Old timey telephone highlights best practices for user research

Five Design Principles to Improve Your User Research Process

3 mins read

Unlike many customer-facing teams, the #1 goal of designers isn’t revenue. They just want to solve customer problems and deliver the best experience.

But you can’t design a great product without getting to the heart of your customers’ challenges.

Talking to end users is critical to UX design. How can you empower your design team to run the research they need to make smarter design decisions?

Razorpay Design Manager Abhinav Krishna joined us to talk about the benefits of involving designers in user research. He shared these five design principles that guide Razorpay’s user research process.

Design Principle 1: Designers are your best researchers

To effectively perform their jobs, designers must talk to end users so they can empathize with their deepest pain points. 

When designers don’t have the freedom to speak to their customers, their work suffers. Plus, valuable insights get lost in translation when they don’t hear directly from the users.

“At Razorpay, we wanted our teams to be much more autonomous from an organization structure point of view. That is the very core of our company so all product and design documents are for every team to understand the problem deeply. This enables faster decision-making,” Abhinav said. 

Designers need the autonomy and flexibility to connect with users and recruit them in the product design process. This entails planning, conducting, and analyzing the findings using an array of user research methods.

Design Principle 2: Frameworks are the holy grail of product design

A framework is a simple structure that helps designers organize information and ideas of a particular problem so they can work on it efficiently. It acts as a guiding force for designers to help them think of problem and problem statements more comprehensively. Frameworks can help mitigate the potential risks in the design process. 

“Instead of acting like a guideline only, frameworks act as a list of perspectives to consider,” Abhinav said. So instead of telling designers how they need to think, frameworks give them an idea of what possible thought processes they should consider “to avoid reinventing the wheel.” 

Design Principle 3: Ambiguity is a product designer’s best friend

Great designers aren’t afraid of uncertainty. Most places of ambiguity, especially with UX research and design, lead to delightfully unexpected products and features. 

“There is a high amount of self-awareness and humbleness when a designer acknowledges the unknown. When they embrace the unknown, there is a lot of collaborative teamwork, ultimately leading to open-ended questions and discussion of tactics, making the product more holistic,” Abhinav said. 

Embracing the unknowns may give your product the innovative edge it needs.

Design Principle 4: Bad NPS scores are good user research opportunities

When customers are unhappy with the product, UX designers have a fantastic opportunity to invite users into the product roadmap process or user interviews about a new feature roll-out. Hopping on to customer support calls to understand needs is an excellent way to get user insights. Bad scores show UX designers what needs fixing, and calling the customer could give the designer a key data point — something they could have been missing the entire time. It could also give them insights into other pain points or needs of the client, which would’ve never been brought to light if not for this post-NPS call. 

“A lot of our customers, some of them being founders, have seen tons of value in being able to influence our roadmap and being able to get their problems solved through close engagement with us,” Abhinav said.

Design Principle 5: Cold calling leads to better user research feedback

Phone calls are the easiest way for Razorpay designers to gather product feedback from users. They operate in a market where many of their customers operate offline, so it’s easier to just call people up and ask for their time.

Abhinav and his team have been pleasantly surprised with how well-received their cold calls have been. They’d prefer to host all user interviews in a structured videoconference with Marvin capturing live insights — but it’s much more important that they meet users where they are. And if they’re not tech-savvy, users are more comfortable sharing feedback on the phone.

Razorpay experimented with calling users who submitted support tickets or low NPS scores. The users usually don’t expect a designer to call, but they’re elated that someone wants to solve their problems. Once they get that solution, the designers transition their questions to a more open-ended user research call.

“Our customers find a lot of value in influencing our product roadmap,” Abhinav said. “Most of the repeat, engaged users are all active participants in research. And that’s very valuable to us.”

“The caveat of this is the scalability,” he continued. “We’ve used these user research models in places where we’re launching new products or trying to get from 0-1, and it worked wonderfully. We’re also experimenting with it where there are 10 or more products, and it’s working so far, but it’s not as scalable.”

Empowering designers to lead your user research all comes down to having the right infrastructure in place — no matter what technology you’re using.

Interested in learning more? Check out this fireside chat with another design leader about how his team drives user research across their company.



Featured photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

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