User Research

Client: Software as a Service (SaaS) Startup*

I was the Project and Research Lead on this three-month engagement, part of a two-person strategy team building the Client’s brand value proposition and messaging strategy. We collaborated with a half dozen architects, designers, and developers from the Client’s web design agency so that our insights could seamlessly inform the new site redesign. We needed to move quickly, as the Client was at a crucial point in their growth and was trying to secure more venture capital in Silicon Valley and beyond. Telling their story clearly to potential users and investors was critical.

The software itself had the power and sophistication to make end users’ jobs easier and more effective, but telling that story could be challenging. Their market was complex, with multiple stakeholders involved in adopting, deploying, and using the product.

Below is an example artifact from my research:

saas_user_research_minarik

I created this grid framework to communicate our research proposal to the Client, and to ensure our methods aligned to our hypotheses. (Note: Identifying details have been removed.)

Methods Used

  • Competitive analysis of websites and messaging
  • Interviews
  • Field research (I conducted ethnographic observation with end users and their bosses)
  • Online user study (I designed and moderated online discussion activities using FocusVision’s Revelation tool, interacting with users in real time)
  • Secondary qualitative/quantitative research (the timeframe and budget was tight, so I tracked down industry studies that could enrich our findings with additional survey data on the user base)

Learnings

One of my favorite parts of this project was moderating the online user study. I felt humbled to converse with participants as they shared their daily struggles and deepest inspirations on the job. When they told me why they do what they do, and what keeps them going on the toughest days, it provided rich examples of what resonates with them emotionally.

My team used collaborative work sessions and Post-It exercises to find patterns and narrative themes in what we observed users thinking, feeling, and doing. I drafted these into insights, which we in turn distilled into actionable strategies. The web team joined us at the Client presentation, and the strategies set the tone for the new brand proposition, content strategy, and UX. The Client loved them all. They quickly leveraged them to complete a successful multi-million dollar Series A funding round.

Personally, this research taught me a lot about enterprise software users and the unique challenges they face in getting the right tools to do their jobs. First: Even if they can pick tools, the deployment is usually outside their control; their bosses need to be able to understand its value, too. Second: Competitors spend a lot of time designing and marketing based on features that are ultimately table stakes, rattling off the same old benefits and schmaltzy platitudes. The users helped us see that the features were a means to an end for them. What matters most to these users is automating low-value tasks to free themselves up to connect emotionally with the humans they feel called to serve.

 

* Identifying details have been removed to preserve confidentiality. Please contact me with any questions.