ARTICLE: Emily Nordwick

Squeeze the most value out of each round of UX testing with early research recaps

As an EdTech product owner, you likely know the drill when it comes to UX testing. You work with your UX research team to identify testing priorities. Next, your research team goes off and conducts user tests. A week or two later, you receive a report documenting your research team’s findings. 

This typical approach to UX testing certainly gets the job done. But what if we told you there’s a better way — a very simple tweak to this process that allows you to be more engaged in user testing, drive more value out of each round of UX research, and iterate more quickly? The solution can be found in what we call “early research recaps.” 

What are Early Research Recaps? 

At Openfield, we make a point of being transparent about our process. Product owners are always welcome to be present at their product’s test sessions. In fact, we encourage their participation. Frequently, however, our client’s busy schedules make that level of participation unrealistic. In the past, this has seemed like an all or nothing proposition: Attend the test sessions, or wait until the testing is over to hear the team’s high-level findings. 

Over time, we’ve discovered a “middle way” that allows product owners to participate more actively in the testing process with a much lower time commitment. Enter early research recaps. 

Early research recaps are short daily check-ins that take place after each day of testing is complete. These meetings are used to share early findings, pinpoint unforeseen issues, craft follow-up questions that allow researchers to dig deeper, and identify opportunities to pivot in order to capture the most useful information. 

These brief meetings deliver loads of value. By getting bite-sized, high-level findings from each day’s test sessions, you have the flexibility to weigh in and modify the remaining test sessions as needed to answer your most pressing questions and derive the highest value from each round of research. 

Early research recaps allow your UX team to test more efficiently by using feedback to evolve subsequent tests (in terms of which workflows are used and how testing is conducted) and produce faster, more focused, and more meaningful results. This isn’t a blank check to overhaul your design or testing protocols midstream based on a handful of early results, but it does allow you to tweak your process, and sometimes even your designs, to gain deeper insights. As you might expect, this approach to testing is especially helpful if your own product development process is fast-moving, agile, and iterative.

 

The Benefits of Early Research Recaps to Inform Usability Testing

Early research recaps yield many benefits, both in terms of the UX research process and your product itself. When you participate in early research recaps, you enable your team to: 

  • Pivot. In the context of user testing, the first test session usually sets the precedent for how the rest of the test sessions will (or won’t) go. Early research recaps allow you and your research team to review early findings and make changes based on that initial feedback. For example, if the first test session uncovers an unexpected user challenge, you might plan to adjust the script, testing workflows, or even your product’s prototype to ensure that the new challenge is properly assessed and resolved. Daily research recaps also give you the opportunity to tell your research team if your own agile process has resulted in a newly discovered change in priorities. 
  • Dig Deeper. With well-conceived and executed UX research, each test session yields a wealth of information and insights. By meeting to discuss each day’s findings, you give yourself the opportunity to essentially ask follow-up questions in subsequent test sessions. During early research recaps, researchers and stakeholders can work together to identify areas of the test script where they can delve deeper (or scale back). If you wait until an entire round of UX research is complete to discuss the findings, those follow-up questions will also have to wait for the next round of research to occur. 
  • Squeeze the most value from each round of research. As we’ve already established, interacting with your UX researchers during each day of testing allows you to modify the testing as you go in an effort to respond to the next set of questions that naturally arises. In doing so, you derive more value from each round of research — and ultimately save your team time and money in the process. 
  • Encourage deeper collaboration and open communication. UX research is most effective when stakeholders and researchers strike the right balance of trust and collaboration. Early research recaps keep stakeholders in the loop about what is happening as it occurs. This builds trust while at the same time encouraging product teams and UX teams to work as collaboratively as possible.  
  • Better support a fast-paced, agile process. In the world of agile development, priorities shift quickly as product teams iterate and find new solutions. By the time your UX team begins another round of testing, your priorities may already have shifted. Early research recaps keep product teams and research teams on the same page even in fast-paced development scenarios where goals and priorities are shifting quickly. We have found that talking through early test results allows product owners to visualize how the research will apply to their product. These discussions enable your research team to shift priorities as needs to make sure everyone’s goals are truly aligned
  • Better results. The more involved product owners and stakeholders are in the testing process, the better positioned they are to make deeply informed decisions about the product and achieve better outcomes. Early research recaps give product owners deeper access without requiring an all-in commitment of time.

As always, we’re happy to hear from you if you’d like to know more about how you can implement these changes to your UX research program.

  • Photo of Emily Nordwick
    Emily Nordwick

    A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, D.A.A.P.’s Industrial Design program, Emily blends a strong product design background with a love for learning about the world around her. Her passion for exploring and understanding people, places and cultures is not only reflected in her work, it inspires her to travel and study foreign languages (she’s currently working to improve her High German). She doesn’t just pass through a destination, she immerses herself. On a recent trip across Western Europe, she lived in a van for a three months, touring the Bavarian lakes region of Germany and waking to watch surfers off the northern coast of Spain. She enjoys outdoor activities like camping and biking with her dad on evenings and weekends, which she says is a great time to focus on the series of science fiction books for young adults that she hopes to see published in the future.

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