I’ve spent a lot of my time recently on user research to refresh two major app features. These ranged from problem discovery conversations up to showcasing wireframes and prototypes.
User research is a skill that all product people should get comfortable with. It’s something that takes a bit more than talking to someone for a set period (admittedly, this was my initial impression of user research 😅).
There is a lot to unpack about user research – hit the like button or comment if you want more!
Here are the key takeaways from my most recent rounds of user research.
Tip 1: It’s ok to be socially awkward 🐢
If you’re anything like me and awkward silences invoke a violent cringe reaction, it’s time to make friends with it.
An awkward silence happens to be the perfect amount of time for a user to think a bit deeper than what they first said, and that’s how you can dig a bit deeper into what they’re saying or doing.
It’s quite simple in practice. When you get the feeling that someone has finished a response to your question, hang in there for a few extra seconds.
But of course, it’s not always that easy. During one of these awkward silences, a user asked me, “I’m sorry, are you waiting for me?”. It was a bit of a cringe-worthy moment, but hey, if Marty Cagan said it’s my job to be a “bad conversationalist”, that’s fine by me.
Tip 2: Don’t be helpful…at all 💝
Our instincts tell us to explain the product to users. But in the real world, no one will be there to help the user one on day one.
That would be a product demo, not user research. In a product demo, you’re trying to showcase and impress. But in user research, you’re there to listen and learn.
I’ve definitely done a few sessions where I heard my voice a lot more than I would have liked!
It’s also our instinct to correct them on something they may have misinterpreted or if they can’t figure out something.
But the truth is, the only thing that can fail in a user research session is the prototype itself, not the user.
Tip 3: Manage your energy ⚡
User testing is hard work. You have a limited amount of time to learn a lot about a stranger.
You’re trying to unpack what they say (and what they actually mean), understand their motivations and be vigilant to how they’re reacting to what you’re saying or showing. And so, you want to make sure you’re present and energised before each session.
Once I accidentally organised 2.5 days of back-to-back user testing with only a slither of a break every couple of hours. The senior PM said I was “hardcore”, but the truth is, I forgot to set a buffer time on Calendly. 🤣
A lot of coffee got me through those days. ☕
At the end of the day…
It’s hard to beat validation from real users, and getting this validation is essential at all stages of the product development process. It’s always better to learn early than later!
Results aside, user research has unlocked some delightful moments. In many sessions, the people I interviewed were so excited about the product that they wanted me to email them when it’s ready to use. One even offered to share it with her personal finance community on Instagram!
These moments turn the research more than just research. It turns into a reminder that you’re working on a product that will have a meaningful impact on others’ lives. And that’s really what it’s all about.