All Posts in UX Design

June 18, 2020 - No Comments!

Parents Are edTech’s Next Big Users

We were 10 minutes into a Zoom call with my 13-year-old daughter's school when her teacher asked us for feedback on their remote learning efforts. Even though I've been actively involved in my daughter's education, it wasn't until afterward that I reflected on how different it felt to be asked my opinion about the way in which she was being taught through technology.

As someone who's spent their career working in edTech, I could have critiqued the digital platforms her school chose, or suggested her teachers use even more of the amazing learning content I know is out there. But most of my feedback was about how to leverage technology to build more powerful social interactions between my daughter, her teacher, and her peers. How to go beyond Zoom calls and video lectures to find tools that foster authentic team dynamics, promote critical thinking in a social context, and allow for digital citizenship. At the end of the day, my daughter was still getting more out of her relationships with her teacher and her peers than any one edTech tool.

As we ended the call, I saw heads nodding. I felt heard. In the eyes of the school, I had switched from occasional IT help for my daughter to an authority figure on future technology decisions. I realized that my role as a parent could have a real influence not only on what technology platforms the school might adopt in the future, but also the ways in which those tools might be used.

These same kinds of conversations are happening all across the country. Suddenly, parents are poised to become edTech's next big user group.

Parents and Technology: How to Reconsider Parent Personas in the Age of At-Home Learning

If you've always thought of your buyer as a school administrator, the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely making you reconsider your product's audience. As more parents take on the role of an at-home educator, they have also become potential buyers of learning technology. This makes parents new — and non-traditional — edTech influencers.

Parents who are deeply involved in their child's education care about the technology teachers utilize in their at-home learning plans. They want to know how specific edTech tools work and which ones fit their child's needs. Parents are also savvy enough to lobby for technology designed to teach their children 21st-century skills. They want their children to cultivate an early love of reading, become better writers, and learn how to coordinate on team projects. They'll look for the right learning tools to supplement their child's instruction in order to make that happen.

We also expect parents to become stronger advocates for specific learning tools, which have become part of the overall experience of at-home learning. As parents seek out and share the best solutions for at-home learning with one another, parent networks have become non-traditional edTech influencers.

This sea-change in edTech's target markets will likely affect your marketing team's efforts first. As teams determine which product features resonate with parents juggling at-home learning with work-from-home tasks, messaging will shift. But how should you rethink feature design, or upgrade your existing products, to meet the new needs of parents?

Here are four areas where you can focus your attention and meet the needs of edTech's next big user — parents.

Emphasize Family Communication Features

Our research indicates that much of learning happens in the context of strong student-teacher relationships. Unfortunately, the new structures of at-home learning have drastically challenged those relationships. Email, messaging, and video calls just don't build strong teacher-student relationships in the way that real one-to-one time in the classroom does.

In order to help teachers maintain their voice, infuse their personality, and remain effective educators, the communication features in your product need to drive engagement for students and families. How many different ways can you introduce interactivity within your product? How do your communication features help teachers create clear expectations for both learners and family members?

At-home learning requires a lot of flexibility from teachers, parents, and students. In order for products to offer users this flexibility, interactive features should be as conversational as possible. Teachers need feedback, parents need to be heard, and students need clear pathways to assignments and other teacher-student or student-student interactions. Conversational features are also at the heart of SEL learning techniques and can further strengthen relationships between parents and teachers.

Here are a few conversational family communication features to consider:

  • Open message boards
  • Threaded discussion streams for assignments
  • Office hours for one-to-one instruction or parent-student discussions
  • Quick, lightweight responses, like emojis or social media-esque interactions
  • Dynamic sharing features

The more edTech products iterate on family communications features at the platform level, the easier it will be to serve the needs of all your users — including parents.

Revisit Onboarding and Integration Needs for Your Products

You may already be used to designing different onboarding experiences for different users. Teachers, for example, may not be as technologically savvy as young students, who have a different facility with software. Now, you'll need to revisit your onboarding and integration needs to address the parent persona, too.

Most often, students are the end users of edTech products, and parents serve as a facilitator user — the user who helps set up accounts and profiles for your student persona. Parent personas may lack the pedagogical context teachers have come to expect from products, but at-home learning means parents now need that information, too.

