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The product manager's guide to UX research

The Product Manager’s Guide to UX Research

Learn how product managers plan, conduct, and analyze UX research, plus strategies on how to collaborate with UXRs.

Product managers are good at saying “no”. 

They’re constantly tip-toeing on a balance beam to stay on track with the product roadmap while juggling dev and design teams—so it’s only natural that they have to get in the habit of rejecting 100 bad ideas to prioritize the few important ones. 

The one thing product managers should not say no to is UX research. It’s true that product managers have product analytics at their fingertips, but UX research actually helps PMs work ahead of timelines, avoid costly redesigns or relaunches, and maintain an evidence-based product strategy at every step of the way.

However, the role of product managers in user research isn’t to become a user researcher—product managers should know how to use UX research and collaborate with UXR teams to strengthen the product strategy.

According to our recent 2023 State of User Research Report, over 50% of research practices are decentralized. 📈 While many respondents have varied feelings about democratizing research, it's clear that fully centralized practices seem to become less common as companies scale.

Whether you're for or against decentralized research, there's a significant amount of PMs, designers, and other non-researchers doing research on their own. For the product managers who choose to do informal research on their own, we think it's best to provide them with guardrails to make sure they're on the right path.

Gif of a quote about how user research helps companies ship product on time
“User research allows a company to problem solve in a way that increases the likelihood that its product team will not just be shipping fast but that they’ll be shipping purposefully.” 

- Cori Widen, Senior UX Researcher at Lightricks in We need research insights more than ever during a recession 

Use this guide to help you navigate UX research as a product manager. You’ll learn:

  • Why you need user research for your product strategy
  • How to do UX research as a product manager
  • The best way for PMs to collaborate with research teams
  • Tools, templates, and additional resources to help PMs get started with research

Should product managers do user research? 

UX research isn’t a nice-to-have for product managers; it’s the supporting backbone for product development.

Launching a product or a new feature on time means getting the designs and details right. Making huge design changes mid-way through the development process derails precious timelines and throws your whole team  off track.

That’s where user research comes in. You can weave substantiated, research-based insights into your strategy to make better decisions at every stage of the product development cycle, even at the individual feature level.

A gif of a quote about bringing value to features through user research
“Delivering features doesn’t mean you are delivering value, just like telling a joke doesn’t mean people will laugh. It’s all about how customers receive your feature and if it helps them to meet their goals.”

Maarten Dalmijn, former Head of Product at Rodeo, in Why Roadmaps Reflect the Level of Agile Inadequacy

Benefits of UX research for product management

A list of reasons how user research benefits product managers

User research insights help product managers: 

  • Form and test hypotheses about the product roadmap
  • Become aware of user problems and potential solutions during the discovery phase
  • Avoid costly mistakes with early discovery research
  • Gather tangible evidence to validate (or deter) your product direction
  • Identify why a product experiment was unsuccessful to inform the next iteration
  • Gain alignment on decisions by providing context from both qualitative and quantitative insights
  • Pinpoint users’ biggest unanswered challenges before competitors
  • Find the product/market fit
  • Gather user sentiments about new ideas before investing limited time and resources in development

Integrating research-backed insights with the product strategy is key to shipping things out correctly and on time to avoid costly changes along the way. After all, your job as a project manager is to  bring value “in what gets used, not in what gets built”, in the words of Kris Gale

UX research helps product managers focus on building features that are usable, rather than simply building for the sake of building. So yes, product managers should be involved in the UX research process.

UX researcher vs. product manager: Where do the roles overlap?

A gif of a quote about product managers being champions of user research
“No one is better positioned to champion research than the PM.”

If someone asked you to name the perfect duo, you might think of cookies and milk, chips and dip, or even chicken and beer (my personal opinion). User research and product management are like the Bonnie and Clyde of an organization; the ultimate pairing that relies on each other in balance to pull off the mission: to build products that ultimately serve users. 

A venn diagram comparing product managers vs UX researchers
The 2-way interaction between product managers and user research

A framework of interaction between UX researchers and PM teams (Should product managers do user research?)

A lot of UX research overlaps with the product development strategy. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that continuously fuels each other to learn, improve, and collaborate more. 

