some good UX principles?

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