User research, Two diamonds and Gut feeling

User research is complicated, expensive and scary. And then there is your gut feeling. It is simple, cheap and supportive. Why wouldn’t you trust it anyway? Let’s talk about it.

User research.

If you do it properly it requires quite a lot of resources, but then you never know what comes out. I mean IF you do it properly.

In reality, however, you never go and say like ‚Um, I have so much money, let’s do some user research!‘ In most cases, you have an idea or even some developments you want to test. Do you really keen on finding out that it is a bullshit? Definitely no. So thanks to that you pick up some user research methods and test groups that will let you find out whatever you want to. Right. The idea is brilliant and it is worth the investment. It is the only possible result of that research, isn’t it?
It is like an observer effect in physics. You see what you expect to.

+ On one hand side, it is a good thing, especially if you need some user research to convince your potential customers. ‚9 out of 10 women would recommend our product to their friends‘. So it is good to know you can ‚prove‘ anything you need to.
– On the other hand, if you are working on your business idea or some prototypes you would really want to get objective results. Why? Cause it is still early enough to change direction, to rearrange the priorities and make something potentially great instead of making potential debts.

The double diamond approach.

So if you are now considering to do user research for your next project but don’t know where exactly to start, try this double diamond approach.


The main idea of the double diamond approach is the guided creativity, I would say.

The first diamond.

Starting with some general problem/project/business idea go and diverge with your user research. This will help you get an overview. After this discovery phase, insights should be gathered and the specific problem should be defined. User research that is done in this first diamond ensures that the problem-to-be-solved is a real one and there is the need for the solution-to-be-developed. Quite a crucial part. Missing it and relying on your guts feeling (full of biases by the way) may bring you to a solution of a problem no one has.

The second diamond.

Knowing the problem different solutions are to be created. It is a constructively guided creative process. The ideas emerged in development phase offer different ways to address the problem and the best of them must just nail it. The result is being delivered as a prototype.

Frustration as an indicator for the right path

The left part of each diamond is all about user research. It always goes wide in order to deliver some precise and useful insights.
If you feel frustrated and confused during the user research part of any diamond, it is okay. You are actually supposed to feel that way. It basically means that you are on the right way.

If you, on the contrary, feel confident and all the pieces fall into their place – that’s a bad sign. Make sure your bias is not fooling your user research.

Gut feeling as a user research method

I once tried to establish a business (full disclaimer: it never really worked). I knew nothing about the double diamond method and I definitely underestimated the user research importance. So looking back and analysing design process I went through from the perspective of the double diamond method unpleasant realisation hits me.
I literally skipped the first diamond relying on my gut feeling. And instead of developing different ideas in the second diamond I came up with one single idea which made it up to a solution of the problem NOONE had. As you can see I could really save up on user research! I really needed that money to cover the debts afterwards…

So good luck with your further projects, and let them be frustrating and confusing at the beginning and fruitful in the end.

 

Read here about some types of biases and yoga (in German) or why Apps are f**king hard to create in a ‚Bias is a Nasty Bitch‘ Article (in English).

Using content lifecycle to perform on social media

Though Austria is a beautiful country blessed with sports-predestined landscapes it still has its struggles like relatively high prices, relatively short summer, no sea, and high competition. Last years were indeed generous of sun and advantageous political issues, making Austria especially attractive for summer tourism. This summer hit operators hard. Some of them have to cope with turnover decrease up to 30%. As competition in the business becomes harder it is time to become serious with content strategy and revise the approach of using social media.

Every sports and activity provider in Austria is familiar with the social media and has at least a Facebook or a Twitter account. However, only for a tiny part of them, the effort pays off. The others think of it as of a waste of their time. Why?

The absence of a strategy is the main reason. However successful content strategy requires a high-quality content foundation. To create one a content lifecycle management should be considered. During its lifecycle content should go through four stages: Analysis -> Collection -> Management -> Delivery. Each stage must use an output of the previous one as an input so that the effort would not be wasted. So what is happening in reality?

Content Analysis

AS-IS: Prerequisites for doing well at this stage are brilliant in this business. Being usually a small company, operators are working with their customers directly and know exactly what they are up to or interested in. However, this knowledge is being wasted as no actual analysis is being done.

TO-BE: Use the knowledge and experience, think of the situation and come up with the ideas which content can be of a special interest for the customers.

Content Collection

AS-IS: Sport and activity providers in Austria are enormously strong here, even though most of them are not aware of it. To make it clear I give an example. A diving base having its location, personnel, equipment, knowledge, and guests has lots of opportunities for content collection. Making photos, filming the next scheduled theoretical course or taking a GoPro camera next time they go wrack diving – just to name some of them. Lots of content is being created impulsively – with no strategy behind it.

TO-BE: Use the outcome from ‘analysis stage‘ and create less but aim-oriented content. This approach lets to increase the efficiency of content and decrease the waste of resources.

Content Management

AS-IS: At this stage of content lifecycle the sport and activity providers are actually at their weakest. Firstly, most of them are not professionally familiar with information technologies and all the opportunities they offer as it is not their core competence. Secondly, they do not have time and energy for it. Guiding a canyoning tour twice a day is pretty much demanding, so managing created content will be the last idea such an instructor would come up with in the end of the day. Thirdly, sports instructors are seldom at the base. Guiding rafting tours on all different rivers, instructors are geographically spread and ‘offline‘ most of the time. This is a huge obstacle on the way to structure, standardize the content or even to bring it all onto the one common repository.

