Practicing Empathy with User Research

TLDR: I created and implemented a user research process for HireAHelper.


HireAHelper is an online marketplace connecting people who are moving to moving labor. After being in business for 10 years, the company has a wealth of customer knowledge- Customer Service Representatives have thousands of cumulative hours talking with customers and Helpers. The directors and owners of the company, having worked on the product and talked with users while developing it, have a decade worth of knowledge in their heads. The marketing team has sent out a smattering of surveys over the years gathering demographic and user data.

However, that wealth of knowledge, while greatly valuable, is quite separate from user research. My job was to document existing knowledge, establish a more formal process, and begin communicating with users on a consistent basis.

The User Research Process

Step 1: Fill out a 1 page research plan

The one page research plan is a great starting place to begin defining the research project. Before beginning any work, it’s important to outline the background, goals, methodology, and all other relevant information. This makes sure everyone is on the same page as well as a being reference for reviewing the project in the future.

The document I created outlined each step of the plan, making it so anyone in the company has the ability to launch a research project. Interacting with users and gathering data should never be limited to a select group of the team!

Step 2: Draft Survey and/or Interview Questions

When asking questions of users it’s very important no questions are leading- aka, we should never imply the “correct” answer to a question. Also, it’s important to have a good balance of close ended and open ended questions, depending on the goals of the research (quantitative vs. qualitative).

Along with providing an interview script template, I also documented guidelines for how to write questions. All of these guides were shared, along with the one page research plan, with the team so anyone could contribute questions for the users.

Step 3: Gather the Data

Whether waiting on survey results or conducting interviews, gathering data is exciting! There are best practices for conducting interviews (ex: let the interviewee fill pauses, always follow up with “why?”, etc). I wrote a guideline for conducting interviews and included it with the rest of the documentation.

It’s important that all members of the team get chances to interact with users. No one person should be conducting all the interviews.

Step 4: Analyze Data and Share the Results

Whether categorizing survey results or sharing a recording of the interview, get that data to everyone on the team. Getting that data back is super motivating

Putting It All into Practice

Since documenting the full process, all projects I have managed have been driven my research. Also, we have 1-4 users come into the office monthly for in-person interviews. This give more opportunities for everyone on the team to get to know the users. We use these interviews for whatever the current needs are- user testing, data gathering, diving deeper into a specific pain point, etc. We also used these as an opportunity to better complete our user personas.

Tools Used: Survey Monkey, Typeform, Google Sheets, Basecamp, Trello