User Research - Curriculum

Forester Research shows that, on average, every dollar invested in UX brings $100 in return which means that good UX is good business. User Research, the founding stone for product experience, forms the basis of any product, especially when starting up. This helps mitigate business risks. As a process it is scoped and practiced at all stages of the product lifecycle to attain most valuable solutions for users. At the Product Design Fellowship of ownpath, we follow areas of inquiry informed by research which in turn helps the business scope the product.

What do I learn in the User Research module at ownpath’s Product Design Fellowship?

  • In this module of user research, you will learn about User Research as feedback-oriented research methods
  • Such methods uncover the information that is received through users which help designers solve and provide adequate insights to product teams.

An overview from the User Research of ‘Coinwise’ - Project by Jyotsna and Sayani, Product Design Fellows, cohort 1

Discussing this with and example, the team of Sayani and Jyotsna from our first cohort, worked on a personal finance management system for GenZ - Coinwise. They received process-defining information from their potential users. Through research, they identified that GenZ is more aware of their Financial choices especially with the upcoming developments in Fintech.

Their team recruited and shadowed a few participants and understood that they are digital natives and most of their information is derived through the internet. Shadowing in an online setting is quite close to a moderated testing; the difference being, the task is being performed on products that the users currently use.

Their team was able to identify a few patterns and differences between the boomers, millennials, and GenZ which also informed them about the latter’s behavioural and spending habits.


When does the module on User Research begin?

Once you are in a good place to understand ‘people’ through our modules on Psychology in Design and Ethics for Designers, you are introduced to methods of research which helps you understand ‘users’ in contextual settings. As a result, this module not only discusses about qualitative vs quantitative but also explorative vs evaluative methodologies of research.


What’s unique about the User Research module?

One of the objectives of design research is to inform the business about users’ needs. This is achieved through this module by creating research plans and introducing contemporary methods to identify key insights. Through this module on User research, you will additionally learn various mediums of conducting user research which can range from in-person interviews, to direct observation and online methods of assessment as well.

A snippet from the User Research of ‘Harmony’ - Project by Aishwarya and Mudita, Product Design Fellows, cohort 1

One of the interesting takes was by the team of Aishwarya and Mudita, working on a PCOS management project - Harmony where they asked participants to draw their PCOS. Oftentimes, during research, especially when the users’ objectivity is involved, they may struggle with finding the right words to answer your questions. This kind of an illustrative approach allows users to think and express freely without language acting as a barrier.

Tip: A few more situations when such research methods could come in handy are while dealing with a variety of demographics and when your users come from varied regional, linguistic, or cultural backgrounds.


What are my takeaways from this module?

By the end of this module you will learn how to work with product teams with actual insights about user behaviour and analyse how users achieve their intended goals. To receive directional product insights, you will be introduced to some concepts like jobs-to-be-done. This innovation theory is used for understanding customers and their motivations for adopting a new product or service since.

You will additionally be able to create personalised research plans based on your project outlines that provide you with usable information while identifying and making sense of patterns of your target users. While building their research plans, the team of Sai and Shreyan, from our Product Design Fellowship, developed it around understanding the end-to-end processes of small-scale businesses that market and accept orders through social media.

A snippet from the user research of ‘Managing online businesses for MSMEs’- Project by Sai and Shreyan, Product Design Fellows, cohort 1

In this example, you can see screenshot of the conversation where they immersed themselves into the system to better assess the user’s pain points. This process of placing an order took seven days to complete, informing the team about the gap that needed to be addressed.

Tip: This is a great way of assessing gaps in systems and services when you don’t just quiz the participants about their experience, but also become a part of it. In such cases, you are in a position to observe and gain insights of the process as a participant. Another way to go about it could be to recruit a user to go through this process for your research so that you can shadow them.


What are some resources that can help me get a head-start with User Research?

Resources and frameworks come handy for reference when creating your research plan. Although, it’s always good practice to tailor your plan according to the project that you are undertaking and the users involved. We have listed a few resources that will help you achieve this:

Talks:

  • Just Enough Research by Erika Hall In this talk, Hall speaks about asking more and better questions, and thinking critically about the answers, for the entire team.
  • Understanding the Customer, by Steve Jobs In this talk, Jobs speaks about the needs and methods to understand what users and their communities need since they might not be able to articulate it well.

Articles:

  • Research Toolbox, by Daedalus + Thoughtform A set of twenty-three research methods to discover what your users really want, at a glance
  • Increase Exposure Hours, by Jared Spool Spool discusses the positive outcomes in the product when the number of hours all team members ‘exposed’ to the users increases

Books:

  • The Mom’s Test, Rob Fitzpatrick In his book, Fitzpatrick discusses how users might not be completely true about their feeling or feedback because they don’t want to ‘hurt’ the researcher. He further discusses of methods to identify this and probe further to find the truth.
  • Competing Against Luck, by Clayton Christensen Christensen discusses customers’ mindsets, needs, and motivations to ‘hire’ products and the jobs-to-be-done framework, to assess them

To be a part of our next cohort of Fellows, work on your projects, and learn more about Product Design, head over to our page and APPLY HERE!

Did you know? Our fellows spend about 30% of the total mentor sessions discussing User Research methodologies and defining the project’s design directions.

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