It’s impossible to spend as much time developing businesses as John Zeratsky has and not pick up best practices along the way. John is a co-founder and general partner at Character, a seed-stage investment firm. John and the Character team don’t just invest capital into budding businesses, though; they work alongside them in sprints. Character companies are in good hands since Jake Knapp, the fund’s co-founder and advisor, invented the Design Sprint and wrote a New York Times bestselling book on working in sprints.
In a recent discussion, John shared his top tips for completing better user research.
How do you close the gap between knowing you should do user research and getting your team on board? According to John, simply listing out the pros of research usually isn’t enough. “You can't convince somebody to care about something they don't already care about,” he shared.
Instead, John suggests leading with the value of the research outcome.
“My philosophy has always been to lead with value. Instead of “you should do research,” it's, “you have this huge question, and you don't know the answer to this existential risk that you're facing; I have some ideas for how we might figure that out.”
Explaining how research could answer questions in six weeks with prototypes and interviews versus in six months without them can be motivating. If you want to help your team do more research, start by finding the questions and risks that keep them up at night.
We’re proponents of continuous research here at Great Question. Making research a part of company culture doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all, though. John recognizes that setting a clear focus at the beginning of a sprint keeps everything on track.
“Tying research to concrete goals or questions is going to help [you] get unstuck. Sometimes there’s a case for very open-ended [research]. But even so, you probably come into [a project] with some assumptions about what you believe to be true.”
John continued that, “In almost every case, if you can think of your research in terms of answering a question instead of just trying to learn about customers, it makes the value of it more clear.”
In addition to setting a focus for a sprint, John urges teams to choose research participants carefully. “If we want to figure out if users who just signed up for our product within the last two weeks are finding it valuable, then you go out and find five customers who signed up in the last two weeks.”
Choosing participants who align with your research goals has two benefits. One, you hear from the people impacted by decisions. Two, you create more decisive results.
John shared that “if you ask the same set of questions to the same profile of people, you can be sure that consistent answers [are] probably representative of what's going on in the market.”
When John and his team complete a research sprint, they prefer to summarize what they’ve learned into a short and actionable format.
“Instead of a research report or summary that’s a longer documented presentation, we generate a scorecard. We make a grid [where] the rows are the different questions we're trying to answer. And then we put either a check, or an x, or a question mark.”
Then, at the end of the project, the team can quickly review responses to the same questions. If there are five “yeses” across the board, for example, they take it as a green light to keep moving forward.
When we asked John about UX research hacks, he noted his tips are all point to understanding:
The more organized and clear a research project is from beginning to end, the easier it is to gain value.
Listen to the full webinar for even more great tips here.