Remote user research - now’s the time
Wow. Things change fast.
It’s easy to look at recent changes in life and focus on the negative implications within the business world as opposed to the positives and potentials of the situation. However, I truly believe that we must adopt a positive and opportunistic perspective as we step forward - not just because it is the healthiest mental approach - but because there is value in it. There are positives and unique opportunities to come from this situation that if approached right could change the future success of your business.
Despite current challenges and pains, there will without a doubt be opportunities and gaps to appear as alternate markets and global demands return. One example of opportunity is the British public sector which is currently changing at rapid speed, innovation that couldn’t have been imagined without the current pandemic. We believe for these reasons that this situation will become what you make of it, and that your business's roadmap over the next weeks and months should reflect this and the opportunities that sit on the other side. Slowing business might be a pain for you now, but the growth and demand on the flip-side when the normal world is reborn in an inevitably different state will provide unbelievable opportunity. We’re currently working with clients towards that vision, so that when the time comes, they are set-to-succeed when their competition had only thought to survive.
So considering that vision and the unique changing circumstances of your users lives comes an opportunity to speak to them, to learn from them, and to use them to help us create better products and experiences as we prepare to take advantage of upcoming opportunities. One activity that right now is highly accessible and valuable is remote user research. Typically, in-person research is the preferred and most utilised form of user research, though this is of course currently impossible to conduct. Fortunately, we can utilise remote user research, of which the barriers are currently almost non-existent. Users are homebound, eager for a purpose to their day and many likely happy to be involved out of good-will, though if not, most will surely be happy to help with the most minimal of financial incentive.
Another reason why now is the right time is recruitment. Recruitment of participants is notoriously a painful and labouring task, one which would normally use up more time and project budget than anybody would wish to admit or accept - but not right now - we’re in a sellers market in this sense and users and their availability is in abundance.
So now is the time for remote user research for 4 reasons:
- You want to grow your business, your revenue, your brand equity for when the world goes back to normal and spending explodes.
- You need to make your product/app/website/services the best it can be so you are prepared to be the top of your industry and better than your competitors when the time comes.
- To do this, you need to ideate, create, validate and test your opinions and hypotheses of your product/app/website/services.
- Your end users are your lifeblood. Understanding their requirements, use-cases and pains is crucial to gather insight and make the correct evidence-based decisions for your project.
Simply, you should never fail because you didn’t do your due diligence, something you have complete control over. Now is the time to set foundations and for ‘Knowing’ as opposed to ‘Thinking’.
In any case, why is doing user research and being user-centred valuable to my project?
Research is valuable to you because it helps you create the product/app/website/services that works - as it needs to - for both your user and your own goals.
It is your due diligence, and duty to your users' needs that will save you from a failed project, the waste of budget and the real pain of having to revisit the project for a second time because it failed to deliver the first time.
Summed up in simple logical questions; would you rather there be a higher risk of failure or a lower risk? Obvious. Would you rather understand what you’re doing or have to assume you’re doing the right thing? Again, obvious. By basing the foundations of your project, product and focus in a user-centred and evidenced manner it is possible to both lower the risk of failure, and understand as much as you possibly can about your problem and journey before you embark on it.
So what does user-centred look like? It may be:
- An in-depth discovery stage where the hypothesis that forms the brief is poked, prodded and challenged to the point that the deliverable of the stage is an evidenced brief that forms the basis of the ongoing work
- Stakeholder workshops to align different or conflicting internal views, objectives and inputs so to create a clear and combined goal for the project and define the features/attributes of the product/app/website/service
- Remote user research to test the usability of your app or website, or to interview your users/stakeholders to truly understand their use cases, pains and invaluable individual perspectives
Now is a fantastic time to conduct any of these tasks in current circumstances, they're valuable to your business, your users are so easily accessible and the opportunities to your business will be changing day-by-day.
Time well spent
Committing to performing any of the above user-centred activities during the current locked-down environment would be time very well spent for your product or project. All can be conducted remotely, easily, and with access to a pool of the best internal team and engageable external users. Users that are sitting at home desperate for purpose, and naturally motivated to join your journey. Conducting any of the above tasks will add real and genuine business value in both the immediate and long term, and since now is the time to be thinking about the size of the opportunity at all of our feet, engaging users now and through the mentioned activities will give you a step-up and competitive advantage on your competition for when normality returns.
Process: Conducted within a 2-week sprint
For any of the user-centred processes detailed above, the current climate means that insight and value can be delivered within a 2-week sprint, 10 working days. Below is a typical roadmap for remote user research that can be delivered within this 2-week sprint.
- Kick-off session, requirements and problem gathering
- Recruitment brief and participant recruitment
- Discussion guide and mobilising for research
- Remote research
- Top-level findings and insights report
Don't miss the opportunity to prosper
The current uncertain climate is a window of opportunity for when the tide turns. When that time comes, this should be treated like a rebirth; the markets, consumer appetite, spending and competitive landscape may be different to that of two months ago - but that is exactly the opportunity - it will be undeniable. And whilst the hesitancy to risk investing money in your product/app/website/services at this moment is somewhat understandable, it is sensationalism and rooted in fear rather than complete rationality. Some of the biggest products and brands have been born out of recessions and collapses, gaps open up that in normal market activity may not, and the journey to that success starts with formative strategic planning and activity. This starts with a 2-week user-centred sprint - 2 weeks that will absolutely deliver insight, evidence and value, and potentially help to create your future.