Given the parent persona's role in facilitating student interaction, your onboarding process can provide even more context for how your product fits into the curriculum and how it can be used as a tool for student learning. Your product may integrate with Google Classroom, SeeSaw, or other popular edTech platforms. If so, help your parent persona understand what those integrations are, how they work, and why you've included them.

Here are a few other solutions to consider:

  • Leverage common UX patterns to help parents understand how your product works
  • Borrow from the vocabulary of the classroom to clarify user interactions ( consider, for example, phrases like, "turn the work in" or "share" vs. "mark as complete")
  • Consider the full constellation of learning software your users depend on
  • Design using a single sign-on whenever possible

Remember: your product doesn't have to be everything to everyone. In fact, when you avoid designing proprietary platforms for existing solutions, like word processing and file-sharing, your tool becomes more useful for teachers and parents.

Now is the perfect time to revisit whether parent personas have the right context for understanding your tool — and how you can help them navigate common challenges within your software. The more you improve the UX of your product, the more you'll be able to address the concerns of this emerging stakeholder persona.

Embrace Mobile-Ready Design

Even if students have their own desktop to complete school work at home, their primary point-of-contact for most edTech software will be through a parent's mobile device.

Backpack's user research has shown both teachers and administrators rely heavily on mobile-ready software. There's enough anecdotal evidence to suggest parents and students have similar technology needs. Just as teachers want to plan for class or do professional development on their phones, parents may want or need to watch help videos about your software or prepare for their day of at-home learning.

When parents are uncertain about how edTech tools work, it adds a layer of frustration or apprehension for students who are already experiencing heightened emotions during at-home learning. Mobile-ready designs with developed parent personas give parents more flexibility as they preview lessons or prepare for helping their children navigate tasks.

You could also consider:

  • Allowing parent personas to preview or pre-use your tools in order to explain tasks and teacher expectations to their children
  • Introducing planning tools or video content aimed specifically at parents
  • Ensuring family communications tools are optimized for mobile experiences
  • Designing with asynchronous at-home learning and work-from-home schedules in mind
  • Making mobile-ready software as robust as desktop software to ensure accessibility for all students

Ultimately, mobile-optimized design ensures better family communication, more flexibility for parents, and eliminates barriers to access for families who may not have desktops available for their students. As at-home learning continues, parents will expect — and advocate for — edTech solutions that are easy to use on multiple devices.

Eliminate Barriers to Access

Our user research has shown that even tech-savvy parents are lost as they attempt to navigate Google Classroom and other online learning platforms. Even well-designed products can make it unintentionally difficult for parents and students to read and submit assignments in one place. When points of interaction are disconnected from source material or assignments, confusion reigns.

We believe that edTech has a responsibility to improve UX whenever possible. Now is the time to survey users and re-evaluate your product's ease-of-use for personas who don't have a background in tech. Whether or not it's fair, a parent's negative experience with technology may reflect on a teacher's ability to use tech effectively.

Other common barriers to access include:

  • Unreliable internet
  • Manual saving functions
  • High-res designs
  • Desktop-only design

To ensure ease-of-use, consider adding functions like autosave to prevent the loss of information or working offline to allow users to make progress if their internet blips out. Take extra steps to ensure that users can easily differentiate between accounts, since parents may have multiple children signed into one computer or device.

Are You Ready to Roll Out edTech Tools to Parents?

The time of the parent persona is here! It's up to us to design the best experiences possible for our newest power-user — and improve UX for tools that facilitate learning beyond the classroom.

Even though uncertainties about at-home learning remain, we expect to see parents continue to influence the kinds of software schools use and adopt. At-home learning has made parents even more fluent in the kinds of features that make products work outside of the classroom. This new knowledge will translate into more advocacy for software that addresses specific student needs, too.

Schools and administrative buyers will also want to better understand the parent persona as they navigate licensing decisions for at-home learning. They'll look to edTech companies to identify learning software that checks all the boxes.

Does yours?

May 15, 2020 - No Comments!

Where Does Your edTech Product Fall on the UX Threshold?

