How User Research Findings Can Help Futureproof Your edTech Product

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

User experience research, or UXR, is the key to understanding your primary users without losing valuable time or resources. Post-pandemic, your user research findings are more important than ever. 

How are teachers using your product in their classroom? Does your product help them transition easily between in-person and hybrid learning? Who’s the next person they’ll talk to about your product’s output or analytics?

The more details you uncover about your users and their environment in your qualitative research findings, the easier it will be to continue designing edTech for the long term.

We talked to Jessica Millstone, former Director of Engagement & UX Researcher for BrainPOP, about how user research findings can help you focus your edTech product design. Read on to discover the value of UXR and learn how we use persona research to guide design conversations at Backpack Interactive.

How User Research Findings Guide edTech Product Design

User experience research is targeted quantitative and qualitative research that provides insights for both your product and your users. 

Your user research findings move you closer to achieving a specific product goal. Once you begin the design process, your team should already know how you’ll apply UXR insights to your edTech product.

“I think people know how important it is to collect real information about user needs,” said Millstone. “But the rich, qualitative data product developers get from interviewing, surveying, and conducting deep market research on their target audience comes with its own problem: volume and noise.”

Strategic discussions about the primary user of your product will cut down on the “volume and noise” of your user research findings. With so many different edTech personas in play, it’s crucial to understand how your primary persona interacts with or serves other personas. On any given day, your persona might interact with everyone from students to administrators to parents.

“The goal is to create a story, based on real data, about a person authentically using your product,” Millstone adds. “The more specific the better! User personas are hands-down the best way to create a memorable imprint of your customer’s needs that your team can connect with throughout the product design process.”

Designing edTech for the Long Term By Considering Your User’s Environment

Once you’ve developed highly detailed edTech personas, you’ll be able to narrow the focus of your design team. The more details you uncover about your persona’s working environment, the more those details will resonate through the design decisions you make for the product itself.

At Backpack, we call this effect “persona resonance.” We use this term to identify and define the interactions our primary persona makes with other people as they use our digital tools. User research uncovers these interactions and helps us emphasize the right features for the right persona at the right time.

For example, an edTech product that serves pre-K educators will have a different voice and tone than a product designed for high school or higher ed instructors. In both cases, you’re designing a product meant for educational experts. 

However, pre-K educators interact regularly with young students. This difference in your persona’s working environment  should be reflected in your approach to product experience and design.

No matter what kind of edTech software you design, your user research findings help you narrow your focus. When UXR and UX work hand-in-hand, your primary persona experiences the value of your product with every click or swipe.

5 Ways to Make Your User Research Findings More Actionable

Desk research is the foundational work that makes user research findings actionable for your entire team.

At Backpack, we have a specific process for identifying the needs of a persona. Here are five things we always do before we ever speak to a user. 

  • Make a plan for the outcome of each research element.
    Identify how UXR will help your team be more precise and tactical. This way, you won’t get distracted or go down a research rabbit hole. We always start with a rubric that allows us to test the actionability of our UXR.

  • Conduct a UX audit of your existing product.
    If you’re redesigning a product, analyze user data, site maps, and user journeys. Dissect the product’s UX to create a road map for your next steps.

  • Complete a competitive audit.
    Where does this product fit into your edTech niche? Who’s already built an experience like yours?

    competitive audit will also help you map the UX language of your market through the lens of user expectations. What kinds of words and experiences do users already expect from products like yours?

  • Administer quantitative user surveys.
    Establish a baseline for user data in order to develop more targeted qualitative questions.

    For example, how does demographic data, like years spent teaching or level of education, cross-reference with teacher technology usage?

    Interesting patterns will help you identify areas worthy of deeper investigation in the next phases of
    user research and testing.

  • Observe students and teachers in a real-time environment.
    It’s crucial to have a UXR lens in place before you head out into the field. Purposeful in-person investigations in the classroom lead to better insights about your personas and your product.

With your user research findings in hand, you’ll be able to prioritize design decisions that work for your primary persona. You’ll also be better positioned to help administrators and other buyers understand the value of your design.

How UXR Helps You Showcase the Value of edTech Software 

At Backpack, this discovery process takes anywhere from 4 weeks to 4 months. Within that time frame, we narrow in on what your user needs and what’s missing from the products they already use.

Because of our user research findings, we’re able to pinpoint precise tactical recommendations that work for your specific persona. Without these insights, it’s all too easy to lose the interest and investment of your user. The value proposition of your product simply won’t be visible enough throughout your UX.

Value matters for every persona, whether you’re designing for students, teachers, or administrators. Students need exciting ebooks and easier ways to access major texts. Teachers need to know their time isn’t being wasted and that they’ll look professional in front of supervisors and parents. Administrators need to know your products are effective and easy to use.

Unlike commercial applications, however, edTech software is not always used by the same people who make purchasing decisions. This makes designing and selling an edTech product a special kind of challenge. 

Products often have multiple users with very different personas, including learning tools meant for both teachers and students. But what happens if you put most of your resources into the student experience, leaving little time or money to create a delightful teacher experience, too? 

When you’ve conducted strong user experience research, you avoid these kinds of budgetary and time constraints. Because you’ve done your homework, you’ll give equal resources to each persona who will interact with your product. 

Through “persona resonance,” you’ll also better understand the interactions your primary user has with secondary users. This makes it even easier to unlock the nuances of your persona, design a product that’s useful and reassuring, and showcase the value of your product to your buyer persona.

Ultimately, user research findings ensure that your product’s experience is created in concert with your product’s value proposition. This way, all of your UX, visual design, and technology choices will make your product more relevant and even more delightful. 

With the right UXR strategy, you can continue designing edTech for the long term—no matter how user needs continue to evolve.

Are you looking for more tactical ways to apply your user research findings? Contact Backpack Interactive below to find out how we can help futureproof your next edTech product.

Let’s build the future of digital products together.