Six & Flow’s Ultimate GDD Guide – Pt 6: Conducting User Research

February 22, 2018
By Chris

Welcome to the next part of Six & Flow’s series on Growth Driven Design (GDD). Here we look at conducting user research for the benefit of your overall GDD strategy to learn more about the people who use your site through qualitative, quantitative and observational approaches.

Why conduct user research?

Who are you building a website for if not your users? They’re the people who matter to you most and who your site’s there to inform, entertain and provide products and services to. They’re pivotal to your growth, and everything your GDD strategy should be based around.

They are the people who hold the key to your growth. That’s part of the reason why we make the argument that traditional web design is broken. The connectivity afforded by the internet when combined with platforms such as social media and improvements in mobile technology means user habits are constantly evolving and changing at a phenomenal pace.

Invest in a site with a company that takes months to build and it’s no exaggeration that, on delivery, user tastes and browsing habits may have changed considerably meaning what you’re left with is a site that may not be anywhere near as effective as you’d hoped it would be. GDD allows site owners to launch a site much more quickly than a traditional build and evolve it alongside your users’ changing browsing habits.

As great as you think your site may be though, it will count for little if you don’t thoroughly investigate, interact with and collect key data from your users over the course of your GDD campaign. You may have personas in mind but fleshing them out with the proper research is incredibly important to boosting your company’s online growth potential.


Why conduct user research as part of a growth driven design strategy?


Developing user questions

That can prove to be a stumbling block for businesses. They may have been dealing with their customers for years and feel they have a great understanding of the people they deal with. They may have strong personas in mind; that can count for little when it comes to individual user behaviour online though, and businesses often aren’t sure where to turn when they want to reach out to learn more about their customers.

Developing user questions as part of the GDD process is one way to navigate this problem. Luckily you’ll have a lot of the questions at your disposal already and access to user data that will allow you to create questions that you’d like to potentially ask the users who matter to you most. If you look at your data for instance and see that a particular item you thought would sell well isn’t really going anywhere, then frame it as a question. “What in particular puts you off making that purchase?”


The specific challenges you’re facing, with a bit of forward-thinking, make for excellent questions to ask your users when framed the right way. It’s wise though not to just pick a huge list of questions and zero in on your market. These questions are part of your GDD strategy, don’t forget; the more relevant they are to your hierarchy and overall GDD cycle, the better and more likely you’ll find the answers that help you improve your site.

See if you can spot the challenges they face with your site yourselves if you aren’t getting the desired outcome on a certain part of your site. Formulating and asking the question can help you confirm your suspicions, and help you to focus on a specific problem rather than wasting time shooting in the dark. Talking to staff about the feedback they’re receiving on the frontline is also as important as interpreting the data you collect when developing user questions.

Don’t be satisfied with surface-level user questions, either. Asking follow-up questions can help to discover deeper issues that you may not have thought of as well as better visualising the challenges your users are facing when they visit your website.


Developing user questions as part of a growth driven design strategy 

Qualitative research methods

With your questions in mind, it’s time to do your research and reach out to your market. There are numerous ways to do this; a qualitative approach revolves around getting actual, direct feedback from the users you want to use your site. It’s a far more human approach than looking at page after page of data, and approaching users to see why they’re using your site and behaving in certain ways.

A qualitative approach is fantastic for those who are lacking in the data department, especially early in the launchpad phase when you’re still collecting data and discovering more about the people who are visiting your site. Speaking to people on a more personal level is also a great way to generate new ideas and think of things that may have previously passed you by.

Qualitative can be done through user interviews, finding people who most closely resemble your persona and having a one-on-one chat. It’s conversational, and the nature of that conversation will allow you to dig deeper into the problems they may have with your website.

A qualitative approach is also great for efficiency, and there are numerous ways to reach out to people such as through social media, surveys through tools such as Typeform, on-site pop-up surveys, chatbots, user testing and more. It can also be worth doing user testing for competitor sites to get greater knowledge of how users are interacting with others in the market to help you come up with some fresh ideas.

People also worry that they’ll have to conduct and host large focus groups with hundreds of people, at cost, to discover the smallest niggles on their site. Not at all; from as little as five interviews, you can begin to spot common patterns developing that will likely help to support your hypotheses that you’ve considered during the hierarchy cycle. Again, follow-up questions can help you to see something you may have previously missed.


Qualitative research methods as part of a growth driven design strategy


Observational research methods

Observational research is a bit more hands-on. An observational approach revolves around actually observing your core users interacting with your site up close and taking feedback from real-life scenarios. When users have to write answers to a survey or hold a discussion with a chatbot, they may not be able to convey their problems accurately or are vague. An observational approach can help you see up-close the problems people are experiencing.

Seeing people’s reactions up close, too, can be worth its weight in gold. You may feel like you have created the perfect landing page from the data available to you. Seeing someone showing confusion up close though is a different story all together; is there a bit of copy that doesn’t read as well as you thought it did on the page? Can their fresh pair of eyes help you to identify problems?

There is some great software available that you can introduce to your GDD tool stack to help you with your observational approach. Click heat maps, for instance, can help track you to track users’ movements and where they might encounter navigational issues. Better yet, it can also be used to help identify which areas of the site users are missing and ignoring, helping you to bring them to prominence later if need be. Scrolling heat maps do a similar job, while session recorders can also be distinctly valuable to see how people use and navigate the site.


Observational research methods in growth driven design


Quantitative research methods

A quantitative approach is totally data-focused and numbers-led. Taking a quantitative approach to your users’ behaviour allows you to spot patterns and better scale how large numbers of people are interacting with your site when they visit. Again, it’s important to reiterate how helpful it can be to have visual data analytics tools in your toolstack to better identify those patterns and interpret the data in various ways.

A qualitative and observational approach can only tell you so much. Hard numbers show you how many people are visiting a specific page for a specific amount of time and the specific points they’re dropping off. It’s also great to get a better insight of the demographics and locations of people who are visiting your site, allowing you to make changes to your inbound strategy if need be to focus on more local customers should you wish.

Quantitative, naturally, takes its cues from analytics data and can be an incredibly in-depth way to collect user data, segment people and discover the inbound methods people are discovering your site through in the first place. Quantitative and qualitative can work together in this respect; you look at your data and construct some hypotheses before looking to confirm it with people on a one-to-one basis.

Quantitative can also help us discover more technical aspects about our users such as what devices and operating platforms they’re using to access our site. The further on we go, we can spot patterns such as the optimal time for them to visit. Again, this information can be critical to helping your sales and marketing teams optimise their creative outreach campaigns and approach people at the best possible times.


Event tracking is also a great way to perform quantitative research. Event tracking allows you to develop certain conditions on a site that trigger an event once met. The more times a specific event happens, like a sale on a specific page, the more it’s likely to work across other pages, making it worth experimenting as part of your next cycle should you so wish.

Funnel reports and identifying at what stages people drop off is also a key part of the whole conversion rate optimisation (CRO) process. Cohort reporting is a quantitative approach whereby you segment users and compare the time it takes for them to complete an action; perfect to ascertain certain behaviour patterns and help overall with personalisation aspects.

There are so many different ways to work with users in transparent, ethical ways to discover how they’re using your site for better or worse. The closer you work with people in an open way and gather their thoughts and experiences through a variety of means, the more likely you are to get the answers you desire for the questions that are puzzling you along your GDD journey.

Thanks for reading our series on Growth Driven Design. Be sure to read the final part around running new experiments. If GDD already sounds like it’s something you need to boost your business growth, contact Six & Flow today to find out more.


Growth Driven Design Calculator