005: Design discovery part 1 — User research

— 4 minute read

User research is so important to do before you make any assumptions—even if it’s just a quick survey for your users to fill in. You can learn so much by asking users questions about the product that you’re working with. If you haven’t got a product to ask users about, then it’s a little trickier because things get more hypothetical, but there’s still value in running surveys in that context.

Luckily for me, I’ve got my minimum viable product to work with, so I can run the survey based on that!

For this part of the design discovery, I’m going to answer the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of Piccalilli?
  • How many users are interacting with it, currently?
  • What are the most common friction points within the current product?
  • How is Piccalilli’s performance currently measured?
  • Do users struggle to sign up or read each issue?

It’s only a few questions, but this is only a small, simple project. I could go to town and conduct deep, face-to-face interviews, which I enjoy, but it’d be like taking a sledgehammer to crack an egg.

The purpose of this project is to almost deliver the same platform as I already have—which as I write this, seems odd—but the end goal is flexibility (I won't say “scale” again, don’t worry) and to improve the product, long term. It would be good to make improvements where I think they’re needed, though and a survey will help either confirm or deny those early assumptions that I’ve already made (I am human after all).

The survey permalink

I published a survey here, that featured 6 short questions. I'll explain the reasoning behind each one.

How easy was it to subscribe to Piccalilli? permalink

When I first launched Piccalilli on Curated, I got quite a few folks sending me messages reporting problems with signing up to the newsletter. Some weren’t getting the confirmation emails and some just couldn’t get past the CAPTCHA (I hate CAPTCHA with a passion), so there’s some concern there for me.

This question should give me a quantitative overview of how signup is currently.

If you answered “Difficult”, can you give a short summary of why that was? permalink

This is pretty self-explanatory: if folks found it difficult, I want to find out why. Often in these qualitative answers, you can find little nuggets of information or an interesting method of doing things that you’d never think of yourself.

What best describes the environment that you read the Piccalilli newsletter? permalink

I want to see what the reading landscape looks like. I have a hunch that most will read on mobile, but as always with surveys: people can surprise you.

How does the newsletter load in your environment permalink

This is directly related to the previous email. I just want to get a quantitate idea of how the content currently loads for folks in their environment.

Why did you subscribe to Piccalilli? permalink

I made this one a multi-option answer because it’d be great to query this data to work out what the most popular reason is that folks subscribed was. It’ll help me work out what sort of content to prioritise in the future.

If you have any further comments about Piccalilli, please add them here permalink

Another opportunity for someone to give me a little nugget of information. Free-text answers, if you have time to read through them, are a gold mine.

Wrapping up permalink

At least two of the questions that I set out to answer in this design discovery phase will be answered by the survey, which is great. Along with questions that can be answered with simple metrics, I’ll be in a really strong position to move on and create myself some formal documentation, which of course, I’ll publish for you to see.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, I normally like to conduct face-to-face interviews, too, but this project is a bit small to warrant that. For a client project, I always insist on either myself or them conduct recorded interviews with users. The reason for this is—you guessed it: users give all sorts of useful nuggets of knowledge in those situations 🙂