UX Researchers have a difficult job - they take in all kinds of information from a wide range of sources and pull out the most relevant bits to help their teams build better experiences for end users. The best UX researchers are those who consistently find insights that lead to better experiences; but how does one consistently find insights when products and markets change so quickly? Treating UX research like a scientific endeavor certainly helps. In the same way that medical researchers adhere to the scientific method when conducting a research study, UX researchers should adhere to a similar method when looking for insights within customer feedback.
As a quick refresher, the scientific method is represented in the picture below. Put simply, you start by asking questions about something in the observable universe, then you form a hypothesis that gets tested, you analyze the results of that test, and either move forward with a conclusion or start again with a new hypothesis.
Creating Your Observable Universe
That first step in the scientific method of asking questions about our observable universe can be taken for granted; our brains do an amazing job of organizing the stimuli we come across, making it possible to recall memories and form questions about the things we've experienced in our lives. But when it comes to customer feedback, oftentimes there's just too much information for us to organize and recall. If you work for a mid-size company with over 50 employees, chances are you receive hundreds - if not thousands - of pieces of feedback EVERY DAY. And unfortunately, this feedback is often stored in a bunch of different systems, each creating their own unique observable "universe".
In order to leverage customer feedback in the early stages of user research, you first have to organize all of your feedback so that it exists in one place. The best way to do this is with NomNom, as we automatically ingest and organize feedback from all of your sources. It’s also possible to aggregate feedback in a spreadsheet or document, but doing so can get messy and tedious if you have a lot of feedback. Your goal should be to organize all of your feedback in one place, saving yourself from switching back and forth between different feedback systems.
Once you have all of your feedback in one place, it can be sifted for trends and themes that will help you form your research questions. One simple way to find themes in your customer feedback is to look for words or phrases that are mentioned multiple times - this helps you identify common issues or areas of interest across your customer base. There are also ways to organize customer feedback by creating hierarchies, which can facilitate finding trends and insights within your feedback.
Let’s say you notice a trend in your customer feedback where confusion during onboarding is mentioned multiple times. This observation lends itself to asking questions like:
What about our onboarding flow is confusing users?
How do we remove this confusion from our onboarding flow?
These are valid questions that can begin to be answered by diving deeper into the customer feedback you already have, collecting more feedback from users through surveys and interviews, looking at user journeys through your onboarding flow, or even conducting a paid usability test. You're not trying to answer your research questions definitively at this point - you're simply trying to understand the issue from your user's perspective in an effort to form a testable research hypothesis.
Forming a Testable Hypothesis
You’ve identified a trend in your feedback, developed questions about said trend, and dug deeper for possible answers. Now it’s time to develop a testable hypothesis that you can share with your team. The first step to developing this hypothesis is to summarize the answer to your research question in an if/then statement. Sticking with the onboarding flow example, perhaps you found that users were confused because an important piece of information wasn’t emphasized enough throughout the onboarding process. Your hypothesis could be stated as:
If we emphasize and reinforce the important piece of information at least three times throughout our onboarding flow, then more users will complete onboarding and convert to paying customers.
Now that you have your hypothesis, the next step is to determine your experiment, or how you will test your hypothesis. In the onboarding example above, perhaps the product team will launch a new onboarding flow that reinforces the important concept three separate times. When the experiment is pushed live, you’ll be able to observe the effects the change has on your conversion rate. If the change has a positive effect on your conversion rate, then you can say that your hypothesis is valid; if you don’t see any improvement to your conversion rate, then your hypothesis is invalid and you’ll have to form a new hypothesis to test.
Consistency Fuels Success
Consistency is key. Someone who is organized, data-driven, and creative will benefit from adhering to a research methodology because doing increases the probability of finding insights and developing valid hypotheses. If you want to be a superstar UX researcher at your organization, look to customer feedback as a source of insights to help you build better experiences.