A quote GIF about the democratization of UX research
“We should actively build new pathways to learning and create innovative ways for our product teams to connect with and learn directly from their customers…The answer does not lie in adding more researchers who focus on learning on behalf of the many. It’s in expanding the role of researchers to focus on empowering everyone to learn.” 

- Monty Hammontree, Partner Director of User Experience Research at Microsoft in The Future of UX Research 

Let’s take a closer look at how the two roles align with one another.👇

Product managers: 

  • Own and define the product vision: This includes a multi-year roadmap of its development, packaging, launch, and expansion.
  • Execute the go-to-market strategy: PMs put the GTM strategy into action to launch new product releases and promotions.
  • Define the problem statement: Product managers have a deep understanding of the problems that they choose to prioritize at every stage of the product lifecycle.
  • Guide other teams through the entire product lifecycle: This includes design, development, marketing, sales, and more.
“A great product manager has the brain of an engineer, the heart of a designer, and the speech of a diplomat.”

Deep Nishar of SoftBank Group International in What Makes a Great Product Manager

To add to this: An even better product manager has the empathy of a user researcher to operate from a deeper understanding of users.

UX researchers:

  • Possess hard research skills. There is no substitute for being skilled at information architecture (IA), user interface (UI), cognitive science, usability, and more.
  • Interpret both qualitative and quantitative data to recommend creative, uncommon solutions to differentiate your company.
  • Provide user insights to support org-wide decision-making. UX researchers should collaborate with other teams to prioritize certain insights to support better business decisions.

While UX research and product management are two separate fields, the level of collaboration or overlap between the two can vary by organization size and maturity.

Both UX research and product managers:

  • Work together to find solutions for user problems and build user-centric products accordingly
  • Are ambassadors of user knowledge
  • Should do both quantitative and qualitative research
  • Analyze and share research findings with the wider organization
  • Are highly intelligent, avid multi-taskers who know how to maintain balance between long-term vision goals and short-term deadlines

In a nutshell, product managers define and prioritize the problem while UX researchers test different solutions and provide evidence. 

Product managers own the problem statement. They’re like the first responders to an emergency situation. Without product managers identifying the problems, it would be difficult to define goals or set milestones.

If product managers own the problem statement (“what”), UX research owns the “how” and the “why”. How will you provide evidence (qualitative or quantitative) for the solution you choose? Why is this particular solution the best path forward?

UX research helps coordinate a plan to test the solutions you come up with for the specific problem you’re looking to solve.

Although both roles should be clearly defined, the working relationship between UX research and product management shouldn’t be siloed. When product managers hastily march to the beat of their own drum rather than building upon UX research as the base tempo to maintain a steady pace, this results in an off-beat stride to keep up with product strategy.

Another role in the same circle as product management and research is UX design. UX designers are responsible for designing effective, human-centered products. They’re mostly concerned with designing usability. Similar to product managers, UX designers are another common group of people who do research (PwDRs) that do research on their own.

In the absence of a dedicated UX research team, UX designers or product managers will likely be doing most of the user research, working together to prioritize and organize tasks.

Now that we understand the intertwined connection between product management and user research, let’s get into actually doing user research as a product manager.

📚 Do you have a UX designer on your team who's also interested in learning how to do user research on their own? Check out our companion guide, tailored for designers specifically: The Designer's Guide to User Research

What type of UX research do product managers do?

In decentralized research models, people who do research like product managers should be empowered with the right resources and guidelines to do all kinds of research to help them become better in their own focus areas.

And while product managers don’t have to be a jack of all trades, they can learn to do various types of research.

Quantitative and qualitative research

Quantitative research involves collecting large quantities of numerical data from large groups of people. Product managers spend a lot of their time with quantitative data in spreadsheets. Quant research is numerical and measurable.

Qualitative research involves collecting loosely structured data that aren’t simply defined by numbers, like stories, observations, feelings, or thoughts. Qual data brings empathy to hard numbers.

💡Use quantitative data to validate the qualitative data you gathered from generative research sessions. Most qualitative data is based on opinion and can be very subjective; this makes it difficult to only base your research on subjective insights.Fill in the gaps of the problem statement with soft, qualitative data that provides anecdotes, stories, and emotions.

