step by step user research plan


The following is a guest post by Cherryl Pereira, Head of Content at Chisel Labs

What is the first thing you do when designing a product? You talk to your users.

User research should be an integral part of any design process, but it’s often overlooked.

This article will walk you through creating a user research plan so that you can start collecting data and validating assumptions about your product or service.

Let us understand the importance of a user research plan for your business.

User research plan: an overview

User research is the key to understanding your users and their needs.

It helps you identify what problem you are solving for them, understand how they currently solve the problem and assess whether your solution is feasible and valuable to them.

A user research plan document describes all of your planned user research activities in detail. This includes the who, what, when, where, why, and how of each activity.

A user research plan is typically created at the beginning of a product development project. It helps you define each research activity, estimate the time and resources required to conduct them, identify what materials are needed for them, etc.

Creating your user research plan can help avoid last-minute decisions that might prove costly or ineffective in the long run. A well-defined user research plan will ensure that you have an accurate understanding of users’ needs before designing your final solution.

Importance of a user research plan

A well-executed user research plan can help you achieve the following:

  • An efficient plan to understand your users and their needs.
  • Increase your chances of success for product development. A plan to increase the chances of success is easier when you create a user research plan. It will help you.
  • Build better products with greater value. An easy way to build better products is by using a well-thought-out research plan that can be executed on time and within budget.
  • Creating an effective user research plan allows you to make important decisions regarding your designs, schedules, more effectively. By creating a great user experience from the very beginning it helps ensure long-term engagement as well as customer satisfaction which leads to brand loyalty in the run.
  • Validate or invalidate your assumptions about your users. By regularly conducting research, you can validate or invalidate your assumptions about how users behave. This will ensure that the product is being built in a way that truly benefits its target audience.
  • Predict user behavior more accurately. By understanding what motivates people and predicting their actions better, researchers can design products with optimized resources. It helps create successful tools for businesses.

When creating a user research plan, there are a few key steps you need to take into account. Here is a detailed guide on how to create one.

Step-by-step guide on creating a user research plan

Step One: Define Your Research Goals

The first step in creating any research plan is your goals. What do you hope to achieve from the research? This should be a very focused and concise sentence, ideally with three to four goals.

Keep in mind that if your motivations for conducting user research aren’t clear or specific enough, it will make planning much more difficult later on. Because you won’t know what questions to ask or how to measure success.

Step Two: Define Your User Personas

Now that we’ve defined our goals (the ‘why’), let’s talk about who we want to do this research for/with (‘who’). In short – define personas.

To start, think of all the different types of people who interact with your product(s). If there are multiple audiences, list them out so they’re easily accessible down the line. For each persona, try to answer the following:

– Who are they?

– What do they need/want from your product(s)?

– How do they interact with your product(s)?

– Are there any other demographics you should consider (location, age, gender, etc.)?

Personas help us keep our research focused and relevant. They also make it easier to come up with questions later on because we have a specific target in mind. It’s important not to get too caught up in creating perfect personas.

The goal is simply to create a general idea of who we’re researching for. As always, feedback from stakeholders and team members is essential!

Step Three: Determine Research Methods

Now that we know who our target users are, it’s time to decide on the research methods we’ll be using. There are a variety of different techniques that can be used, so it’s important to tailor the selection to the specific needs of the project. Some common user research methods include interviews, focus groups, surveys, usability tests, and diary studies.

It’s also important to consider how much time and resources we have for this phase of the project. If there isn’t enough time for in-depth research, we may need to limit ourselves to less expensive or time-consuming methods like surveys or usability tests.

Step Four: Draft Questions

Once we’ve decided on our methods, it’s time to draft questions. The questions we ask during user research will help us understand our users and their needs.

Some things to keep in mind when drafting questions:

-The questions should be relevant to the project goals

-The questions should be clear and easy to understand

-The questions should be unbiased and not leading

Step Five: Recruit Participants

Now that we have a plan, it’s time to start recruiting participants. We’ll need a mix of people who fit our target audience and people who don’t.

This is done so that we can get a broad understanding of how users interact with our product. We’ll also need enough participants for each method we’re using.

It’s important to note that not everyone is comfortable participating in user research, and that’s okay. Just let us know if someone is not comfortable.

Step Six: Conduct User Research

This step can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of months depending on the research methods you choose and how much data you need. To make sure we get accurate results, all participants need to follow the same procedure before they begin using our product (or website).

We’ll want them to complete any tasks related to what they’re trying to accomplish so that their first impression isn’t tainted by something else happening in the background or other people around them influencing their behavior without knowing it.

This also helps ensure users can do things like form an opinion about various features within reason. Otherwise, it could be a sign that those features aren’t easy enough to use for everyone.

Step Seven: Analyzing the Issues and Keeping Track of Data

If we’re going to be talking about actions users take and what they say, then we must find a way for this information to inform us. We’ll want to look at the big picture as well as each user so that we can see how people use the product (or website) compared to others.

For example, if one person experiences an issue with uploading photos but no other participant does – maybe there is something up with their network or photo app? On the flip side though, if everyone has issues uploading photos then perhaps there is something wrong on our end.

This could mean anything from bugs in specific features within reason, permissions allowing access when they shouldn’t, and so on.

Keeping in mind these two extremes will help us figure out where the product stands concerning our users’ needs.

Final thoughts

A user research plan is very important for your website or application.

It can help you to understand your users and their needs, which will help you create a better product.

To create a user research plan, you need to first understand the basics of user research.

Once you have a basic understanding of user research, you can begin creating your specific plan.


Cherryl Pereira


Cherryl Pereira is the Head of Content at Chisel. Chisel Labs is a premiere agile product management software company that brings together roadmapping, team alignment, and customer connection.


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