There are a few different ways that I’ve used in order to research a users experience of a product. The tricky part is working out which style is going to work for your audience, and this depends on what it is that you’re trying to discover about their experience.
The key is to work out: what people say vs what people do vs why & how vs how many & how often.
- Some information gathering practices may require a lab setting, where you invite users to complete a set of tasks or to observe their interaction and decision choices – this is a behavioural approach. Another type includes user interviews and or focus groups, asking questions to check what a user liked or disliked about the product – of course, I’ve simplified this but, this type of user research is called attitudinal which seeks the opinion of the user. A few other words that are used in this space are qualitative (direct user interaction) and quantitative (indirect user interaction). Having worked on both physical and mobile apps, websites and software development for a number of projects, I have found that the method to research varies depending on proximity to your customers/participants and the context of product use during the research.
- I found that when I was researching how people rigged a windsurfing sail, in order to create a simplified instruction manual and also to understand the use of product sets –that I could observe 100’s of users from afar. As I travelled for a role, I visited windsurf setup areas and interacted with people who had a mixture of competitor and company products – through discussion or observation I was able to see and understand how most people rigged their equipment. This natural use approach was later followed up with a scripted product use task for selected participants. They were required to rig a windsurfing sail using the instructions provided and after further observation and interviews a revised set of instructions were then trialled on users who did not generally windsurf the goal in this trial was to establish if the instructions could enable a new product customer to rig a sail for the first time – this was a key factor for introducing new people to the otherwise technical skills water sport. The result of this can be seen here.
- In another example, when creating a new brand, participants who knew about different brands already in the selected market were asked questions about their favourite brands, the qualities and, features that they believed that those brands offered, and their use of products and services that these brands offer, and if they would recommend their choices to their friends. The participants were then asked if a new brand were to offer similar products and services what would that new brand need to also offer for them to consider changing their current brand loyalties. The resulting data included definitely consider changing brand loyalties if the new brand offers improved customer support, and or improved pricing models for very similar products and services.