Three Phases of User Research: Experiences from an AI Startup | by Anna Podvoiska | Mar, 2023

In this article, I will share my experience conducting user research at Claid.AI, an AI startup. As a small company, we do not have a separate research department.
Instead, we have built a process where each department conducts research specific to their role. Our sales, customer care, and marketing teams collect insights and users feedback.
As part of the product team, I receive a lot of valuable information about our users’ behavior, motivations, and needs.

What is user research?
User research is the practice of understanding users’ needs, behaviors, and motivations through various methods such as interviews, surveys, observations, and usability testing. The insights gathered from user research are used to inform the design and development of products and services that better meet users’ needs and preferences.

In our team we have three phase of users research:
– Discovery phase
– Testing phase
– Ongoing listening

Let’s go through each phase!

Phase 1
In the discovery phase, we focus on user interviews and contextual inquiries. In this phase, we have hypotheses, and before we start building a new feature, we want to find evidence to validate that it’s the right one for our users.

How do we collect insights from our users?
Usually, we create a Typeform and post it where our focus group can see it. Studying the user is beneficial. Questionnaires are an effective way to gather information, as people are willing to provide answers voluntarily.
We also send email newsletters with a link to the Typeform to collect more responses.

In some cases, the product team asks other departments to ask customers specific questions during calls or chats.

And of course, in this phase, we collect insights about our competitors.

Once we have gathered enough information, we move on to wireframing and design.

Phase 2
The testing phase is more about dogfooding, concept testing, and usability testing. We conduct this stage only if we have major updates or something completely new.

Usually, we prefer to conduct user testing on a beta version of the feature in our staging environment.
As soon as we have something ready in our testing environment, we start reaching out to the focus group that was collected in the previous step and invite them to test the beta version. This is called moderated usability testing.

During this process, a moderator doesn’t guide the participants through a series of tasks. The moderator is only able to ask the participants follow-up questions about why they did something and take notes on their interactions and feedback. This helps us to identify any usability issues or areas for improvement before the product or service is launched to the public.

During this phase, we gather a lot of valuable insights. All departments and team members involved in the product development use this information to identify areas for improvement. Based on these insights, we work collaboratively to enhance the product or service to ensure it meets the needs and expectations of our target audience.

My focus is to understand if my design is intuitive and easy to use and if there are any usability problems. Users should be able to easily accomplish their goals and complete their tasks with our product.

If we don’t have major updates, and instead only have minor changes, we prefer not to spend time on moderated usability testing as an intermediary step between idea and public release. Instead, we prefer to push the changes directly to production. And have two ways, it is AB testing with phase rollout or deliver feature straight into production and monitoring analytics.

Phase 3
Once a feature has been launched, it’s about ongoing listening.
Ongoing listening involves continually monitoring and gathering feedback from users after the product has been released to the public. This can be achieved through a variety of methods, including surveys, user feedback forms, social media monitoring, and customer support interactions. By actively listening to users, you can identify any issues or concerns they may have with the product, as well as opportunities for improvement or new features.

1–2 weeks after the first public launch is time for monitoring the product.
We observe all information around the feature. The team is actively looking for any feedback, comments, or concerns related to the feature.

We check customer support and customer care requests. Try to indicate the issues related to the feature.

As a principle designer, I track key metrics and user behavior related to the feature.

It’s also important to engage with users in a meaningful way, making them feel valued and heard. Responding to user feedback promptly and transparently, and taking action on their suggestions

This phase is endless. There is no limit to improvements.

I hope this information was useful! 🙂

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