The UX Research Plan or also called a user research plan, is an overview of the research project’s goals, key contributors, dates, and timelines. In short, this is like a kick off document of your project where we can see a well-defined goals, which serves as a written guarantee that the research will meet these goals.
In this article, we will dive deeper to the UX research plan, which also involves the following related topics:
If you have worked in the UX industry, you may have encountered a lot of UX research, which by the way is a complex process. Thus, to utilized the UX research in its outmost potential, the process has to be organized.
Whether the UX research consists of just a several interviews, it is recommended that you have a UX research plan to make it effective and focused.
A good research plan entails that everyone in the team is on the same page. It also includes that the deadlines are met, and the research report are always relevant to the agreed objectives.
UX research plan defined
When it comes to usability testing or UX research with a goal in mind, researchers need to get a UX research plan.
In general, UX researchers are expected to present the research findings to stakeholders such as product managers, developers, marketers, and executives, to act on those results.
Thus, it is recommended that the UX research plan uses a simple language that are placed in a single document. Always keep your findings clear, collaborative, easily accessed, and digestible to get approval for your research and move you and your team to the next steps.
One of the benefits of a UX research plan is to keep the team focused on any outcomes, instead of getting lost in the details or changing the research goal midway through the project.
UX researchers should feel confident that all questions were answered and presented in both the research plan and actual research.
UX research plan benefits
Having a UX research plan on hand can help streamline the research process easily and at the same time keep the stakeholders on the same page.
Aside from this, below are several benefits of planning a user research:
As previously mentioned, a user research plans ensure that every member on the team is clear on the following: objectives, timelines, and expectations. Furthermore, it also provides team members a reference document to keep everyone on the same page, including the stakeholders.
Helps achieve UX goals
Solid research plans help the product team stay focused and on track. It reminds everyone on the team the high-level goal and acknowledges the progress made.
Helps stakeholders engage
A written UX research plan template is a great way to involve stakeholders in the research project and turn them into active participants instead of just passive observers.
Let us now dive in to our suggested research plan template that you can utilize for your research:
Steps involved in creating a user research plan
Step 1: Write the research background
The research plan background section should be short. It should contain the recent history of the project, the reason you are conducting the research, and what your product team is trying to accomplish. In one paragraph, you should be able to clearly tell everyone the purpose of the study.
The background section also include the problem statement. A few ways to identify the problem statement include interviews with stakeholders, a deep analysis of the current data, or team sessions to brainstorm.
Step 2: Identify the research objectives
Get a clear objective before getting in a room with users or your target customers. The research objective drives all the research questions you’ll be asking the test participants during the user interview process.
Here are several important questions to answer when you are composing your research planning objectives:
- Why are you conducting user research?
- What problems do you hope to solve?
- What is the end goal after completing the research?
Getting answers to these questions should be a collaborative effort between stakeholders and team members involved in the project.
Step 3: Identify the stakeholders
Who are the stakeholders? The research project stakeholders could be employees in sales, customer support, executives, or product teams.
Once you have listed everyone you think should be involved, set up a meeting to brainstorm ideas and collect input such as pain points. It’s easier to deliver the right insights when the right stakeholders are involved in the project.
Step 4: Study previous research
Have any studies been done on this topic in the past? Perhaps your competitors or in-house teammates have published previous findings that will work as the basis of your research? The answers will help you determine where to begin.
Step 5: Recruit participants
After defining the problem statement and objectives, it’s time to create a user testing profile. Choosing the right user test participants is one of the essential parts of a research method project.
When creating user profiles, start with characteristics like occupation, age group, geography, and level of engagement with the product. Then, determine the number of participants to recruit for each UX research method (quantitative research or qualitative research or both).
We advise you include a collaboration with all stakeholders to brainstorm a hypothesis on who your participant profiles. Analyze your competitors to see what type of users they have in their audience.
If you have a database, consider looking inwards to customers who already know your product. If you don’t, use a research recruitment platform to find number of participants.
Step 6: Create the right KPIs and metrics
The KPIs and metrics will determine your research success. Examples of success metrics include:
- Time on task
- Specific information about the user
- Decisions that the collected data will help you make
- Statistics you intend to create
Step 7: Outline the research focus and scope
Outlining the research sessions focus areas leads to efficient research planning. The deeper you dive to hone in on the specific information you want to gather from the research, the more clarity you’ll have.
Step 8: Create the questions
Write down all the research questions to ask during user interviews. You can start by examining what you already know about the existing problem such as insights from previous research. Find any knowledge gaps and create questions around them.
If you want to brainstorm your questions, determine if the goal is to create a new design or to improve an existing design.
If your goal is to build the right design, then your questions will focus on observing user behavior and leveraging mental research method models.
If the goal is to fix an existing design, then you’ll ask questions about usability to improve the current design. Whatever the goal is, always use open-ended questions.
Step 9: Determine the budget
Budget is an important element as it plays a role in the data gathered and how the research is conducted. Of course, you can expect that with a lot of budget on hand means flexibility to outsource to a dedicated recruitment service, run paid campaigns, and even increase the incentives for test participants.
More money also means an easy process in choosing the right UX methods, which helps achieve a quality insight.
Step 10: Create a timeline
The UX research plan template also requires creating a timeline for executing the research plan. Always lets stakeholders and clients know how long the research will take. There might be different expectations between what you think the timeline should be versus the client’s expectation.
Consider the following when it comes to creating the project timeline:
- Project scale
- Timeframe for data collection and research analysis
- Timeframe for recruiting test participants
- Number of team members included in research activities
- Unforeseen circumstances such as participants showing up late or needing to reschedule for another day
Step 11: Develop research protocols
The research protocol is also part of the UX research plan template. This is a list of questions and tasks during in-person sessions. It also includes a list of research techniques that are chosen.
A common practice is to write down the opening and closing statement of your UX interview. It begins with an explanation of the product, research objectives, and how long each interview session will take. In the end, you thank the participant for their time and answer any questions they might have.
Step 12: Determine the research methods
As a starting point, when it comes to choosing the right UX research methods, also include the reasons why these methods are chosen in the first place.
While there are dozens of research methods to choose from, your choices should be informed by your interview questions. Some, like A/B tests and surveys, are suited for quantitative research while others like user interviews and contextual inquiries work best for qualitative research.
Step 13: Choose UX research tools
When choosing UX research tools, consider the following:
- Are you recruiting research participants internally from your database or externally?
- Is it going to be a usability test?
- Will you conduct interviews via video conferencing?
- How will you store and analyze research data?
- Are you going to A/B test certain elements for conversion?
- Will you conduct surveys to collect mass feedback?
Step 14: Research insights and findings
This is the final stage of a UX research plan. The insights are determined by the goals of the research, and considering the following questions:
- Is the goal about how to improve an existing product
- Is the goal about how to create a new product?
- Who are the stakeholders that will read the results?
Always document the entire process and include details about setbacks you faced along the way, the objectives, methodologies or template used, the number of research participants, and session materials. This way, your team can have an overview to look back on when conducting the next research project.
This article is a good guide in helping you build a UX research plan from scratch. The research plan template that we suggested may seem like a long process, we guarantee that it will be worth the time and effort as this will confidently embark you on your incoming projects with clear goals, deliverables, and presenting of insights and results that will be recognized and appreciated by everyone involved in the UX research and UX design process.
On top of this all, remember that time is money. Once you’ve gone through an entire UX research project, it is recommended that you hold a later review to identify the things you could improve on. Once you uncover what went well and what can be improved, you can turn your UX research plan into a useful and cost-efficient template for your team and organization.