Types of Research
How do we actually go and understand our audience? We've talked a lot about research and now we're gonna dive into the actual doing of research. Research I think is a really intimidating topic because sometimes the perception is it's going to be very time consuming, it's going to be expensive. Some people think of research and they think stingy room with mirror walls and two way walls, I don't even know what to call them but you know what I mean, and very formal and it's going to be done by these professionally trained people, which is true a lot of times. You can also do really fast research to gather a lot of information at once so we can take a high level of view and quickly spot is there an actual problem, spot trends, things like that. When is research done in the life of an idea or a product? There's really two times that it's done. It's either done before you start working on it, which is what we're going to do or, it's done after you have something tangible, something in place.
In my practice as a user experience designer, part of our process is research. A lot of the time I get hired to do research. We could call it kind of explorative research where we are trying to understand a problem and see is this an area where people need a solution. What does that look like? Say it's related to finance. I actually did a financial research project where this entrepreneur had an idea and before we went and built anything, we went to I think it was two cities, Chicago and Boston maybe, and we did one-on-one interviews with people. This was an expensive research project but, we did these one-on-one interviews with people to understand the topic of saving for retirement. We didn't go to them with a solution. We just were little investigators going to understand what are you doing to save for retirement, how did you find a financial planner, and we're understanding that whole topic, that whole landscape. For you, think about what are you researching. Is it fitness, is it photography, is it organization? Think of that topic that you would go research. Once you do that, then we're able to identify is there a problem that these people have. It sounds time consuming to go do this but, honestly when you sit down with someone one-on-one and get to hear them tell the story of how they went and found a financial planner and how hard that was or all these stories and people start to recount that, that's when it really gets magical and we will see this. Then after, when we have something to show, some tangible product or version of a product, then we can do research to help us understand is this usable? In the beginning it's about, is this product needed, which is what we're doing in this class, but then later on you'll do research to learn is it usable. For example, with the travel box, I wish I had it. They actually offered to give me one and I said it's so useless. I don't wanna take it on the plane with me. I wish I had it but this woman should have done research with these 3D boxes she printed to find out is it usable because she would've found out no one could open it after just having one of them printed rather than sitting on, I don't know how many she had printed from the 3D printer or wherever you have those things done, but she would've learned it's not usable. Now she's stuck. We don't want that to happen. As soon as you have something to show, even if it is some prototype that you put together. Maybe this woman, now that we're on a kick with her, maybe she should've prototyped something with construction paper and boxes, hacked up an old shoebox or something to get the idea across people. We need to figure out is it needed and then is it usable. In the digital world, this is a large part of what I do like usability testing. When we're watching people use a website to find out can they get through that checkout process, do they understand how to add a coupon code, and it's no different if you're working on a digital product or a physical, tangible product. The basics are really watching something, use the thing, whatever that is, and find out does it work, can they complete the task of opening the box, going through the checkout, things like that. The types of research to learn is this needed. Like I said, I have done one-on-one interviews, which you could imagine flying to Chicago and wherever else. I think I said Boston. That gets expensive for sure, but it's not the only way. One-on-one interviews are great, surveys are really helpful. Surveys do have a bad reputation sometimes but I think it's because it's a bad survey. We're gonna learn how to do smart surveys. Focus groups are really, really awesome because it helps us connect with a lot of people at once. Just a cost, time effectiveness factor if you can get all the people in the room. Of course, some people kind of think focus groups are tricky because you might have people skewing the audience if there is one person that's the loud mouth, they're the leader that emerges as with any group. People get nervous, it'll skew the focus group. I think it's really dependent on your skill to control that and I have got a lot of great information out of focus groups plus, if the client only has a small budget, you kind of have to work with what you have. Focus groups are another great way to understand is this product needed, is there a problem. Then field research and observations. Maybe if you are working on something, let's go back to the organizational woman. Maybe she is an addition to having one-on-one interviews with people. Maybe she's going into let's say people's homes and looking at their closets and getting a feel for what do they do or having them show her how they organize their seasonal wardrobes if you live in a climate like that and kind of not just having a conversation, but watching people do the thing, whatever that is related to your business. Then after you've created something, like I said, you need to test is it usable, whatever that looks like for you. Observing them use the physical product, use the website. Lucky for us with digital products, we can rely on analytics tools that are collecting information automatically for us. It's really great and it's very cheap too these days. You should be able to find something for your budget. Surveys too I think, especially after the