Posted by: bbannan | February 8, 2012

The Research Plan – Boshra

The Research Plan

Why designers need to have a research plan? Well, people who usually start their day with a piece of paper that says (Thing to do) will know the answer. Conducting a research plan provides you with a list of goals should be accomplished, organizes your time and prioritizes your effort. (Demetrius Madrigal & Bryan McClain; and Kuniavsky).

Planning a research can be the difficult part of the research; you have so many people affected by the research, and each demands goals and tasks from the product; you have limited time and budget; and you need an optimal contribution to the product before its release.

Kuniavsky in his book Observing The User Experience and in his blog post Crafting a User Research Plan, which is a great summary of chapter five, explained the process of conducting a research plan in an easy step-by-step way. He declared three main components should be covered in a research plan, namely: goals, budget and schedule. He thoroughly explained each part and then provided a good example of a research plan at the end of the chapter.

Starting your research plan with a list of goals means two important things; (a) you are going to start communicating with participants that are directly affected by a product, (b) and you will combine users’ experience and company’s goals to establish a list of research questions.

Daniel Szuc suggested some components to keep in mind while working on a research plan:

  1. Choosing the right research method at the right time
  2. Understanding how your product fits into a larger product and business strategy
  3. Building on research success and showing your value
  4. Making everyone on the product team own the research outcomes
  5. Bridging research results back into improving the design
  6. Ensuring your research results get implemented and improve products


Kuniavsky argued that stakeholders should be aware of your research goals and needs, so they can value what you do and participate with time and data.

After creating a list of potential stakeholders and converting their needs/goals to research questions, you will probably have a long list of issues that are time consuming. Kuniavsky suggested a method to use to prioritize your goals. In fact, Janice Fraser wrote a blog post called Setting Priorities which is helpful for designers with beginning research skills. Her method consists of four steps that might take time, but worth doing. These four steps can be combined with Kuniavsky’s table by adding an additional column for Severity.

Step 1: Make a “Big List of Things To Do.”

“The Big List should include features you want to add, changes to make, new sections, and so on. Do this collaboratively… through brainstorming with coworkers and managers”.

Step 2: Organize your list according to Dependencies and Baseline items.

“Dependencies — You can’t launch X until you have Y.”

“Baseline — small number of things that you absolutely, positively must have in order to launch the project”.

Step 3: Have the appropriate coworkers score each item.

Ask stakeholders to score items in the list based on the following measurements:

Technical Feasibility: a score of 1 is low feasibility (meaning, it’s hard or expensive, or would take a lot of time. A score of 5 means it is easy to implement in an affordable cost)

Creative Feasibility: availability of content and creative staff.

Importance to the User: based on data gathered about user experience or from stakeholders who work closely with users.

Importance to the Business: have a business or marketing manager provide this score.

Step 4: start implementing issues with high scores in feasibility, importance, and severity. Issues with low scores in feasibility, importance, and severity should be removed form the list. Figure 1 is an example of a list of prioritized goals.


It is wise to calculate a research plan budget before implementing the research. For our educational projects, since we are not actually going to develop the mobile apps, equipment costs is our big challenge. We attempt to find tools with no to little cost to run our user research. Thus, starting the research with low cost techniques and grouping research questions by them is recommended by Kuniavsky.


It is important to make a user research fit current design cycle. In fact, Kuniavsky suggested a list of research methods that can be used in different design cycles. However, if the product is in the final stage and you were asked to conduct a user research, do not, as Kuniavsky claimed. You will not have the time to make effective changes!

Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain wrote a concise yet sufficient blog post called Planning User Research Throughout the Development Cycle about conducting user research in different development phases.

Toward the end of each user research, Kuniavsky recommended revising your goals and questions in parallel with receiving new information from users and stakeholders. In fact, Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain suggested changing your research method if it did not provide you with information you are seeking. “Steve Jobs was famous for saying, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them” (Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain). Therefore, try to apply changes on the product based on research findings as much as possible and keep stakeholders and users part of the product’s new version.


Mike Kuniavsky, Crafting a User Research Plan.

Janice Fraser, Setting Priorities. April 23, 2002

Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain, Planning User Research Throughout the Development Cycle, December 5, 2011

Daniel Szuc, Finding Gold in Your User Research Results, July 6, 2009

He has an excellent sample questions to start user research plan.

A great example of conducting usability testing with excellent sample questions and charts.—web-applications/usability-testing-results



  1. Boshsa,

    I enjoyed reading your post. I read Daniel Szuc blog and I agree with his statement, “Have you ever heard someone say that they want to make sure the “results are statistically significant”—that is, make sure you involve enough users to ensure they can have confidence in the results? Hearing this always worries me, because it suggests more education is required. The team may be relying too heavily on one round of research to provide all of life’s answers and more.” I think it’s important for designers to understand the importance of performing more than one round of user research on a product. This ensures that the product is being refined and the consumer can adapt the product to their everyday life.

    • Thanks Jennifer for your comment. I agree with you that user research needs to be conducted several time across the design phase and before the development phase. Thus, having multiple research methods/tools will help with collecting information form different angles, which leads to better understanding of user experience.

  2. Boshra,

    Steve Job’s saying “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them” is achoed in Kuniavsky’s statement on page 73, that “It’s always tempting to focus on the goals for the next release and leave fundamental questions about a product and its users to long-term projects. But deeper answers are precisely what can make or break a product over the long run”.

    The whole purpose of research plan, in my opinion, is to find the pulse of the users, or even predict their potential needs, and then refine your product. It reminds me of the success of twitter and facebook, which affect or change many people’s way of communication, before they even know how much they need them.


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