📚Learn more about qualitative vs quantitative research

Generative, evaluative, and continuous research

Generative research focuses on user-centric insights. It’s about generating a deep understanding of who your customers are—not as users but as real human beings. It’s getting to know your users on a personal level and what they’re like in their everyday lives. This is a hardcore qualitative type of research considering the ambiguous factors that can shape a human’s feelings and thoughts. 

Some examples of generative research studies include: 

  • Conducting user interviews and stakeholder interviews
  • Doing field studies for real-life context
  • Conducting a literature review

Evaluative research focuses on product-centric insights. Usually, this type of research aims to test different solutions or designs with real users to gather feedback. It’s about evaluating your users’ responses to the product or solution. Evaluative research can be either qualitative or quantitative.

Some examples of evaluative research studies include: 

  • Validating concepts
  • Testing prototypes
  • Providing direction for your product

💡Use generative research to bring forth new ideas during the discovery phase. And use evaluation research to test and monitor the product before and after launch.

📚Learn more about generative vs evaluative research.

Continuous research is research that’s regularly conducted at any stage of the product life cycle. Product managers tend to only integrate user research for big feature releases rather than incorporating it into their workflow at a steady and continuous pace.

But research doesn’t end once you’ve launched.

It’s important for product managers to incorporate a healthy dose of both quantitative and qualitative research continuously throughout the product development process. Continuous UX research allows product teams to keep a direct pulse on their customers without missing a beat. 

Timing is everything for product managers, and user research is the metronome that keeps the product strategy in a steady tempo of improvement and growth. 

Without basing product decisions and changes in evidence or direct feedback from users, this results in unnecessary costs to start over, re-design, or re-iterate a new version of the product or user experience. 

That’s why it’s important for product managers to understand user research, learn how to do user research on their own, and collaborate with other researchers to elevate their own product strategy.

When should PMs do research?

“I think the biggest [mistake during product launches] is not doing research. There are so many teams that skip that step because they are trying to move quickly and they think that they know how things should be talked about.” 

- Derek Osgood, Founder and CEO of Ignition, in The Product Launch Playbook

To Derek Osgood’s point, not doing user research during a product launch is a huge mistake. But not doing user research continuously and regularly is an even bigger mistake.

💡Product managers should do both quantitative and qualitative UX research continuously—at all different phases of the product strategy.

Great product managers should know which types of research to do at various phases of the product development process:

  • Discover: Learn what problems, user needs, and context exists.
  • Define: Choose one problem to focus on and look for solutions.
  • Develop: Choose a few solutions to test out and choose the best one.
  • Launch: Ship out the solution. Then, measure and analyze the performance of the solution.

Here are the different types of research that go well under each phase of the product development process.

A chart mapping the types of UX research at each stage of the product life cycle

As a product manager, you need to learn when is the best time to prioritize research for your specific product launch goals. Planning ahead for user research in your timeline is important because you can always afford to cancel unnecessary research time blocks, but squeezing in extra time last-minute can be a costly time-suck that most product teams can’t afford.

When do product managers get involved in user research?
“Typically, anything that I consider impactful to the fundamental intentions or goals of a power user OR has the potential to damage your company's core business model is worth bringing into the lab. If the change you're considering would mostly affect the larger, more commoditized audience, a multivariate test will often collect enough data to make the decision for you.” 

- Norman Dalager, former Director of Product Management at Bloomberg, in From Writer to UX Researching-Product Manager

💡Remember, when you’re first getting started with user research as a product manager, you don’t have to go all-in. Focus on getting acclimated with interacting with user research first and understand that simply having even lightweight research is better than no research at all.

How to collaborate with UX research teams as a product manager

While product managers can do research on their own, it’s important to avoid siloed research efforts between the product and UX research teams. The level of involvement that product managers have in user research varies from team to team, but the relationship between UX research and product management should focus on collaboration, enablement, and transparency.

According to our State of User Research Report, the percentage of people who said their company has zero dedicated UXRs declined from 19% in our 2019 survey to just 6% in 2022. So even if you’re not doing research on your own yet, doing research with the guidance or in collaboration with a dedicated user researcher is a skill that’s becoming more common among people who do research, like product managers and designers.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when working with UX research as a product manager: 

A list of tips for product managers collaborating with UXR teams

✅ Plan your timeline with user research in mind.

