So, you have yourself an existing website, service or application and you might be asked to find a way to improve the customer experience. You have plenty of ideas of where you could add cool features, make an area look more appealing or speed things up, however it can be quite difficult to select one area to focus on that is worth the investment and is likely to produce noticeable results.
The thing that comes with being so close to a product is that you can easily lose sight of what really matters to the user and what changes would benefit them the most.
There are many ways to gather data about your users to influence any decision made. One of these methods is Generative Research.
This type of research is used to define the problem before you even know what your doing to solve it. This requires you to thoroughly understand about what perceptions, usability issues, behaviours and habits your users have about the product.
By doing generative research you are ensuring that you are fixing the right issues or adding the right features. You might not personally like how a page looks but in reality, how many people really visit it and how much effect does it have on the conversion rate? You could add functionality which nobody ends up using, in turn, slowing down the overall experience. This is known as “Feature creep”.
Whilst you are gathering research, it is important to keep an open mind, you do not yet know what issue you are trying to solve.
Here are a few good testing activities you can carry out to help you get the information you need:
By having a face to face with your user, you can more accurately monitor their behaviour and reactions. Ask questions like “how do you feel about” or “what do you think of” to see the product through their eyes.
One of the most visually telling ways that something is not working as expected is to conduct user testing. This can be done in house or using an online tool. When creating testing scripts, keep them broad to allow the user to find their own way and naturally encounter issues.
Note: You can also save any journeys that are working particularly well. Show these off internally! It can give the people working on it that extra confidence boost as well as shareholders in the final work that is being produced.
Delve into your analytics and have a look at where your people are dropping off along your user journey. Are there any patterns emerging? Take into account the speed of your pages, heat-maps and most clicked elements.
If your product is physical then you can use video to understand how people are looking at your branding, what information is missed? What is appealing to them?
As is with most forms of data gathering, once you have completed your research, you should prioritize it. To keep the requirements consistently written, we can use User Stories to describe what the user would like to do. We put our findings into groups for the customer types, then we write our user stories under each one like this:
As a… I would like to … So that I can…
As a User I would like to access my app profile offline so that I can use my loyalty points when i have little or no internet at a bar.
If you are simply trying to focus on one fix, try to find the most commonly unment user need which you can write out like a hypothesis:
“Our users would like to be able to use use their loyalty points when they have no internet connection”
This is the problem that you should be paying attention to. Once you have found this out, you can begin to look into how you are actually going to solve the problem. See the transition between “what problem should we be solving?” to “how do we solve this problem?”.
Bring in people from different teams to have their say on how they would go about fixing the problem. Conduct further research to underpin the final decision – ask users how they would like to see the issue fixed.
Here are some example ideas which could be used to achieve the hypothesis above:
- Create a lightweight area of the app which stores the latest data known and can be displayed offline.
- Accessibility via alternative connection methods (Bluetooth, QR codes)
- Get them to login to a Wi-Fi hotspot or Intranet
- Get the venue to send the data instead via their connection
From this point you would proceed through different testing methods such as A/B testing and user testing to find out which is the best solution to the problem.
The companies that create the best experiences for the user are the ones that take the time to research their user needs before making change. You shouldn’t invest into a your product until you have proof that change is wanted or needed. Do the research and you can be sure to find patterns you didn’t know existed. You may find new positive opportunities too.
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