TO-BE: Instead of hunting every created content, focus on the content needed according to the ‘analysis stage‘ output. Managing a small amount of useful content is way easier than managing lots of rubbish content.

Content Delivery

AS-IS: Shoot a picture with a smartphone and post it on Facebook. Content delivered! This is the way most of sport and activity providers work.

TO-BE: Though this is not the only way of content delivery, it is okay to shoot and post as long as this process is driven by previous three stages of content lifecycle management. Otherwise, you deliver low-quality content.

 

This brief comparison demonstrates how lots of content and effort is being wasted for the sake of occasional delivery of spontaneous low-quality content. No wonder it does not pay off.

These TO-BE tips will help to improve the quality of the content. Social media is a great channel for a low budget marketing, so use it fully to persuade guests to take a windsurfing course at YOUR base next summer.

Survey incentives – what you can offer

Are you thinking of deploying a survey and need to offer an incentive for the survey participants? Good. I have been in that situation before and, who knows, maybe my thoughts would give you a clue. So here are the options I have worked out.

Activity vouchers

The first option was some vouchers (a Segway drive or a try dive) that can be gambled among survey participants.

You might want to offer an advertising deal to an activity provider to get vouchers ‚for free‘.  However, the activity is always bound to some location, which restricts the group of people who would likely take part in your survey. This incentive might be just perfect if you are only interested in respondents from some specific location.

Pros. 

  • No extra costs.
  • Little time investment needed.
  • No dependence on cooperation partners.

Contras. 

  • Geographical location is fixed. A small group of people interested. A big group of people would not be reached.

T-shirts

The second option would be some T-shirts with appropriate prints. This option is probably the most expensive one as one T-Shirt costs around 20 Euro. So granting every participant would be very expensive, though gambling 4 T-Shirts among the participants could work. Example of a t-shirt provider would be www.shirtinator.at

Pros. 

  • Supports wide geographical and interest coverage. A big group of people can be reached.
  • No dependence on cooperation partners.

Contras. 

  • Extra costs.
  • Time investment needed.
  • Content development for the T-shirts needed so that they speak for the brand as well.

Cooperation

The third option would be to shift this ‘granting problem’ to the cooperation partners. In this case, other organisations can be asked to share the survey and offer some incentive for participating, e.g. free time providers share and offer activity vouchers. For doing so they would get an access to the survey results or some other valuable service from your organization.

Pros. 

  • No extra costs.
  • Supports wide geographical and interest coverage. A big group of people can be reached.
  • As cooperation partners have direct access to the respondents and know best about their interests – they can offer benefits that suit to the audience the best.

Contras. 

  • Time investment needed.
  • Dependence on cooperation partners and their reliability not to disappoint survey participants.

Amazon voucher

Rambling an amazon voucher seems to be a pretty wide-used incentive as it naturally covers a wide group of potential respondents. However it is being used very often and often enough no voucher is being rambled at all, so that this incentive may become untrustworthy because of being misused.

Pros. 

  • Supports wide geographical and interest coverage. A big group of people can be reached.
  • Little time investment needed.
  • No dependence on cooperation partners.

Contras. 

  • Extra costs.

No incentive

Another option would be not to offer any incentives at all and hope that people are just nice and will answer the questions because of their good will. In this case, the number of questions should be very minimal and it could be a bit entertaining to keep people in a good mood to complete the survey once started.

Pros. 

  • No extra costs.
  • No geographical limit.
  • No dependence on cooperation partners.

Contras. 

  • Time investment needed to create and promote the survey properly, otherwise, it would not work.

At the time, I have deployed my survey I have stuck to the option with no incentive and concentrated on making questions and the survey promotion outstanding. So good luck with your survey and let me know if there are some incentive opportunities I haven’t come up with.

Free survey tools

Recently I have deployed a user research* in order to understand urlaubster user and their content needs better. However, it took me at least one week to investigate different tools and find out which of them offer free versions, what are the restrictions and which of them would serve the purpose of my project. Different tools have been taken into consideration, so in case you are currently looking for such a tool, here is a list of those I have taken a look at. Hope it will save you a week time 😉

Tool with free version Survey amount Time Questions Responses Notes
www.enalyzer.com 1 unlimited unlimited 100 none
www.unipark.com > 1 2 weeks unlimited > 2000 Different licenses can be tested for 2 weeks
www.netigate.net unlimited 30 days unlimited unlimited Paid version starting at ~500 Euro per month
www.powr.io
Survey plugin for WordPress
unlimited unlimited 6 unlimited  none
www.opinionstage.com
Survey plugin for WordPress
unlimited unlimited unlimited unlimited Only single choice question type possible
 www.google.com/analytics/surveys No free version

The tool of my choice was netigate.net as it is a professional tool with a wide range of opportunities when creating and also evaluating a survey. This tool is beautifully designed and offers great infographics for results visualization.  Flexible and mighty backend made me happy, whereas smooth, responsive and user-friendly survey frontend made user experience pleasant.

Thus thumbs up and my recommendations for netigate.net.

* A brief summary of my survey results including some graphics by netigate.net can be found in urlaubster blog.