If you've ever tried to sign your child up for a PlayStation or Nintendo Switch account, you know how complicated digital experiences can be. When it comes to popular gaming sites, most tech-savvy parents are willing to put up with less-than-ideal UX just to make their children happy.

For every digital experience, there's a UX threshold. When the digital experience is so frustrating that the user no longer finds value in the product, the brand has pushed too aggressively against the limits of the UX threshold.

Some brands with particularly loyal users might be "lucky" enough to stop investing in better UX. But if a company has decided that its profitable threshold allows for a poor UX, do they have any obligation to improve? Beyond lost revenue, is there ever a moral obligation to make their products more user-friendly?

If you're designing edTech products, the point at which your user becomes frustrated or stymied by a complicated UX is even more important to gauge. After all, whether you're working for a nonprofit company or a well-established educational brand, good UX in edTech becomes an issue of access and equity.

Your users need products to pass a class, learn a critical skill, or pass a standardized test in order to attend college. What happens if a teacher experiences a high level of frustration when trying to use your product in the classroom? Or your user is a parent who isn't technologically savvy? Or an administrator desperately needs your technology to improve outcomes for their school?

Because the stakes are so much higher in our industry, we should be motivated to design tools that do more than meet our bottom line. And that means the UX for even the most complex learning tools needs to be as streamlined and accessible as possible.

Ditching Highly Proprietary Design Patterns: Reducing the UX Threshold for Complex Administrative Tasks

It might be easy to improve on bad UX, but making good UX great requires complex problem-solving from your UX team.

In edTech, the administrative aspects of learning products often have the most technical complexity. By leveraging common UX patterns, you'll lower your UX threshold and make your product something that meets teachers and students where they are.

Administrative complexity looks different depending on your primary user. For teachers, administrative complexity may involve setting up the software for the learning product, creating user profiles, rostering students, or managing multiple staff users. For administrators and IT professionals, it might mean navigating multiple screens, connecting to outside systems, or learning how to share data across platforms. And for parents, administrative complexity requires learning how to sign up their child as the product's primary user. It might also mean taking advantage of available learning outcomes data in order to make informed decisions about their child's education.

In order to lower the UX threshold for your product, leverage existing UX patterns that won't require users to learn a new, proprietary system or go to multiple places to accomplish a simple task. Lowering your UX threshold encourages your user to engage with the task at hand, which leads to higher completion rates within your product. It also helps shift the user's mindset from tense to relaxed. A tense user will tend to have a lower frustration threshold for completing tasks.

Even if you're using well-established UX patterns, there's plenty you can do to provide a fresh and delightful experience for your user. Micro copywriting, visual design, and other touches provide your experience with a unique look and feel without causing cognitive overload.

The more you can do to meet schools, teachers, and students where they are, the more relevant your designs will be. You'll create learning products that solve problems and integrate with a teacher's day-to-day technology. And you'll design tools that enhance and extend what administrators are already using — all without adding complexity for your users.

Leveraging Interactive Complexity to Help Students Learn

In edTech, designing a product with interactive complexity becomes even more important. We have an obligation to consider how to make interactive teaching moments rather than static ones. We must strive to work with subject matter experts to determine how to break a topic down, so students work with material in a rich way.

Most learning products demand a high level of interactive complexity from UX designers. Ideally, students are able to learn new concepts or skills as they move through an experience and interact with it. However, this level of interactivity adds to a product's UX complexity, and UX designers often remove interactivity from the moment of instruction or assessment — just when students need it most.

For example, a learning product with interactive science experiments might have two separate interfaces. In one interface, students are introduced to scientific concepts illustrated by the science experiments. In another, they might be encouraged to interact with the science experiment itself.

However, if you separate the interactive interface from the problem students are trying to solve, you'll wind up creating a higher barrier to learning. You'll design a cognitively disjointed experience, which isn't how students experience learning in the real world. Students will end up learning how to use your product — instead of learning a new concept.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, leveraging interactive complexity actually requires you to simplify the UX for your product and reduce its UX threshold. The more you simplify your UX, the more likely you are to make a product that showcases important concepts and engages the students who need your product to learn.

