Photo by Malte Wingen on Unsplash

Product development teams already know the importance of doing research, either an evaluative research like usability testing, a generative one like defining new product features, or an exploratory one where we try to enter new market for our product. Despite all the insight and opportunities to improve our product we will get from it, research takes time, manpower, and resources to do it. Here are some tips to make sure our effort doesn’t go to waste.

In Somia CX we believe our clients are the subject matter experts. They do their business every day and know in detail how they are running their business. That’s why in every project we setup multiple sessions with related stakeholders to give us induction about the product being covered, relevant past research, and the area in generals. Ask what they want to understand from the research and why it is important for the product, the business, and the company. Ask them to explain what has been done before and the learning from it.

Sometimes we might feel overwhelmed by the seer amount of new information we get, or we might feel lost since our questions only leads to another questions. Note everything down and clarify things that we still don’t quite understand. If there are unanswered questions that we think are quite important we then can include that into one of our research questions. Don’t be afraid to look like a fool and ask too many questions. Only by downloading and grasping the understanding the current situation we can dig deeper and avoid our research only scratch the surface level of the topic.

One of the merchants we visited during our research.

After we grasped the current situation and objective of the research, we might want to look around for secondary research that has been done before. The objective is not only to understand the subject matter better, but also to seek inspiration and get fresh perspective. The research might not be entirely the same with our’s, it could be the same topic but in another country, or you could even seek analogues inspiration in other topic with similar activities.

Reading the previous research will also teach us about important element we might want to focus on our current research. For example, by reading similar research in Africa about financial innovation, we learned that people might use other channel rather than bank to save their money that might be informal but easier to access. Similarly we also found many people in Indonesia saved their money in ‘Arisan’ or ‘Jula-Jula’. ‘Arisan’ is a social gathering where all of the members need to put certain amount of money and can get the accumulated money by taking turn to draw their names in lottery. With this similarities, we can take inspiration that worked in other country and create new solution that more suitable in our context. This is one of the insight that led us to developed Save Cash & Bank It.

Typical Arisan setup (Photo source: https://pa-panyabungan.go.id/images/arisanibuksri1.jpg)

Understanding from the subject matter expert and the previous should lead us to better research scope and approach. After we prepare the research questions and all stimuli needed, we might want to pilot the session first. Pilot session is trying out the research with someone from our contact who resembles the characteristic of our target respondents. The closer these pilot respondents resemble real ones the more useful the feedback will be for our research. The objective of doing pilot is to improve the research approach (questions, flow, stimuli) by trying it in a session. After the session ends we can evaluate whether the question flow makes sense, whether it is within the allocated time, or any particular section difficult to explain, then we can adjust accordingly.

Note taking + discussion guide document used in the research, we used post it to write the data then pasted it on the section being discussed on the document.

Pilot session also helps us to see the technical issue that might rise during the session and address it before we go with real participants. In one of our research where its’ setup requires us to moderate the session and take notes at the same time while moving around multiple rooms, initially we thought it was enough just to combine discussion guide and note-taking template into one document. But after the pilot session, we realised we still had difficulties to take notes. The document space was not enough for us to write the necessary insight from the respondents while making the space bigger will make the document hard to navigate. So we tweaked the methods by attaching multiple stacks of post it to accommodate the amount of information needed to be noted.

Plan the research to at least have one break in the middle of the research will help the research a lot. Break in between sessions is important not only to give time to tidy up the documentation and avoid burnout but also to a good chance to learn from the interview findings and adjust our discussion guide and stimuli for the next ones. After several interviews, we will start hearing similar things and form patterns. From here on, the additional learning we get from additional interviews is diminishing in return. The couples of last interviews we will hear mostly the same thing and we waste our time. With a break, we can have time to reflect on what we have learned so far, and identify new questions that we need to answer from these insights. We then can adjust our discussion guide and stimuli to dig further on this extension set of questions. As such, we can gather more and deeper insights.

One of the sessions in bot-assisted-medical-app research.

In one of Somia’s research around bot-assisted-medical-app for doctors, the initial the focus area of the research is to learn how the app can help doctors to take note of medical record within the app so they don’t have to do it manually. During our first part of the research (before the break) we found out doctors usually have a really tight schedule so they ask their nurses to help with the note-taking. There is also a strict rules from the hospital that medical record can only be recorded using the hospital-approved platform, making it hard for the app to be widely used. We also found new usage opportunities for the app: doctors often need to search medical information quickly to help with their diagnosis, but they need to filter information on google as they are not all come from medically trusted sources. We then tweaked the discussion guide to dig deeper around information search and create several stimuli to test concepts around quick search, group chats with medical colleagues, quick way to save information from various sources, and access to medical journals. Because of these changes, we managed to identify more relevant features for the app, pivot and test the new product direction within the same research.

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Those are the tips, hopefully it can help your next research!