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5 minute read

Running user research projects in a short timescale

Do you need to run a UX research project quickly? 

Today, the delivery of delightful customer experiences is paramount. To be able to deliver a positive digital customer experience, you must first understand the needs of your user.

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by Graphite Digital
28 January 20
  • User Research
  • UX Research

User research is an essential part of impactful design. If user research informs your work, it creates better outcomes for customers. 

Despite this, quite often, clients can say there is not enough time or budget to conduct user research. The truth is — you can’t afford not to. 

User research doesn’t have to be lengthy or expensive, and it is possible to deliver meaningful insights quickly on a tight budget. In many cases, we can deliver rapid user research projects in as little as a week.

Here are 10 tips for conducting research in a short timescale:

1. Develop templates screeners and discussion guides

If you already have a template for screeners and discussion guides, it will be quicker to edit a template than starting from scratch. A generic introduction and approved GDPR wording can help. A screener will help you target users with the specific behaviour and attitudes of someone using or having the potential to use your product or service. You can adapt according to the specific piece of user research, using company personas can help, or a quick interview with sales and marketing teams can give you some good direction. Discussion guides are a set of questions, topics or tasks you need to walk a user research participant through. They are very specific to the objectives of the research and will vary according to your research objectives, but a template for the structure will help both for efficiency and consistency across all research.

2. Use multiple methods for recruitment

We usually recommend using a formal recruiter. If you have a broad range of requirements, this can be achieved in a short timescale. There are other alternatives that can help you recruit quickly or if you have budget restrictions - you can use social media channels or an internal user base that you have access to.

3. Try guerilla techniques & intercept interviews

All you need for this type of research is access to a public space where you can ask passers by for a few minutes of their time. Try and pick a place where you know your users will be, for instance, if you are researching hair products, it makes sense to be in a hairdressers or a supermarket that stocks those hair products. This approach works best for products and services that don’t require specific knowledge. Intercept interviews can be conducted on-site for the particular brand you are helping, to see how people are interacting. I would always include a ‘thank you’ for your users time, just a coffee or a small voucher.

4. Focus on conducting just enough research to gain insight

At Graphite, we focus on conducting user research so we can get the insight needed to start working on the solution and minimise the impact on time and budget. You can get insight within as little as a week. Once you start seeing repeat patterns, you have enough.

5. You might not need to recruit as many users as you think

The Nielsen Norman Group indicates that you will find almost all the usability problems you are going to find when you test with just 5 users. There are some exceptions, for instance, for card sorting exercises you may want to test with 15 participants per user group. Once you start to see patterns, you can stop and start to think about solutions.

6. Involve designers and all stakeholders from the start

Involve everyone that needs to sign off on the research from the start of the process, define clear goals, and work alongside designers and stakeholders right from the start and make sure that everyone is aligned on the research objectives, assumptions and outputs. Adding these steps to your research ops process can help the project move with momentum and avoid late changes to recruitment or objectives.

7. Observe the studies

Where possible, get as many designers and stakeholders involved to observe the study as it happens. Doing this makes it much quicker to action results later on.

8. Use apps for transcription

Use apps to rapidly transcribe interview notes and find key points from the research. At Graphite we often use Rev as a full transcript service or They may not be 100% accurate but when there is no budget or time to transcribe they can be very valuable to quickly recap insights.

9. Document and group findings as you go

Sensemaking is a collaborative technique that can be used to validate, interpret and organise the data elicited from participants. At Graphite, we often use the following process to document findings, create insights and action them:

  • Affinity Diagramming - We observe user research together, and everyone writes down observations
  • Thematics - We group the observations in themes
  • Coding - The team code the themes depending on the research objectives. The codes can be themed by emotion, for example.

10. Action immediately

At Graphite, we get our user researchers to work alongside designers. When feedback comes in, it’s actually easy to group it, get a decision from the stakeholders and designers and take action straight away to amend the experience. Working together makes the whole process faster.

Interested in running user research?

User research can help designers gain a deeper understanding of the problems that need to be solved and help you understand how your users interact with your products and services. Download our practical guide to running quick, actionable user research or learn more about our user research process.

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