Creating A User Research Plan (with Examples)

Every UX research plan should start with a solid outline. A UX research plan helps to set expectations and document the essentials you need to communicate to stakeholders and clients. Your company needs a strong business case for every user research session, complete with research objectives, goals, methods, and logistical needs for the study.

Master templates are the best way to create a successful and effective UX research plan. Using a template as a starting point makes planning and writing easier and helps you and your team stay focused on the who, what, why, and when of research. Read on for tips and examples for how you can build a user research plan that works.

Table of Contents:

  1. Background
  2. Objectives
  3. Methodology
  4. Participant Profiles
  5. Timeline
  6. Conclusion

UX Research Plan Background

The background section should offer your clients and stakeholders a few sentences on why you are creating a user research plan and what it will accomplish. It should orient readers to the needs and expectations behind the purpose of the study. It should also include a problem statement, which is the primary question you’re setting out to answer with your research findings. 

Example Background:

The purpose of this study is to understand the major pain points users experience in using our website/app and how these contribute to issues such as cart abandonment, returned items, and low customer loyalty. 

We will be using usability testing to follow the user’s experience of our website/app and the obstacles they encounter leading up to the point of purchase. We will also be using generative research techniques to better understand the customer’s experience of our brand and the challenges and needs they face in making a purchase. 

UX Research Plan Objectives

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of your user research plan, you first want to focus on your research objectives. This step outlines the reasons you are conducting a UX research plan in the first place. Why are you carrying out this research? What are the end goals you have after completing all the work? Seeking out answers to these questions should be a collaborative effort between you and your stakeholders. It’s also helpful to consider discussions and learnings from past clients and projects to create metrics for your UX research plan. 

Objectives and Success Metrics/KPIs

Research objectives will be different for every project, but they should always be actionable and specific. 

Example Objectives:

Understand how users currently go about tracking orders on our website

Understand what actions customers take when they consider buying a new [product we offer]

Learn about competitor websites/apps customers are using to buy [product we offer]

Evaluate pain points customers are experiencing in using our website/app

And here are some examples to help you determine the success of your UX research plan.

Example Success Metrics:

What information are we trying to collect about users?

What scales/documents/statistics do we intend to create?

What decisions will these materials help to make? 

UX Research Plan Methodology

This step should be a short and sweet description of the research methods you will use to answer the research objectives. It should include both secondary and primary methods. Generative methods, such as user interviews and open-ended questions, help uncover motivations or more general insights, while UX testing helps to evaluate the usability and experience of your product. 

Research Scope & Focus Areas

Clearly outlining the research scope and focus areas helps to facilitate efficient user research planning. The more you’re able to hone in on the specifics of what information you are wanting to collect, the less overwhelmed you will be in the process. It also helps avoid inundating your clients with unnecessary information. 

To keep research-focused, this section should include:

3-6 question topics (e.g. How do users spend their time on a website?)

Design Focus Components, including interface qualities (e.g. Usability, Training, Efficiency, Satisfaction)

Primary User Scenarios (e.g. Scenarios in which pain points are most problematic; scenarios you have the least information about, etc.)

Example Methodology: 

For this study, we’re conducting a 30-minute usability test to evaluate our user’s experience of our app/website. A secondary method will be to conduct one-on-one generative research interviews to better understand our customers and empathize with their needs. 

UX Research Plan Participant Profiles

Once you’ve defined objectives methodology and focus areas, it’s time to outline the participants you’ll need to get the required insights. Participant profiles help you determine who you want to recruit, or an approximation of your users, to optimize recruiting efforts. Here are a few examples of how to ensure you’ll get the best participants for your study. 

Define your target user by collaborating with internal stakeholders, marketing, sales, and customer support. With their help, you can create approximations about who your users are. This is a great starting point for finding the right participants for your study. 

Compare yourself to your competitors and create participant profiles based on their audiences. Recruiting people who use a competitor’s product can be an excellent way to glean insights into how to further improve your product. 

Outline a screening process. Participant profiles should include any relevant information concerning your target audience, including behaviors, needs, demographics, geography, etc. Including the right criteria will help you evaluate whether or not to include certain individuals in your user research plan. 

This Nielsen Norman article offers some great information about defining and recruiting the right participants for your study. 

UX Research Plan Timeline

This is optional, but many UX research plans include a timeline that offers clients and stakeholders a general overview of how long the research will take. It helps to set expectations for the final results as well as allowing you to create a schedule for research sessions, debriefing, follow-up, and deliverables. 

Timeline Example: 

Approximately 6-8 weeks for identifying objectives, creating participant profiles, recruitment, in-person meetings, qualitative research, and analysis. 

Conclusion

UX research plan templates are essential tools for executing a successful project. Having a master template helps you to remember what the process entails, communicate essential information to the right people, and stay on track throughout the user research plan. UXPin makes creating such research templates fast and easy. Especially since each project will be a little different and plans will need tweaking in terms of structure and content. A solid research-plan template that allows for modifying and flexibility will be an invaluable tool that will save time and provide more efficient results in future projects. 

by UXPin on 8th October, 2020

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