How to Skyrocket Your Research with Templates

 

Handbook for the time-poor researcher: learn how to master study templates and build effective studies quickly.

Raise your hand if you’ve been here before:

You want to test the water and see what your customers are craving next. You have done your brainstorming sessions and come up with one or two ideas, but you need someone from the outside to test them, find out what does or doesn’t work, and input any additions. 

Naturally, the best way to do all the above is with a UX study. You start putting together questions, only to realise that building a study requires a lot more than previously thought, both in terms of time and effort – two resources in very scarce supply. This is hardly surprising: from question writing to logic structuring, building a solid study design is akin to laying the groundwork for your study as a whole, so you want it done properly.

What do you do then? You could hone your UX writing skills and check how to build effective study designs. Alternatively, you could dive deep into templates and design your study from there! 

There is an extensive list of study templates you can find online. However, you should keep in mind that every study is unique, so looking around for the kind of template that matches exactly what you need simply won’t do. This adds to the notion that templates are not a cure-it-all solution, nor a cheap way out of your study design conundrum.

A better approach when using templates is the following:

consider what the main goal of your study is, pick a broad template that covers it and start building from there.

This is the logic that made us focus on only a handful of study templates designed from 3 sweeping Uses Cases, which will allow you to stand on solid foundations, power through your study building phase and get a top-notch study ready in no time.

Below, we summed up the logic, structure and intended goals of our new templates. You can use this blog post as a guidebook to find out what template suits you best whenever you’re using our platform.

Understand Your Customers’ Needs and Motivations

Understand Templates

 

With the 3 templates in the Understand use case, as the name implies, you can understand your customers’ needs, motivations, behaviours and pain points. These templates aim respectively to 

  1. Gather and flesh out the core needs of your intended audience.
  2. Learn about problem areas or pain points by mapping out user journeys from existing solutions, and get feedback straight from the users on how to solve them.
  3. Pitch initial concepts and ideas to customers, see first-hand what works best and get feedback to double down on working ideas or set the course straight early on.

 

To achieve these goals, there are quite a few logical differences among templates. 

  • Understand customer needs. This template starts with a broad structure to understand high-level needs, narrowing down the focus as the user moves on with the study. 
  • Discover pain points across the user journey. This second template starts with the underlying assumption that a business idea has been hatched, shifting the focus on those challenges and frustrations customers currently encounter, and potential solutions to overcome them.
  • Validate ideas and concept directions. The third and final template from the Understand series is structured to showcase multiple materials and gather feedback from customers. It assumes you’re either going to present them with different concepts or deep-dive into how they respond to aspects or components of a single detailed solution description.

 

Despite the differences in their goals, their structures differ ever so slightly. Templates in the Understand use case tend by design to be more qualitative, leaning towards open and exploratory questions. Therefore, you won’t find many observation or survey-based questions – though you are free to add them should you need to add numerical weight to your findings. 

Build Great Products Along with Your Customers

Build Templates

 

With the 3 templates in the Build use case, you can get customer input and feedback on how to craft the right product or refine concepts and prototypes already in development. The templates aim respectively to:

  1. Test your prototypes on customers and gather their impressions and feedback
  2. Validate and compare how new feature ideas are received by your intended audience
  3. Check how well your design and flow mesh with your customers

 

In order to achieve these goals, Build templates have quite a few logical differences:

  • Test concepts & prototypes. The first template begins with broad exploratory questions, before introducing customers to your solution. Here, we’ve prepared two different paths for your study: 
    • The first assumes you’re testing out an interactive solution (e.g. website or an app) and it’s structured on navigation steps, assessing ease of use and overall experience.
    • The second is focused on audiovisual stimuli (e.g. promotional video, banner ads, etc.) and is tailored more towards appeal and understanding.
  • Validate and prioritize new features. The second template kicks off with broad initial exploratory questions to gather characteristics or factors for an idealised solution. It then pitches feature ideas or functional capabilities to assess and compare overall impressions and perceived value from one or multiple options. 
  • Refine design and user flows. The third template assumes you have a user flow users are going to test, and guides them along with flow-based tasks, asking them at each step of the journey their perceived ease of use, flow strengths and weaknesses. The template closes with a more focused set of questions addressing the flow design and appearance.

 

Although the goals are quite different, the overarching structure is similar. Each template in the Build use case employs a mix of think-aloud and survey-format questions, to flesh out customer feedback and benchmark it with quantitative results.

That said, these templates lend themselves to observational inputs, especially when presenting interactive and visual material. Indeed, sometimes what users say is not consistent with what they do, and you can add a lot of robustness to your findings by triangulating think-aloud and survey answers with your own observations. 

