Cup of Coffee Research Method
I’ve had several conversations lately with people getting ready to dive into the startup world. A common question that comes up with them is “What’s the best way to get feedback from my users?” Since these are startup initiatives, I know budgets are probably tight. So, I try to offer them as practical advice as possible. The best advice I’ve been able to come up with is ”Just buy someone a cup of coffee and have a conversation with them.” Sometimes, a cup of coffee is all it takes to get the feedback you need to be able to move on from a problem that has been plaguing you, or to validate an idea you’ve prototyped out.
It’s my belief that every project should incorporate some form of user research, or user involvement. Depending on the problem being solved, and the money that’s available, your options can be limited. But, limited options are better than doing nothing at all. Other than my advice to meet up with people over a cup of coffee, there are several other options that are out that gets user involvement that startups can take advantage of.
Using UserTesting.com (https://www NULL.usertesting NULL.com/), you are able to share ideas that are anywhere from pretty rough to practically functional with a panel of people that will not only work through your idea, but also provide verbal feedback based on their experience. It’s a great resource for collecting qualitative data in a quick and cost effective manner.
While Loop11 (http://www NULL.loop11 NULL.com/) takes a bit more of a financial investment, it’s a great tool for posting a functional prototype that your potential users can access, work through in a task-based environment, and provide some basic analytics on their usage patterns. It has the ability to collect both qualitative and quantitative information.
Surveys sometimes get a bad rap, mostly because most surveys are simply written very poorly. While Survs (http://www NULL.survs NULL.com/) can’t help you write ”good” surveys, it’s a great surveying tool for collecting feedback from people on a variety of topics. This includes initial concept validation, feature prioritization, design guideline evaluation, and general opinions.
Having a well laid out site map and a content mapping plan is key to ensuring that people are able to find the information they care about and desire. Tools such as OptimalSort (http://www NULL.optimalworkshop NULL.com/optimalsort NULL.htm) or Websort (http://uxpunk NULL.com/websort/) are great for getting an understanding of how people would sort your content based on their personal view of the world. This is an activity that’s easy to throw together and get quick results if you advertise the study.
User research doesn’t have to cost tens of thousands of dollars, unless it’s a large, complex problem that requires a deep understanding of behavior, expectations, and needs. For many solutions, especially those that the startup community is creating, simply need frequent and cheap user feedback. Reading through bug reports and responding to support tickets isn’t going to cut it. Direct involvement is needed to ensure that the time and money you are spending on your solution is going to be not only used, but also adopted by your target audience. And if the above tools don’t sound like something you’re interested in doing, then just meet up with people on a regular basis to discuss your ideas over a cup of coffee. The insight you’ll gain from this simple activity will pay off in dividends