product is created, especially if it's something where they're going through and saying booking of flight or going through your yearly planner or something, it's great to use surveys to collect feedback at the end to figure out how did this planner help you over the last 12 months or how satisfied were you with the flight that we talked about earlier. We're not gonna be able to cover all of these types of research. We're gonna really focus in on surveys because I believe at this stage if you just have an idea, you probably don't have the budget and the time to be going and doing extensive studies. Surveys are gonna help us do it fast and affordably. Hopefully now you know this but the goal of the research is to confirm there is a problem so we are not building something that people do not want. You have an idea, maybe you have two ideas, we have some physical product ideas, we have some service-based ideas and the good news is that you can use the same method no matter what your product idea is. What is the default thing that most people do and raise your hand if you have done this. Have you ever gone and just asked your friends and family, do you think this is a good idea? I have this idea for business, what do you think? Who's done that? I mean, I have. Lots of people come to me and say this and I told you stories about the entrepreneurs who have said I asked my friends, my sporting friends, all the people and they say, I asked them and they think it's a good idea. The problem is you need to never do that again. You cannot go ask your friends and family for research. I say this all the time but it's the default thing to do. I think people initially go to friends and family because maybe it's a vulnerability thing and they're a little less scared to ask these people but the problem is, they like you. They are probably going to give you positive feedback. Maybe they're not gonna be as honest as they would with a stranger. They're nice. They might also know that you've been working on this idea for awhile and how passionate you are and maybe if your friends aren't the tough love type, maybe they're not going to be totally honest with you and they're so close and they want you to succeed and they think well maybe she'll be able to pull it off, maybe he'll be able to pull it off. Even if they are a potential customer, if I ask my friends in my running club, yes they probably could give me great feedback but again, they're still a little too close. You see the world with rose colored glasses. I have a great example of this. I worked at a startup a number of years ago and it was kind of a strange startup. We won't go into it but, I left and after I left, one of my friends texted me and said, her name was Lydia and she said, I'm so glad you left that company 'cause I never understood what the heck you guys did or why that needed to be a product. I'm so glad I don't have to hear about it anymore 'cause I always told you that sounds nice, good job. I would've never actually used that thing that you were working on. I thought, gosh, this is such a great example because for years she knew I was working at this company, didn't say anything 'cause she was my friend, she's nice, she didn't wanna burst my bubble and she thought maybe we would be successful. Do not ask your friends and family. If you do, make sure you also ask strangers, which is what we're going to do next 'cause I know some of you will still ask your friends and family. What we're going to do is we're going to cast a really, really wide net with surveys. That's the beauty of it. We can get a lot of responses at once. See the broad insights and get feedback from all these people and then, depending on if you have time and if you have budget and things like that, then you could follow up with focus groups or you could go do one-on-one interviews with people and it doesn't have to be in person at their home or their office or something. It could just be a phone call. The beauty is that once you do the survey, and we'll talk about collecting their email 'cause there's a good way and a not so good way to do that but, then you have their email and then you can kind of scan through all those responses and think to yourself, Jackie sounds like a really interesting person or John had all these great answers. I really wanna follow-up with him because the downfall to surveys is that you can't ask those follow-up questions. That's why sometimes it's really helpful to go do follow-up conversations or even emails with people and get to ask those follow-up questions. That's what I wanted to talk a little bit about why surveys are sometimes given a bad reputation but I think if you do it smart and you cast a wide net and then you follow-up with the one-on-one's where it makes sense, then you get a good balance and also, you have to think of the context. Maybe the people that are nay sayers about surveys, maybe they have huge budgets so they don't have to worry about that whereas us right now, we probably don't have budgets and we don't have a lot of time. We're going to say yes to surveys and work with it because I've seen it work and you're gonna see how it can work for your idea as well. The benefits, like I said, time and money definitely. Creating a survey takes hours, hopefully half a day or a day or something like that. Planning a research trip where you're going to go talk to 10 people in Chicago and 10 people in Boston and find all those people, schedule all those people, all the logistics you can imagine, planning those research projects I would guess takes at least four to five weeks to truly plan it. Not to mention, you need to make kind of a list of questions you're going to ask people. If we want fast feedback, we can't do these very heavy methods in the beginning. The one-on-one interviews are tricky sometimes too because there is nothing worse than having flown to Chicago and you're having someone not show up, which has happened, or within the first five minutes realizing this person should never have made it onto this list of people we're talking to today because there's always sometimes when people slip through the cracks of these larger research projects that I work on. The benefit is that this survey's really almost like a filter for us to figure out should we talk to these people one-on-one in the future.