The ROI of Investing in Great UX by Reducing Your UX Threshold

Even if you're building a complex product, there's real ROI to investing in UX. Not only do you help teachers, administrators, and parents onboard and navigate your product quickly, but you also improve learning for students by connecting new concepts and skills to interactive UX.

Concrete design requires both the administrative and interactive parts of a product to work together in concert, even when they're individually complex. When you use an approach like concrete design, you make a product that's more likely to be bought or adopted. Teachers and students respond to a product that's easier and more fun to use, increasing overall engagement with your product.

You also reduce cognitive load within the product, which means less training time for teachers and less onboarding for students. While onboarding for any product is necessary, there are downsides to a long, drawn-out adoption process. If your onboarding strategy depends too heavily on textual explanations, for example, you introduce more barriers to students and teachers with learning differences.

When you reduce training and onboarding needs for your product, not only are you building a more equitable product, but you're also shifting resource allocation within your budget. Suddenly, you don't have to spend a large chunk of your project budget on designing onboarding tools. Instead, you're able to focus those resources on developing product features and creating outstanding visual design.

When you build a tool that's more intuitive to use, you directly impact your bottom line. Improving UX leads to more revenue streams as you widen your market and roll out a product that's more accessible and easier to use. When you give potential clients a demonstration of your intuitive product, your sales team has to do less explaining — and the product begins to sell itself.

Why the edTech Industry Should Care About Making Good UX Even Better

Like you, we care about designing intuitive edTech products that solve real problems and are adopted widely by schools and school districts. But we also recognize that the edTech industry has different users and goals than consumer tech.

The stakes for edTech products are much higher. Good UX can be the difference between a student learning a new concept and struggling to master it. It can also mean the difference between a product that all students can use and a product that excludes students with learning disabilities.

Because the stakes for our products are so high, we have a moral obligation to identify the point at which bad UX creates barriers to success — and push ourselves to make good UX even better.

April 3, 2020 - No Comments!

Using Wireframes to Power Your UX Design Strategy

Product wireframes are one of the first strategic milestones of the design process. All stakeholders depend on them, including product owners, developers, and front-end design teams.

When designed intentionally, wireframes facilitate important decisions early in the UX process. They provide a visual record of discussions about big-picture product goals, user flows, and technical requirements.

At Backpack, we use wireframes throughout the iteration process to lead stakeholders through strategic conversations before moving to visual design. Using clickable wireframes and prototypes also helps us establish our workflow with technology teams and developers early in the process.

Here's a glimpse into the process we use with clients to create an ideal workflow for major stakeholders and other teammates.

How Wireframes Guide Stakeholders through Strategic Decision-Making

For product stakeholders, wireframes facilitate strategic discussions about big-picture needs and product goals. They reflect how the product should be organized and give stakeholders the opportunity to address whether your UX team has captured the most important features. Does your product need all the features represented in the first iteration of the wireframe? Or can your team simplify?

By sharing wireframes with stakeholders early in the UX planning process, you streamline top-down decision-making that benefits both your users and the product development team. Because wireframes reflect the implications of product design and UX decision-making, this tool helps stakeholders better understand the needs and expectations of your users. Has your UX team accurately reflected each user flow in the wireframe? Are features where your users expect to find them? Has your UX team named features in an understandable way? Has the team found a way around information overload?

At Backpack, we feel it's important to use wireframes to help clients envision key elements of each user flow and see how they'll work. We mock-up ideal flows quickly in clickable wireframes. By grouping information realistically for the user, stakeholders are able to imagine user experience prior to testing. This process also helps stakeholders anticipate content needs, including the photos, multimedia content, and other resources that will create the best possible user experience within your product.

As we designed the Literacy Pro app for Scholastic, wireframe iterations facilitated important top-level discussions about micro user flows for both teachers and students. How would teachers add and assign assessments? How would students access and take those reading assessments?

Using clickable wireframes ensured that each stakeholder discussion centered on user personas and the contextual flow of interactions. Because clickable wireframes reinforce the needs and expectations of the user, this iterative process set us up for success by the time we tested the product with Scholastic's users. After testing, we could iterate even more efficiently.