Optimise Customer Experiences

The 3 templates in the Optimise use case empower you to gain feedback on how customers experience and engage with your fully developed or late-stage development products and solutions. With these templates, you’ll:

  1. Discover and put the spotlight on existing barriers and challenges.
  2. Snapshot the immediate post-purchase feedback from real customers on your live solutions. This template is especially tailored towards e-commerce or online purchase or booking flows.
  3. Survey real customers on their general experience and scan ways to improve their satisfaction.

 

To fulfil these goals, the three templates shift from an interview- to a survey-like structure. The second and third Optimise templates, in particular, use a CSAT scoring format known by the wider audience, with the aim of benchmarking and capturing a time-locked snapshot of your current CX performance.

  • Identify and remove barriers in the decision journey. The first template opens with broad initial questions on existing expectations and experiences from existing solutions. You can then present your solution to garner first impressions, before diving deeper to collect expectations, ease of navigation, challenges and ambiguities or anything unclear. This last step can be repeated for each step of the journey.
  • Understand and optimise the purchase experience. The second template provides customers with the opportunity to score and elaborate on their post-purchase experience. Additional optional questions offer the opportunity to explore specific journey steps (e.g. locating product or service, information page, checkout experience) and/or aspects (e.g. appearance, design, navigation), depending on what area of your solution you want to investigate.
  • Monitor and measure customer satisfaction. Finally, the third template opens with a satisfaction score, before asking customers to explain their scoring, eventual challenges, obstacles and pain points. You can add optional deep-dives with further quantitative and qualitative specific areas of your solution, as well as aspects or attributes of your choosing.

 

How to use Sonar’s templates:

Generally speaking, these templates should give you a strong starting point, but they are fully customisable if you wish to spice them up with your creativity. Think of them as a recipe: if you don’t like one ingredient, you can take it out; if you think they’re too vanilla, you can go ahead and spruce them up. 

This means both green and experienced UX’ers can use our templates. For the former, templates provide them with a strong foundation to figure out what kinds of questions to ask, and how best to ask them. For the latter, they serve more as a timesaver, giving them a head-start on their study design and suggesting areas they might have not thought of. 

You can maximise the value of these templates by using them in sequence, although the main rationale is that you can use every template depending on the study phase you’re at, or the main need you want to solve. 

The templates have been designed to be applicable to the broadest possible pool of potential participants. If you want to tweak them to target a more specific audience, leverage Sonar’s task builder to add further detail and adjust the question framing as you see fit.

Generally speaking, we’ve crafted the templates to be answered within 25-45 minutes – the “sweet spot” of UX research. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play around with the number of questions or the structure of the template itself – you definitely should, but be wary that the more questions you add, the more fatigued your users might end up being!

Some pro-tips:

Understand

For the first template in the Understand use case, visual materials are less likely to be of value, due to the nature of the questions and the goals of trying to understand a broader topic and existing experiences.

Likewise, you shouldn’t overdo with recording devices, if not necessary. For example, both webcam and screen sharing are likely to contribute less value for the first two templates, given the focus is mostly on higher-level needs and goals. 

Build

The 3 Build templates work best when paired with visual aids. Since the core notion here is that you are presenting something more than an abstract idea, you should not have your users guessing what your product is gonna look like, but show it directly!

With that in mind, you’re going to improve the quality of your findings by adding a camera to the list of recording tools used during the study. While screen and audio capture is perfectly fine to get fundamental insights and responses as you discover user needs, seeing how customers react and engage with the materials you’re showcasing will add a level of nuance you cannot simply obtain from text-only transcriptions.

Final note: although the Build templates are a good starting point for your study, they require more customization from your end. Think about it: an app requires a different type and depth of questions with respect to a video ad or a physical product. Therefore, see these templates as a starting point, but expect to apply some elbow grease, tweaking, duplicating or removing templates questions others according to your solution.

Optimise

All the templates in the Optimise use case should be used on existing and finalised solutions. Therefore, the more material you want to have your users review, the better the templates will function.

Templates 2 and 3, given their heavy focus on quantitative results, work at their finest when used repeatedly and structured to last only for a few minutes each time.

Browse through our list of  use cases and unlock the power of your users

 

Featured Reads

 

Triangulation in UXR: Why Mixing Multiple Research Methods Leads to Deeper Insights

UX titbits: How to Ask the Right UX Research Questions

Ask the Expert – How to Write Mind-blowing Survey Screening Questions

How to build great study designs – 3 takeaways from our webinar

Using Templates to Speed Up and Streamline User Research

Pros and Cons of Remote & Unmoderated Research

How to Share UX Research: Tips and Tricks to Make your Findings Matter

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