As everyone who wants to create meaningful and useful experiences for their audiences knows, you can't create those kinds of experiences without knowing more about your audiences. That's where research comes in. Spending time researching those audiences and getting to the heart of their needs can help businesses make better decisions and get better results in any project endeavor. It can validate or disprove assumptions you have about your audiences and help make more informed design decisions.
Here's how we used user research on a project with one of our beloved clients, Visit Indy.
Visit Indy came to us revamp their website and understand their website audiences better. We had the benefit of working with their marketing team, who is well-versed in metrics and audience personas on the marketing side and were ready to find out all they could about the people using one of their biggest products: their website.
We started with employing a survey on Visit Indy's website that asked voluntary respondents a number of questions about their experience with the site and their perceptions of the city, as well as specifics around whether they lived here or not. We had over 200 respondents whose responses gave us many insights into what people found useful and valuable on Visit Indy's then site.
For example, we asked respondents what they found the most useful on the home page.
The resulting heat map showed us that the navigation at the left was highly useful, as well as the Events link on the right.
We also asked what was the least useful on the home page.
Here we found that people didn't find hotel-related information useful, as well as social media links and links related to meeting planners and group travel.
The survey also helped identify where Visit Indy needed to focus their content strategy and energy. We learned that respondents felt strongly about the events calendar and restaurant finder:
And they felt medium about itinerary ideas and reading insider guides. But booking hotels and adding elements to a now-defunct My Trip feature got the lowest marks, something we also saw when reviewing analytics data. This ultimately led to eliminating the My Trip functionality altogether and changing strategies around hotel bookings.
In addition to the survey, we interviewed Indianapolis event goers on their event going habits. We wanted to understand how they thought about searching and finding for events in the city. Did they think about the date first? Cost? Whether their friends were going or not? How did they find out? Internet search? Social networks? What steps did they take?
Sometimes the best question you can ask is, 'Tell me (or even better, show me) how you do ___?'
We found that many people research finding things to do through their networks and prioritize by their general interests. This also followed when they were finding things to do in new cities, which was key to know when considering Visit Indy's out-of-town audiences.
We used this research to drive decisions throughout the wireframe and design phases. When questions arose around whether a particular element or piece of content should be more prominent, we sought out the research to determine the answer. The research helped connect us and Visit Indy with their audiences and created a deeper understanding of how those audiences thought about finding things to do in Indianapolis.
After launch, we bookended the user research by following up with user testing on the site, which we'll cover more in-depth in a forthcoming part two of this post.