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An Affordable Approach to User Research Methods

Analyzing affordable user research methods

“Test early. Test often.” It’s the mantra of many user researchers trying to rate the appeal and effectiveness of a particular website, app, campaign or collateral.

This advice certainly makes logical sense. Test what you’ve got, be it a digital app, training program, brochure or website. Then make improvements. Test a little more, and make further updates. Repeat. Who wouldn’t see the practical value in doing that?

Unfortunately, it turns out, many marketing executives test neither early nor often, usually because of these two beliefs:

  1. Their companies aren’t set up to conduct user research
  2. The user research methods will be too expensive and time-consuming

The good news is, there are practical arguments to counter both of these concerns. And the user experience research method  known as Rapid Iterative Prototype Testing, or RIPT, figures prominently in both.

Four Steps to Practical RIPT

The concept behind Rapid Iterative Prototype Testing is gathering a group of the “right” users or audience members to ask about your app, site, product or service on an ongoing basis. To do this, however, you must set their expectations and establish a system that allows you to leverage users’ participation on a longer term basis, and, through repeated panel sessions, test your product, messaging and/or service, analyze the results and make incremental improvements.

Although it’s true that many companies aren’t set up for RIPT, there is outside help with the experience to take this on. More importantly, RIPT need not be cost- or time-prohibitive, which speaks to No. 2. The right research partner can make the process affordable, practical and effective by incorporating four major practices:

Step 1: Establish the right panel of target audience participants.

If you hope to receive feedback from your audience members on a regular basis, gather a list of individuals you can consistently rely on. Start with a small number if you need to, and explain that you hope to seek their input periodically, and that they will be compensated, say with a $100 gift card, each time they participate.

Also, establish clear methods of communication for these panels. Will they be “meeting” you digitally? Set up those tools and channels early on, educating panelists on how to use them if necessary.

Step 2: Set clear expectations with all stakeholders about the process flow and timing.

Cost-effective RIPT, by definition, happens quickly. Therefore it’s important that the team conducting RIPT research, which may be an in-house research team or an agency like Point To Point, establishes a level of trust and common understanding with you, as its client.

In our case, this often means requesting a relatively fast turnaround from clients when they review discussion guides and reports. We may also seek to prepare the resulting reports with a similar focus on cost- and time-efficiency. In some cases, that might be a PowerPoint presentation, while in others it could be spreadsheet summaries and marked-up documents. Whatever format helps us convey our findings as quickly and effectively as possible is ideal for the most cost-conscious and effective RIPT. Most importantly, our clients can trust us to get all the answers, guidance and suggestions necessary to improve the experience at hand.  

Step 3: Plan ahead, batching efforts whenever possible.

Have you ever tried to schedule one-hour sessions with 15 different people in a three-day window across six different time zones? It can be a logistical nightmare, so we lay out every step of at least the first two rounds of our study in advance. This means scheduling each panelist for at least two panel sessions at the outset. Then, during each session, we schedule or confirm the next one. This cuts down dramatically on the hours spent navigating panelists’ schedules, and it keeps the lines of communication open for future participation.

Step 4: Have extremely clear goals for each session.

To be most effective, your RIPT coordinator or agency should help you pinpoint the goal(s) for each session. Are you seeking qualitative feedback about the website taxonomy? Or are you trying to identify content gaps and how to fill them? Having clearly defined goals will help your RIPT team write an effective discussion guide quickly and report the findings very efficiently. Having specific objectives ensures that the entire project runs smoothly and that it results in actionable outcomes.

Looking for More? We Can Help.

Want to learn more about RIPT and how it can be an affordable, effective way to understand and connect with your audience? Contact us for details or a practical user research plan.

Topics: General