05 Starting the UX Research Process
I graduated with an HCI degree and a minor in design in 2018. I (naively) believed that I was fully equipped to understand UX in business, outside of school, but it turns out — I wasn’t! (Surprise!) Luckily, we never stop learning due to our peers, mentors, and random articles on the internet like this one. Since this is a time where my vulnerabilities and struggles are leading me to better understand research, I thought I’d document my learning process of how UX Research works in my everyday world of business!
Let’s get into the specifics of the first few of the steps I mentioned in my UXR process article: the research request and research design proposal.
What does the research request look like?
What usually kick starts a project for us is someone’s request for research. It’s helpful to have a template that stakeholders can fill out for this purpose in order to start to get everyone on the same page. Conversations typically precede this to determine whether it’s appropriate to do a research project for the situation at hand.
I’ve found that the answers to the following questions really helps shape the beginning of a research conversation:
- What is the research question(s)?
- Why are these questions being asked?
- What is the hypothesis?
- What actions will be taken with the research results?
- What research relevant to this topic has already been done?
Of course this conversation is flexible and varies depending on the project and the people, but these points are a good base list of questions to incorporate into the conversation.
What does the research design proposal look like?
I’ve learned from working with vendors how advantageous it is to have a formal outline of the research design proposal. Even though I’m an in-house researcher, I still make it a point to create a formal outline as if I were presenting to clients. Not only does it help stakeholders (especially those unfamiliar with the research process) understand my line of thinking, it also helps me to go back to it later on to refer to the details we agreed to.
Information that I typically like to include in these proposals:
This may have already been discussed in the research request form, but it’s helpful to keep reiterating these objectives and goals in order to keep everyone on track.
Again, even if this has already been discussed, it’s helpful to add in again in plain language in order to make sure everyone is aligned.
General Participant Criteria
This does not have to be well-defined at this point, but it’s helpful to know the basic criteria of who we want to talk to during the research. This helps kick start the next part of the research, which is typically recruiting for us.
One of the main questions in a research project is exactly how the research is going to be conducted. Having it spelled out here will set the rest of the research project up for success because everything moving forward is based on how the research will be conducted. Having everyone agree on the research method at this point is important, but there have been times where we had to be flexible and tweak it a little bit later on in the process.
General Discussion Outline
I don’t typically include this, but a reason I’ve included it in the past is to clarify and organize all the different types of questions being asked by the stakeholders. It’s usually a rough outline that might look like an essay outline — headers for each category and bullet points of information to be discussed under each of those headers.
And finally, a visual timeline of how long each step of the research will take and the expected deliverable date is important to include. This gives transparency to the stakeholders about the research process and allows them to plan accordingly.
While this design proposal gives a great outline to what the project should look like, things will not always go accordingly. Unexpected things can change and happen during the process of a research project and being flexible and being able to tweak things is just as important as having a plan.