User research helps you to learn about the people who use your services, so you can find out what problems you are trying to solve, what to build, and if it will actually work for real people.
Planning and conducting user research is one of the first things you should do in design, and this should be revisited after every sprint in delivery, as well as after go-live.
User research means you can:
- save time by only building the things users need
- reduce risk by learning quickly whether the things you are building work well for users
- respond to changing user behaviour and feedback to continuously improve the service
Understand your users
To deliver a service that meets your users’ needs, you have to understand:
- who your likely users are
- what they’re trying to do
- how they’re trying to do it now
- how they use and experience existing services
The better you understand your users, the more likely you are to design and build a service that works well for them.
It’s essential to plan user research for your service. Throughout each development phase, user researchers should typically be working with the team to develop the understanding of the users who need the service you are creating. Ideally, user researchers should be running user research sessions every 2 weeks and building in research activities and analysis sessions into the team’s regular schedule, so everyone knows when they’re happening and can make time to take part.
Involve your team
User research creates a shared understanding for your whole team. All team members should have the opportunity to watch real users interacting with your service.
This will help your team:
- understand the highs and lows people experience when using your service
- learn the language that people use when talking about your service
- think and talk about users in terms of real people with real needs to develop empathy for the people they’re writing or designing for
Team members who observe research can then take part in analysis sessions to help agree on the findings and any resulting actions.
At the same time, user researchers can work closely with designers and developers on design decisions and prototypes.
Share your findings
You should also invite your team, stakeholders and people in your organisation who deal with users to show and tells and other activities where you share what you’ve learned from user research.
Involving more people in user research helps your team make better decisions about how to improve your service by:
- reducing the risk of bias and unchallenged assumptions
- giving less dominant team members a voice
- limiting the influence of individual stakeholders