When I first started working with my client (love coach Kavita J Patel), we could barely keep up with the never-ending site changes. It seemed like we were on the whim of her demands.
Back then, I didn’t realize she wasn’t sure of her own strategy or even who exactly the user was.
I started to ask questions such as “Why” and “So what?” and found that she had no good answer. A lot of the decisions were knee-jerk reactions and based on feeling. Not surprising for most UX projects.
Of course, we needed to understand (or at least recognize) the user before we could start a meaningful discussion about strategy. We needed more data to make more informed decisions.
Two big problems appeared (as they always do): limited time & budget. We couldn’t afford to follow the standard user research process – or even half of that.
We had to improvise.
If you’re working with a client or company with tight budgets and timelines, I’ll provide some practical tips based on my own experience as a UX consultant. We’ll explore tactics that offer the most insights for the money and time required.
1. Write out your assumptions
To get started, first write down the assumptions about the user. This will help the whole team start to identify gaps in understanding.
For example, we quickly unpacked the following assumptions for my client:
- Women in their 30’s
- Looking for love
- Have tried various things to find love, but they don’t work
- Believe that love is possible but distant
- Pretty tech savvy and need mobile access for all content
- Go on at least one date a week
2. Run a Survey
To start making better decisions as soon as possible, you can start by testing the most basic assumptions in a survey.
Create the survey
Keep it as short as possible. Shorter surveys that require less than 3 minutes to complete get more responses.
Limit the number of open-ended questions. Don’t forget that you still need to make sense of all that data.
For example: Let’s say that you assume that your audience is women in their 40’s looking for love who go on a date at least once a month.
Ask about specific past behavior rather than future or general behavior.
Notice, we don’t ask “how many dates do you go on in a month?” as that question asks users to generalize. We don’t want users to estimate or take an average. We want the actual number. Users may realize they go on fewer dates than they imagine.
Send out the survey
Test the survey with a few friends or coworkers first, asking them after if all the questions make sense. Check if their answers make sense based on what you know about them.
Analyze the results
Remember our sample survey? Analyze different relevant combinations until you have a clear picture of the user in terms of the measured behavior.
- We can analyze the results by counting how many women are both in their 40’s and who go on a date at least once a month.
- We could also analyze the opposite side of the spectrum: Women in their 40’s who go on lots of dates each month
If you are using a CRM like Marketo, you should be able to send out a survey that will tag or segment your list automatically based on their responses. Otherwise, you can use Google Forms, SurveyMonkey or Typeform (just make sure your last survey field asks for the e-mail address so you can segment your list manually).
3. Analyze Customer Support Requests
Your support team knows a lot about the customers. Don’t overlook them as an impromptu user research team.
Get customer support’s viewpoint
You can start by asking their assumptions about users based on their experience. Take this with a grain of salt, however, since they only deal with users who reach out (response bias).
Ask the following questions:
- Who do you think the different kinds of users are?
- What is their biggest problem that we can solve?
- What is their biggest technological problem with our platform that we can improve?
- What do users appreciate most about what we do?
- What do users frequently complain about?
Empower customer support with simple user research tools
By keeping track of the nature of support requests and comments, you begin to get a data-driven picture of the user.
- Create a support/comment form that customer support can help fill out for each incoming request. You can use Google Forms, Typeform, SurveyMonkey or any other survey tool. For small businesses, 20-30 responses starts to yield actionable data (scale up as needed).
- Decide what is most important about the requests that are actionable.
- Make it short so you don’t slow down your support team.
- Use dropdown fields categories wherever possible. Open text fields are harder to analyze.
Analyzing the support requests/comments
The survey tool should analyze the data automatically. Look at the general trends.
For the open text fields (in this case “Request Nature”) scan them and write down any patterns you see.