How Annotated Wireframes Facilitate Technology Discussions with Development Teams

Ideally, annotated wireframes help UX teams communicate more effectively with developers. This collaborative method helps your UX team think through the technical issues of each screen and gives your development team a chance to communicate when a design decision might be technically burdensome.

Facilitating these discussions early in the design process eases work-flow challenges — especially when you're managing multiple teams and vendors. Before they're ever given design files, your developers are able to structure the back end and hit the ground running once designs are confirmed.

Backpack uses wireframes early in the design process to communicate with developers about complex technical needs. We give developers every opportunity to vet the logic of the UI for primary user flows, typical interactions, and edge cases. Wireframes are an excellent tool for these teams to spot potential problems with back end logic or technical services before the product is built.

This was especially true for our work on Scholastic's Next Step Guided Reading Assessment, or NSGRA. This software encourages teachers to group students by reading level using a visual drag and drop interface. Visual design indicates to teachers that the UI is clickable and moveable, while the back end is designed to quickly accommodate any changes teachers make with just one click.

Our development team helped us think through the complexity of this design decision by annotating early wireframes. They asked smart questions about the interface's logic from a visual standpoint, as well as the implications visual design and UI had for data and reporting. Throughout this iterative process, our development team's input helped the design team create a clear and visually compelling UI and clarify software interdependencies. Without input from the developers early in the process, it would have been more difficult to arrive at the most intuitive solution for users or anticipate technology needs from the beginning.

How Wireframes Establish Style and Front-End Design Decisions

Front-end design teams depend on wireframes to establish style and design for the entire product. Approved wireframes serve as their road map for compelling visual design. When, where, and how will you display product features? Should you use a drop-down menu or a form? A complex calendar or a to-do list? Does your product need a dashboard?

As a creative firm focused on strategy, Backpack offers clients a design-led process. Visual design brings wireframes to life, illustrating design decisions and contextualizing content needs in a rich and nuanced way. Wireframes are also an important tool for communicating with our front-end development teams. Front-end developers need to understand the specific functionality of UI, as well as a product's logic. One of the only ways to accomplish this is to check interactions within wireframes and pass annotations back and forth between teams.

Our recent client project, the Wharton School of Business "Pivot or Perish" simulation, spurred an intensive back-and-forth with our front-end developers. While the simulation itself required us to design a small number of screens, the interface within those screens was highly transactional. This means that complex student learning happens within nuanced user interactions.

Communicating user interactions effectively to our clients demanded a hard-working wireframe. In order to ensure our front-development team also understood each interaction, we documented and wireframed each action separately and collected feedback on the logic of our UI.

During the visual design process, we defined the visual vocabulary of the product through specific color and shape palettes. Because we had already determined interactive elements throughout the wireframe stage, Backpack could successfully design user interactions that only made sense from a visual design perspective.

Ultimately, the extensive wireframing process for this product ensured that every team member — including our client, front-end developers, and Backpack's visual designers — was on the same page. By the time we arrived at the visual design stage, everyone was aligned on product functionality, and there were fewer visual design strategy issues to navigate together.

Testing User Flows and Capturing User Feedback in Real-Time

Wireframes also facilitate important discussions with your users about product categories and logic. Once your wireframes are connected together into a clickable prototype, you can test designs and capture feedback from users who depend on your product to solve a problem. Do your design decisions work? Can your users find expected features or design elements within your interface? Is information organized in a clear, understandable way?

Backpack regularly shares clickable prototypes with users to observe how they complete individual tasks. We analyze user interactions, document the challenges users face, and develop new strategies for incorporating user feedback.

During the product design process for the NSGRA, we tested clickable wireframes with 20 teachers. We went into the interview process knowing that users already faced very specific pain points. The product requires a lot of data entry, and we worked hard to improve that workflow to make it as quick and painless as possible.

We used Axure, a robust prototyping tool that allows for "WYSIWYG" programming, to show teachers specific micro-interactions within the NSGRA. They added hypothetical student data into complex fields and saw how the UI changed from screen to screen in real time. By interviewing teachers as they completed tasks, we collected helpful insights about the value of the product and made easy improvements to the workflow.

