User Research at platformOS
“Empathy is at the heart of design. Without the understanding of what others see, feel, and experience, design is a pointless task.” — Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO
Why do we do user research?
The most fundamental reason for doing user research is that it’s the only way to achieve an understanding of the people who are going to use our product. If we understand our users, we can make designs that are relevant to them. We want to ensure that we create products that deliver a great user experience for the platformOS community.
Our goal with the user research is to understand user expectations, behaviors, needs, and motivations through methodical, investigative approaches. We do user research at all stages of the product development process because there’s always something useful to learn. We believe that each research round—no matter what stage we are at in the design and development processes— will increase the value of our product.
Each stage has a fitting UX research method that we might apply, depending on the roadmap, time constraints, stage of product/feature, and the current concerns.
Design Thinking: The core of the Design Thinking process is to empathize with users. It focuses on conducting different types of interviews and observations of people in the contexts where they will use the design. At the start, we explored our audience, our documentation needs, existing and missing content through in-depth interviews and workshops. In Design Thinking terms, this was the Empathize phase. Then, we defined Personas and our Content Inventory (Define), shared our ideas for content and features through a Card Sorting exercise (Ideate) and created Journey Maps. Based on our findings, we created a sitemap and prioritized content needs. Layouts and wireframes creation, and content production (Prototype) started based on the results of our discovery phase, and then we continuously improved features and content based on feedback from real users (Test). We wrote a case study on how we developed our documentation site with this method: Building Our Documentation Site on platformOS — Part 1: Information Architecture
Interviews: We meet with users, sales and support persons to discuss in depth what the participant thinks about the topic in question.
Remote Usability Testing: Usability testing involves asking potential or current users of a product or service to complete a set of tasks and then observing their behavior to determine the usability of the product or service.
- Moderated Remote Usability Testing allows you to conduct user research with participants in their natural environment. Participants are observed and interacted with while they complete the tasks for the test. Moderated testing is best for complex tasks that do not have a structured sequence of steps or where more interaction and questioning will benefit testing.
- We also run Unmoderated Remote Usability Tests. These are designed to measure how satisfied a user is with the interface of the product. The idea is that participants will work through a task in their usual environment without the need for a moderator to be present.
Card sorting: a quantitative or qualitative method that asks users to organize items into groups and assign categories to each group. This method helps create or refine the information architecture of a site by exposing users’ mental models.
Tree tests: Tree tests are helpful in validating the information architecture. In a tree test, users are given a task and shown the top level of a site map and they are asked to talk about where they would go to accomplish the task.
Surveys, Questionnaires: Questionnaires and surveys are an easy way to gather a large amount of information about a group. This quantitative data can help us to have a better understanding of specific topics that we can further research with other methods.
Analytics review: Using site analytics we gather quantitative data about usage and identify possible flow breaks that we can further test in usability research.
How do we use the results?
We collect the key information and summarize the key takeaways. Of course, each research method has its own way to analyze and synthesize the results. The goal is to find patterns that emerge across participants, also to have a better understanding of related items, and underlying reasons for the different behaviors/answers, etc. As a next step, we ensure that insights are then utilized and all product design decisions are in line with the results. We also share the results with our community in the weekly status reports and here on our documentation site.
How can you participate?
We post updates here and in our status reports on our blog about ongoing research activities. Each research exercise shares information about the goals of the study and the target audience so you can more easily decide if you feel you can contribute to that specific project.