It’s not easy designing the perfect product for your customers, but having a recipe makes it a little easier. Not only does effective product design involve blending in elements of psychological motivation, but it’s also useful to pepper in some user research to see what your customers actually want, listening to their words and actions.
But user research can cost a lot of money and take time…right? It doesn’t have to! Amy Bucher, a behavioral scientist at Wellness and Prevention, a Johnson and Johnson company, has mastered a method for success.
Amy’s back for a third time teaching class at Intelligent.ly, and this time it’s a double header! Not only will she teach one of our most widely attended class about design psychology, but she’ll also take it a step further and teach a second class a week later about user research tools and tricks.
We asked her for the inside scoop about user research and how it’s applicable to your company. Read on to learn how.
You’ve taught at Intelligent.ly before and are now back for round three. What are you looking forward to in teaching a two-part series of classes?
AB: At both of my previous classes, people asked a lot of questions about how to test their products, so the new second course seemed like a natural choice. I’m excited to have that continuity of conversation from the first course to the second. I’m also really excited to hear how members of the Intelligent.ly community are considering using user tests in their product lifecycle. I think when people have minimal background on these research techniques, they sometimes come up with the most clever ways to implement them, because they haven’t been spoiled by the idea that there’s only one or two “right” ways to answer these questions.
You’ve spoken before about how consumers provide unreliable judgments of their future behavior. What is the most surprising finding you’ve come across in your work where a consumer’s behavior diverges from their opinion?
AB: There’s a huge divide between what people intend to do and what they actually do. I read one interesting explanation of this in Baumeister and Tierney’s Willpower: We make a wrong assumption that our future self will have much more motivation and energy than our current self, so we sign her up for a workout or a volunteer session that turns out to be just as unappealing then as it is now. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that we can overcome this resistance by helping people find a really personal motivation source. We’ve started to encourage people to write a “mission statement” right off the bat when they start participating in our health programs, and we find that the people who do that are way more likely to stick with the program over time. You’ve got to be doing it for your own reasons or you won’t keep it up.
Your second class focuses on user research techniques. What are the main differences between the quantitative and qualitative research methods and what is each good for finding?
AB: I started my career as a total qualitative research snob; if you couldn’t run an inferential statistic on it, it didn’t matter. Fortunately for me I’ve come to see the incredible value of qualitative data. For me, qualitative data is most useful when I am at my least informed. At the very beginning stages of product development, I like to ask potential users what they need and observe their habits as much as possible. Casting a wide net at this stage lets me look for patterns and begin to identify features or concepts that are important. When I have a more solid idea of the product design, I find quantitative testing can be really useful. Which version gets higher ratings or more clicks?
There are other differences between the two beyond this; for example, qualitative research typically doesn’t require a very big sample size, where a lot of quantitative studies require tens if not hundreds of participants. That can also make qualitative research very attractive to start-ups, because the data is relatively inexpensive to obtain.
In what ways can a company immediately implement findings from their user research without having to completely overhaul their product?
AB: Great question! One way is to focus the research on a specific feature or area that you’ve identified as needing a revamp. An example in my line of work is that we recently tested the branding in our recruitment messages, which is just one small piece of our product, but could make a big difference in our enrollment numbers. Once your product is on the market, I think it’s generally a good idea to do spot tests on specific features (or on specific features you could add to augment the original product), especially if you receive repeated user feedback about a particular aspect.
I also think it’s important to let your users know you hear them. You may run user tests that indicate the need for a big change, but not be able to implement that right away. Consider letting your users know that you have plans to address their feedback in future releases, and if you can, make a few smaller updates that move the product in the right direction. By the way, this tip is straight from self-determination theory: Getting people to feel “relatedness” will help motivate them to use your product.