Here at Skylarq Digital, we are crazy in love with User Research. We don’t just love it - we can’t do without it.
Fact: The key component to any great digital experience is the strategic planning that happens before any design or development can begin.
The digital strategy for a project must be intentionally and meticulously planned. The best way to start that process is to get to know your users, deeply and thoroughly.
There are a number of different methodologies available today that are proven to help you learn about different aspects of your users. Here is a brief overview of some of our personal favorites:
We almost always begin our User Research phase by developing user personas. These are detailed profiles of the type of folks that are most likely to hit your site. We work with clients to figure out who their customers are, what motivates them, and what they want (both implicitly and explicitly) from your website or app. We name our personas, we give them hopes, fears, families, jobs, etc. We do this so we can put ourselves in their figurative shoes as we design the experience.
Once we’ve identified exactly who your users are, we Journey Map their experiences with your product (and beyond). Journey Mapping happens by identifying a user and a specific use case (aka a specific point in their journey). We then walk through each step in the process, identifying emotional pain and pleasure points along the way. This helps us identify with your users, reduce the number of potential friction points, and highlight pleasurable moments.
Card sorting is a great way to test a site’s navigation against users’ expectations. Using cards, users are asked to sort navigation items on a site (or write them in) in a way that makes logical sense to them. This allows site designers and content strategists to make informed decisions regarding the navigation so that it is highly intuitive to users. There are a number of systems that can help you accomplish this, but we recommend the Optimal Workshop system - not only does it have a easy-to-follow process and a clean interface, but it also helps you select the right audience for a given card sorting exercise.
Once there is a working wireframe, mock, or a preliminary build, we ask users to live test your site. This is a very effective way to watch users click through your site and complete tasks (also known as task analysis) to identify if they can figure out how to use the site. We especially enjoy the User Testing system and have found that some of the most impactful insights come when the users talk though their process in a video format.
Interviewing can take place in a number of different formats: individually or in a focus group, in our office, or contextually (in a user’s office or home). This is a great way to get a very close look at users as they experience your website or app. This method also allows us to ask on-the-fly questions that help explain why someone took a particular path, or made a specific click.
Aside from the methods that we generally use, there are many other tools in our toolbox. These include heuristic reviews, first click testing, parallel design, prototyping and surveys, to name a few. These are all great methods for uncovering more information about your website and users.
Regardless of what methods are used, the important thing is that User Research is thoroughly done. This is an incredibly important first step in any digital project.