Whether it be during kickoff or update meetings with the UX research team or sitting in on a user research session with the team, provide clear dates and deadlines for deliverables. Schedule regular, cross-functional meetings to allow time for collaboration.

✍️Want to streamline meetings? Here are 37 free UX meeting templates for briefs, agendas, and recaps.

✅ Come with a clear problem statement and provide context. 

Clearly communicate to the user research team how you arrived at this problem statement. As a product manager, you have the skill of prioritizing the most important problems to solve. When presenting this problem statement to other teams, make sure you know why this is the most important problem to solve right now at this moment. 

✅ Consider the type of research you want to do when planning your timeline

Time is precious for product managers, and not every research method type takes the same amount of time to do. Generative research may take more time to complete due to the more in-depth evaluation that these insights require. Evaluative research might take a shorter amount of time, but it all depends on your goals, the scope of your research project, and what you’re trying to accomplish.

If you’re not sure what type of research method is best for your main research question, consult a user researcher to help you determine the best research method for your decision type. 

✅ Come up with a structured way to brief a UX researcher on your needs for a project. 

Whether it be a kickoff meeting or coming up with a brief outline template to kick off a research project, it’s important to come to a user research team knowing what you need from them, what they can expect from you, and vice versa. This can be in the form of an intake document that outlines the type of information you need to kick off a research project.  

Observe and take notes during interview sessions.

Product managers don’t have to find out what users really think and feel from second-hand notes. Being a part of research sessions helps give PMs firsthand experience with executing the research and also helps provide an alternative perspective for researchers.

Align on structure and tools.

Whether it be choosing the right tools for collaboration or deciding on a cadence for meetings with UX researchers and other teams, make sure you’re all on the same page about what collaboration looks like at your organization.

✍️ Learn how to use Miro for more collaborative UX research. 

Keep communication open about boundaries and needs.

Product managers have to coordinate across several teams so it’s important to make sure the UXR team has a clear idea of what you need from them. 

Keep an insights repository. 

A repository is a shared, accessible resource for all of the insights discovered about your company, product, and users. Everyone doing research—including designers, researchers, product managers, marketers, and more—should be able to access and add to the repository when they’ve learned something new. 

Tips for setting boundaries between UX research and product management 

While product managers can do UX research, they’re not UX researchers. And knowing how to facilitate collaboration between teams also means knowing how to set boundaries between who does what.

For product teams that want to decentralize user research efforts while maintaining healthy boundaries, focus on gathering enablement best practices and guidelines rather than establishing siloed duties.

Here are some ways you can set boundaries with your involvement in user research as a product manager:

✅ Clearly communicate bandwidth and timelines. 

You probably won’t have time to join every single research session, so make sure to raise your hand for the ones you’re most interested in ahead of time. Make this known to the research team during the planning phase so they can plan ahead. 

Agree on the depth of the study at the beginning.

Know your constraints as a team and align with the research team on what you can and can’t do. This also gives the research team a chance to communicate the scope they can handle.

Know your strengths and weaknesses

As a product manager, you should know when it’s necessary to ask for help according to your own strengths and weaknesses. For example, most PMs are used to dealing with hard, quantitative data. While they might not need help from the research team with quant data, they probably should ask for help with understanding qualitative data.

Here’s an example of what it looks like to split work between product managers and UX researchers:

  • Work reserved for the UX researcher: Complex/strategic studies, ethnographic research, defining research strategy/methods/ops
  • Work that requires guidance or input from UX researchers: Research plan/design, choosing methods and incentives, writing interview scripts, interview moderation, and qualitative research analysis
  • Work that PMs can do on their own: Surveys, unmoderated usability testing, A/B testing, literature review (secondary research), recruiting, any research concerning minor/reversible product changes

How do product managers do research? Tips for planning, conducting, and analyzing research 

Research is difficult; it’s not really a plug-and-play type of work. And if you’re a product manager with a never-ending laundry list of to-dos, it’s not easy to coordinate all the different parts of user research for the first time.

The good news is, the right tools, templates, and guidelines can help establish guardrails and streamline the time-consuming parts of doing research, like participant recruitment or insight management.

