If you’ve just begun a startup, and are laser-focused on ensuring that your product grows to become better, you need research.

Especially, digital products - like apps, games and platforms — need to take UX research with utmost seriousness.

Want to be relevant to the users and make them come back to your product? Then spend time on user research.

But a lot of budding startup teams usually find themselves lost. Without a path or a direction to conduct effective research. That also leads to another problem — no approval from decision makers for conducing research.

When no clear actionables are set for such activities, cold responses from teams are common. But give them a good framework with data to back it up, and everyone can be brought on-board.

That’s where the fundamentals help a lot.

Put fundamentals and good framework together, your UX research is all set to begin.

Vatsala Choudhary, UX designer and researcher at Khatabook (she's handling core experience of the app too), was with HelloMeets on September 13th.

Khatabook - Ledger app that maintains retailers debit and credit entry. Indian retailers love it.

And Vatsala shared some of the best practices of UX research, and how to start on using data. These are some of the battle-tested practices that made Khatabook retain their users at scale.

Fundamentals of User Research - and How to start one the right way

The five focus areas:

  • Using analytics and data for user research
  • Identifying the right users to start your research on
  • Customer support and using their insights for user research
  • External sources that helps research
  • One fun way to get data - usability testing

1. How can Startups use analytics for user research?

  • It gives you metrics to align your team to a common goal. If you have a North-star metric that is guiding your analysis.
  • It also lets you define the priority of your team.

    Khatabook recently wanted to introduce a Whatsapp opt-in feature — one that allows users to directly get their transaction history reports regularly on their number.  

    This feature was on a banner on the transaction history page. The banner had two call-to-action button - one primary - “Subscribe to whatsapp” and one secondary - “Not now”. The team decided to redesign the banner and make it more visually appealing by adding only a single CTA -”Subscribe to whatsapp”.

    What happened next? - Data comes to rescue!

    Once the updated banner was live, they started noticing a sharp drop in the number of Whatsapp opt-ins.

    How did they notice it? - Regular analysis of user behaviour, which shows data of users and what behaviour they show on the app. Upon noticing the drop-offs in users, Vatsala’s team reverted back to the older design to get their users to opt-in again. And they were successful.

    This is the benefit of regularly looking at data. Your features and designs fail less. And you also know what your users like on the app, based on their interaction.

    Ways to use data for User Research
    You can see the path of the user graphically to see their behaviour on the app by using “Flows” or “Path finder” feature on your analytics software.  Flows also help in creating cohorts.

    Notice the following data points:
  • Drop-offs: Which feature or screen is making users leave the app?
  • Funnel Analysis: Are they completing a task successfully through the steps & features you have given them in your user experience? Look for those who leave a screen mid-way.
  • Adoption: Which users are only using a few features and not the rest?

    Above buckets help in identifying user segments for user research. Each bucket will have a specific goal in mind before doing user research.

    Look at data on a regular basis, by using a good tool.

    Tools you can use: Amplitude, Gainsight, Google Analytics, Clever-tap, or Tableau.

2. How to Identify the right set of users for research

How to do this? How to find the target audience you want to research on?

On the data analytics tool you are using, find out users who are dropping off before or after using a feature.

After identifying them, divide them in the following buckets -

  1. Who is not using a feature at all, but are using the app well | And later find out why
  2. Who has used it once and dropped off | and later find out why
  3. Who is dropping off from the feature while using it
  4. The power users and whose success rate it high
  5. Inactive users

During the user interviews, your questions for users in each of these buckets will be different.

Once you start finding patterns in qualitative research, you'll be able to find out the exact sample size of users you need to interview for a feature. But begin first with 5 to 10 for each category to start with.

1 hack - once you start finding the same patterns, you can round off that number of sample size that works for your research.

Define persona of users, it helps to know the type of users to need to get data out of, to make your features more successful to more such users.

How to conduct User research interviews

Reading data has given you the problem that your user is facing on your platform. But interview will give you why they are facing it. The cause.

Empathise with your users to find out. Here's a framework you can use:

  • Prepare a questionnaire - have a set of questions ready. Focus to make them around the feature and the usage of your product.
  • Ask about their experience - Don't ask leading questions. Ask them generally about their experiences. Don't ask yes or no questions. Let them have their own time and pace of sharing their experience. Understand key causes of the problem.

Be laser-focused on ‘Why’ of the problems that users tell you

Drill down on the causes of the problem, with consistent questioning and exploration of its origin. Show them you care.

Give them assurance that you are working towards the goal of solving their issues. Build good bonds and relationships. Bring in a personal touch in your research.
How to approach your users for research?

  • Once you identify your users, find out the channels they hangout the most on
  • You can incentivize your research, by giving them some offering for their participation and time
  • You can reach out to users of products of your competitors for a casual chat [You can find them on LinkedIn or other social media platforms]

Tools to manage the information gathered from interviews and how to automate the presentation of pain points

  • Google sheets - Use constant columns of questions you'd ask, and keep adding user data under each, make a note of their intent to get interviewed again later.
  • Dovetail - use to note down interview notes, and tag them — like pain points, or complaints, feature suggestions, etc. Use it in real time when you're conducting the interview.
  • Notion - Make dashboards where interview data is listed for each customer. You can add tags to identify them better in terms of pain points, or issues, or changes they want. This will give you a fully organised view of whatever insights you have gathered.

How to recruit users consistently for research

  • Collect info from existing user data that they give to start using your platform
  • Ask people about other apps or products that they are using, ask about their experience about them, and see if they're open to discuss them. Incentivize them to give a review of your product, offer something that they'd give at the end of their review.

3. Customer support and using their insights for your research

  • Since they talk to users regularly, and solve their issues, they have insights.
  • Get records from them - including feature requests, glitches, etc on a daily basis.
  • They can also help you conduct surveys - they can call consistent active users and take insights from them. You just have to give them questionnaires
  • They also tell you the problems of the users. So they can tell you the issues with flows, layout and experiences that make the users reach out for support
  • They also allow you to understand the language of the users. What terms they recognize help and change with.
  • They can also help you understand the reaction of customers to your new features

    A tip: spend time with your Customer support team

4. External sources that help you do your user research

  • Look at Google Playstore reviews or places where your app is listed
  • Social media platforms. If you have a good social media presence, and people are engaging with you, you can create a space for asking questions about your product.
  • Watch your competitors. Just look at similarities in your features, and you might find good inspirations from their problem solving.

5. Usability testing and how it can save you from launching products that might fail

Vatsala gave an example from her time at Easyday.

Easyday | e-grocery app

They were planning to launch the product in a landscape mode.

So the researchers then went to the users who regularly visit at grocery stores that are listed on the app.

They did live testing of the app - the found out that the app was tedious to use [including the breaking of the users' mental models, getting lost during taking actions, too much eye movement]

They reworked on the design to make it in portrait mode. And save themselves from a huge failure.

What currently can you do for usability testing

  • Use google's Heart framework [Happiness, engagement, adoption, retention, task success]

Try framing questions and scenarios where users will give you data on each of these 5 points. If you're doing a live usability testing, gather their reactions as per these categories.

Tools you can use right away for usability testing

  • Whatsapp - send screenshots to some users and ask them live about what they feel about it.
  • Phone calls
  • Video calls - ask their consent and share your screens, and take their responses to your feature
  • Userberry - you can make a prototype and share the link with your users. You can get to know where they are clicking and get data of their behavior on your feature
  • Videos - you can share videos of the usage of you features, and share it with the users

Vatsala’s candid vibe + HelloMeets is one amazing combination, and here’s BIG SHOUT OUT to Vatsala for sharing amazing lessons on user research.