How To Define Your Learning Goals For a User Research

May 15, 2023

To receive answers to your questions, you first need to ask yourself if you are asking the right questions. And with those what are you trying to learn?

Let's start with where are you right now and what are you trying to achieve. Are you at the beginning of creating a startup? Or do you wish to introduce new features to your users? Maybe you are even planning to buy a legacy business and want to redesign and refresh everything. Or are you trying to solve a problem?

Setting goals is an essential part of planning. - Photo by Ronnie Overgoor on Unsplash

For my recent user research, I wanted to redesign an existing mobile and web app and improve the user experience. How the current version of the mentioned apps was created is unknown to me, but I assume the product owner hasn’t had any user research in mind while developing it (public sector).

To define your right user research subjects you need to know a bit more about them. Having the user persona helps, but having real data about those people helps you determine the right participants for the exact goal of your research. Drafting criteria for your user interview participants will help you drill down to your users. For example, for my user research, it was important that I get to talk to the users that use the current mobile and web app, so I can hear first-hand from them about their frustrations and needs.

“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” - Wernher von Braun

When identifying  your research goals you need to have in mind:

  • What do I want to know? This is the main question and will be further refined into specific, actionable, and practical research questions.
  • What don’t I know yet? Identify knowledge gaps and limitations early, so you can aim to correct them.
  • How will I know when I’ve learned it? What must be true for this research to be considered “done”? Then does it end?
  • What business goals will this work support? It’s a good idea to be familiar with the organization’s business model, key performance metrics and objectives.
  • Where am I in the product development process? Your research goals will look different depending on whether you’re in the discovery, validation and testing, launch, or ongoing listening phase.
  • What decision will this research encourage? What actions might stakeholders take based on the information received from your research?
  • What are the anticipated outcomes of this research? What would success look like for you in such a situation?

At the core of my research, I wanted to sole speak to the users and listen to what they have to say. Based on what they already had and used I wanted to hear about what they think and feel. Ideas come best from the source, that’s why I asked as many open-end questions as possible to get to understand what the users actually would need and appreciate as a design change. Mini ideation conversation also was present in a few of the interviews. Along the way with my research, I also started to test my own biases and find out from people around me what they believed was true about the product.

That’s it. That’s how you start defining your learning goals. 😊

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