How to Run a User Research Session for Your Digital Content
To re-cap this series on digital content prototypes, I’ve talked about how to create content prototypes and the different kinds of prototypes you should use at each stage. In my final post, I’ll show you how to run a user research session to ask the right questions and accurately test your digital content.
At Inkling, our customer-focused approach includes regular user research to gather feedback and adjust our product as needed. Instead of building a complete product at once, we start with prototypes to put our ideas to the test. But in order to know what’s working and what’s not, we have to ask the right questions about our prototypes. The same can be said for testing digital content: knowing what problems you want your content to solve, and who will be using it, is important to understand before putting it in front of an audience.
After countless user research sessions, we’ve established a set of best practices to keep in mind before, during, and after a session. Apply these guidelines to your own research sessions to test your content, and you’ll gather the right data to iterate and improve upon your design.
Before The Session
Two weeks before testing:
Determine your target audience’s characteristics and recruit participants (if possible, the more lead time, the better). In addition, make sure to reserve meeting rooms for uninterrupted interviews.
One week before testing:
Write up a detailed test plan of what you want to learn, and do a test run with your team. Determine who will facilitate the meeting and who should take notes, unless you’re able to record the session.
One day before testing:
Ensure that all documents, screens, and/or prototypes are ready for the test and print out the test plan for each member of the research team.
During The session
Questions to ask participants:
- What are your first impressions?
- What stands out to you?
- Can you give me an example of what you would use this feature for, specifically?
- What do you like about what we’re showing you, and why?
- Would you add anything?
It’s important to capture what they think your content is for and should do and compare that with what they encounter in its actual use. If they seem surprised or confused, ask them what they expected to happen or how things could have been made clearer. Made note of what they searched for, and ask what they were trying to find.
After The Session
Consolidate your notes into a summary of patterns and highlights, pointing to the customer feedback first. Sometimes the feedback will be obvious, but in other cases, it will require time to reflect upon the reasoning behind your customers’ frustrations and feature requests.
Once you’ve translated your notes into key action items, evangelize the customer needs to your team and present their frustrations. As the researcher, you are the customer voice within your organization. However, your action items should not be feature requests, such as more interactive features, but rather problems. Focus on what the customer’s pain points are and what areas are lacking in their experience, so that the team can be motivated to solve the root of their problems.
The bottom line:
User research is the best indicator that your digital content is on the right track. Make sure that you ask the right questions (and then, gather the right feedback) by planning ahead and staying focused. Most importantly, the only way to enact change within your organization is by communicating your findings widely and succinctly. The best feeling is seeing your hard work take action and transform your digital content into more user-friendly material.
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