No matter which phase of the product design process you're in, clickable wireframes give you and your team the power to facilitate important strategic discussions. You'll ensure your stakeholders keep users front-and-center, ease technical discussions across teams, and drive user-centered design decisions every step of the way. The earlier you use wireframes to guide important decision decisions, the easier your build will be — and the happier your users will be with the finished product.

March 19, 2020 - No Comments!

Build Something Better: The Real Value of a Scalable Discovery Process

If your company has adopted Facebook's "move fast and break things" approach to product development, you may be used to sidelining user research in favor of learning through failure.

In Erika Hall's Just Enough Research, however, she suggests user research and learning through failure don't have to be at odds with one another. Instead, you can conduct just enough research to learn plenty of helpful information about your users and take big risks to roll products out quickly.

At Backpack, we embrace the user research process in the design discovery phase, but we also recognize that laying a strategic foundation for your product should be scalable. You can do as much or as little research as you want and still get a lot out of the process.

If you truly want to embrace human-centered design and make your head of marketing happy, here's what a targeted discovery process can do for you.

How Targeted UXR Eases Tensions Between Product and Marketing

Our clients are savvier than ever about targeted UX research, or UXR, and its value in product development. But we still run up against inherent tensions between product development and the business requirements of a product.

"Of course, we want to find out what our users want," this line of thinking goes, "but we also want them to buy this product." Companies aren't always equipped—or willing—to change direction based on the results of UX research.

The tension between product development and marketing might never go away. But the process of targeted UX research during the design discovery phase will shed light on your users and pay off in dividends. Even though you've signed up for early user experience deliverables like site maps, wireframes, and prototypes, you're really getting a deep dive into your user's pain points. UXR unlocks the potential of your product, impresses your key stakeholders, and helps you plan for future products.

Want vs. Need: The Immediate ROI of UXR

Early UXR is about more than uncovering a user's desired features. It's the moment you and your team discover what your users really need. What are your desired outcomes for each persona? What are their pain points? How can you meet your customers where they already are?

Using these questions to guide your UXR leads to human-centered design. You'll hone in on pain points associated with a user's day-to-day experience instead of addressing what you think your product might solve.

As you validate your assumptions through qualitative interviews with a handful of users, you'll uncover a narrative that makes existing user data more meaningful. In this way, UXR drives customer engagement once your product rolls out to market. It will affect your decision-making process for future product development, too.

In addition to the inherent value of understanding your users, there's big ROI for investing in this process early in the product planning phase. UXR gives your design team insight into the nuances of your market before they begin designing product features and workflow. Because of this, your designers will offer more targeted, innovative solutions that get to the heart of your user's primary challenges and create a more delightful UX.

Invest in Better Solutions for Your Target Market with Backpack's Scalable Discovery Process

As a specialized UX and design team with deep experience in edTech, Backpack has a unique approach to collecting and synthesizing data. When you invest in a better research process, you invest in better answers. What did your competitors do? What do analytics suggest are the best solutions for your users?

By developing targeted research into specific edTech personas, we shorten your development cycle. This provides you with more robust data than marketing or user testing baselines and helps you to minimize risk as you develop your product. We also recognize that you may not have time — or resources — to conduct in-depth UXR. That's why we've scaled our discovery process to include robust options for your timeline and budget.

Our scalable discovery process includes:

A competitive audit
We look at other products in the same space from a UX standpoint. What will your users expect from a product like yours?

How to scale it
In-depth: When you have more time for UXR and want to deepen your competitive audit, we'll take the time to review 10 direct competitors, as well as tangentially related products or companies. We look at product messaging, onboarding tactics, ease-of-use, analytics, speeds of site, feature offerings, as well as product look and feel.

Targeted: We can also develop a more narrow field with client direction and focus on two to three competitors. Even reviewing a short list of competitor links as a group helps product owners get in the right mindset during development.

A tech audit
We look at analytics and user flows for your existing product before moving forward with a redesign. What does your user data tell us about how to improve UX?

How to scale it
In-depth: We'll paint a vivid picture of user behavior by developing use cases, creating diagrams and flow charts, using heat map screens, and cross-referencing our findings with user engagement data.

