Last week, we went along to the Ladies that UX Manchester meet up at optimisation agency User Conversion.
The UC research team did a talk on demonstrating the value of user research in optimisation, followed by an interactive workshop on collaborative ideation and problem solving.
Senior Researcher Hazel kicked off by taking us through how she’s shown clients why research matters. And she shared some top tips on getting research signed off and how to do it on the fly. She started by sharing this quote from Werner von Braun: “Research is what I do when I don’t know what I’m doing” – essentially, if we don’t know why a problem exists or how we might solve it, we do research!
Simple, right? But it’s not always enough to get buy-in. For a number of reasons, sometimes people just don’t buy into the value of research. We can, of course, do our bit by ensuring that our work always has a clear purpose and goal and is never done just for research’s sake. But Hazel shared some top tips on dealing with blockers. These tips can be applied just as easily in-house with other stakeholders as they can in-agency.
Blocker 1 – Research just slows down the process
One way in which we might handle this is to (excuse the designer cliches) reframe what we’re doing. This can be as simple as explaining that we’re going to better understand why a problem exists, in order to be able to solve it. And that, to better understand it, we’ll be speaking to or observing users. Sometimes it’s literally that straightforward. And sometimes there’s still a challenge to address.
Which is where reviewing previous research can come in handy. A well organised research repository of course helps with this, but Hazel shared a tale of digging out old customer poll results and running through screen recordings to gain insight. By doing this and devising solutions as part of the same work sprint, Hazel was able to show how research had allowed her to come up with solutions she otherwise couldn’t have conceived of. At the same time, she was able to show the client that the ideas simply wouldn’t have come about without the insight.
Blocker 2 – Research skeptic
Again, reframing research as an insight gathering activity can help. But then have a think about research you can get away with doing on the fly and how you then show the value that research delivered. How might you gain insight without having to set up labs, run polls on site or contacting customers? Can you do something a bit guerilla out on the street? Do you have screen recordings enabled or insight being gathered by other teams or departments? Are there customer service call or chat logs? And how can you then show your client, colleagues and other stakeholders how this insight delivered value?
Blocker 3 – Budget
One of the classic blockers – the client is up for research, but there simply isn’t budget to run labs, recruit participants or pay for expensive software. Top tips include:
- Utilising free versions of software such as Hotjar to run polls or basic screen recordings on site – you can get a phenomenal amount of insight by asking fairly simple questions or being targeted in screen recording
- If we’re looking to gain insight into usability issues and we don’t need a specific audience, running guerilla labs with internal teams who don’t go on site much can help us easily find key issues
- What insight can internal teams give us? Customer Service and Social Media teams in particular tend to be very close to customer issues.
Hazel was followed by Olivia and Llara introducing us to how the UC team ideated in the past, and how they’ve learned from and evolved their process. In a nutshell, the team have moved from solutions being conceived in isolation by a solution designer, to multi-disciplinary group ideation sessions, to an approach that’s more about consulting experts as required. For example, ensuring a clear steer from analytics to ensure they have the right data insight and are working on the best opportunities, involving dev early to understand technical limitations and whether there’s a better solution. Plus, they took us through their collaborative ideation process.
Then Olivia and Sarah facilitated a speed run through of the process in the form of a workshop.
We started by being introduced to the client, Rent-a-Pup (the group were sad when they learned this was not a real site!), a site who rents out puppies. Each small group (of 3-4 people) then shared the qualitative and quantitative insights they’d been given on the site – this included some data on device splits and conversion rates, as well as some insight into user behaviour.
We then took that data and used it to come up with a problem statement. Based on what the data told us, what problem were we going to tackle? Defining the problem helped give focus before we began to tackle the solution. Which is what we did next. We had 3 minutes to sketch out the basis of 6 ideas each – super sixing.
We shared ideas within the group (yes, even, or especially, the mad ones), then each developed our two favourites, based on the feedback we’d got. Because User Conversion are an optimisation agency, at this point, they might assess the suitability of all ideas generated and propose a plan of testing based on those which potentially solve the problem. But, in the interests of narrowing down to a single solution, we went through a dot vote process to determine what we, as a group, felt best met the brief. Finally, we developed that solution.
We chatted to people around the room over the course of the evening, and found a mix of those in UX, those looking to make a sideways move from more visual design disciplines and people just looking to learn and explore more about UX. And the feedback all round was really positive. For some, it was good to hear that others work similarly to them. Others were glad to have the opportunity to practise skills they have but don’t always get to use. And for many, it was something new learned – either something they can now add to their toolkit, or something they can use in future.
Ladies that UX Manchester’s next event is a social for their 6th birthday. You can get your free tickets online.