Targeted: Clients also find value in reviewing sorted analytics to determine the top five user pain points. Where does your data indicate that users are falling off in the experience? What are the most important features to review? Are these features getting the right amount traffic?

An accessibility audit
We follow best practices around color contrasts, navigation, screen reader-friendly text, fonts, and audio/visual interfaces. How will making your product accessible give you more opportunities to reach new users or narrow the focus of your design direction?

How to scale it
In-depth: Depending on your needs, we'll bring in an accessibility expert for white glove service, including a meticulous review of site for feature optimization. This includes testing for color blindness and the overall contrast of your site for other visual impairments.

Targeted: We review the visual styles of a site, making sure they will pass accessibility tests. Are you following best practices from a front-end development standpoint?

User surveys
We ask users about competitive products and features. Where do you want to put your emphasis so you have a competitive advantage?

How to scale it
In-depth: We'll help you survey tens of thousands of users to ensure a 10% response rate. We design user surveys carefully in order to find significant correlations between demographics and behavioral attitudes or opinions. Cross-data correlations are always more significant when you have a bigger data set.

Targeted: We'll help you determine how many users you need to survey for your quantitative data to be statistically significant and develop a short survey of 10 questions. Even basic answers from users can give you actionable data in a short period of time.

Stakeholder discovery
We conduct in-depth qualitative research with your product stakeholders. By connecting this process to data, we show stakeholders the tangible value of discovery.

How to scale it:
In-depth: We'll coordinate discovery sessions with your internal stakeholders, including staff involved in content management, community engagement, sales, and marketing. We can also conduct external stakeholder interviews to determine the views of your primary persona, any resonant personas, and product buyers.

Targeted: We can also easily work with product owners and staff members who have the editorial vision for your products. To narrow your external discovery, we'll collect anecdotal evidence from relevant users. Even after chatting with just a few people who fit the parameters of your primary persona, we'll start to see patterns we can apply to your product design.

Taken together, this scalable design discovery phase creates a three-dimensional model of where you are right now in product development. With a robust model in place, we determine how best to apply our knowledge to your product design. Whether you have time to conduct in-depth UXR or need to narrow your field of inquiry to more targeted forms of research, you'll find out more about your users, their expectations, and their needs.

Case Study: How NSGRA Responded to a "Hidden" Pain Point through Discovery

Scholastic’s Next Step Guided Reading Assessment (NSGRA) software helps teachers determine student reading levels and develop targeted next steps in their instructional plans. As Backpack led discovery for the product's redesign, we were surprised by the findings of our user surveys — and used the results to better serve the needs of Scholastic's primary users.

Before its redesign, NSGRA recommended that teachers use the software three times per year to facilitate benchmark reading assessments. By asking questions about teacher technology and frequency of use, we discovered many teachers used the product much more often — about five times per year. Teachers used reports to group their classrooms by reading level throughout the year. They also depended on NSGRA's reporting during parent-teacher conferences to discuss individual student outcomes.

Because many teachers were generating assessment reports more frequently, the process for entering student assessment data needed to be easier for teachers to use. If we hadn't asked teachers about their technology use during initial discovery, we would have never uncovered this "hidden" opportunity. Armed with this new perspective, we were able to make more effective UX recommendations to Scholastic throughout the product's redesign. After all, whenever user behaviors don't match up with a product's technology, it's a chance to identify ways to simplify or improve product features.

Central to the redesigned experience is a new workflow for teachers to enter student assessment data. We created a parity with the offline assessment forms, facilitated quick data entry, and established clear visual indications of where the user was in the process. Teachers can now effortlessly personalize their instruction for learners needing additional attention. Administrators can also easily discover and address class-wide performance trends.

When "Just Enough" UXR Provides Sizable ROI

Whether you have room in your budget for a lengthy discovery process or targeted user research, scaling UXR to your needs pays off in dividends. You'll discover more about your user's pain points, deliver an experience that effectively solves their problems, and inform development for your future products, too.

Don't just "move fast and break things." Conduct just enough UXR to uncover meaningful insights about your users and take calculated risks that deliver bigger returns on your investments.