We’ll go over how product managers can conduct important types of research methods, but there’s much more to UX research. If you’re not already familiar with the different types of research methods, brush up on your knowledge with our Field Guide chapter that covers this in detail: UX Research Fundamentals. 

In order to get started with user research, it’s important to start with a basic understanding of the general user research process framework. Here are some general guidelines for doing good user research that all people who do research can practice.👇

How to design focused, effective, and unbiased studies

Identify your research goals

The first step to kicking off a user research project is to choose your user research question. Not to be confused with user interview questions, user research questions are the main focus of each research study. 

A user research question articulates what you want to learn from doing user research. It should address the problem statement that you decided to prioritize during the discovery phase of product development. 

The quality of your user research and insights is determined by the quality of your inquiry. Asking the wrong question can lead to developing a solution for the wrong problem.

Much like how the product problem statement should guide your product development strategy, the user research question dictates the direction of the entire research project. 

A good user research question is specific, practical, and actionable—specific enough to answer within the scope of your study, practical enough to answer with the resources you have available, and actionable enough to help you make decisions or changes accordingly.

Choose your research method

Once you know what research question you want to focus on, you can then decide which research method would be best for that project. 

Before you start exploring and choosing new research methods, make sure to consult a UX researcher for their advice if you have a UXR team. Choosing the right research method requires knowledge about which research methods are best for certain decision types.

Create a user research plan

From there, you can flesh out your user research plan. Your plan should outline: 

  • Your research question(s)
  • Related business goals
  • Chosen methodology
  • Target audience
  • Timeline
  • Logistics
  • Next steps 

What PMs should know about recruiting participants for user research

Time spent on recruiting = time lost for building and shipping products. PMs don’t have all the time in the world to pour into recruiting, but it’s one of the most important parts of UX research.

Without talking to the right people, it’s hard to get the right insights. Thankfully, there are tools and techniques you can use to streamline recruiting. Here are some tips to help you with the dreaded task of recruiting: 

📚 Learn How to Recruit Good Participants for User Research

📚 Learn more: 8 Uncomplicated Customer Recruitment Strategies for Product Managers, UX Designers, and Marketers

Tips for conducting research (by study type) 

It should be no surprise that different research methods require different approaches. 

Here’s a good rule of thumb for adapting to different study types:

💡When collecting qualitative data, focus on open-ended questioning or observation. This includes:

  • Empathy sessions
  • Focus groups
  • User interviews
  • In-app feedback
  • Support calls
  • Support tickets
  • Idea portals

💡 When collecting quantitative data, focus on closed-ended experiments or questioning. This might include:

  • A/B testing
  • Usability testing
  • Surveys
  • Polls

Let’s get into the specifics of doing research for product managers, starting with doing generative research like user interviews.

User interview tips for product managers

One of our favorite types of generative research is conducting user interviews (hence, our name). What’s a better way of getting to know your users than directly having a conversation with them, face-to-face?

“Nothing beats face to face talking to a customer over Zoom, talking to a customer in person, actively watching them use your product and asking those questions along the way.” 

- Ryan Glasgow, CEO of Sprig and former product manager in Optimizing In-Product Research

Conducting user interviews is a great way to catch all the small details and nuances of your users that you would never be able to capture through quantitative research, such as users’ body language, facial expressions, the emotional tone of their voice, and so much more. User interviews are your chance for your users to share relevant stories, opinions, and experiences about a certain topic directly with you.

👇Here’s a brief overview of tips for product managers conducting user interviews for user research:

A list of user interview tips for product managers

✅ Dig deep into the user’s problem. When asking questions to your users during the interview, phrase your questions in a way that allows users to describe their problems and tell a story in different ways.

Question examples: “Tell me the last time you were…” “Tell me about a time you…”

✅ Ask users for context. What are some situational constraints or social context that influenced the user’s decision?  

Examples: “So, you were going home from…” “So, you were driving your car when…”

See 70+ examples of great user testing questions.

✅ Break down the user’s experience of getting the job done. How did they feel when they completed the job? What thoughts were going through their mind at that moment, and how did they feel as a result of getting the job done? 

Examples: “How did you feel when you couldn’t type in the text field…” “Tell me how you feel 

about the online shopping experience with ….”

✅ Figure out how the user arrived at the outcome. How did they complete the action?

Examples: “How did they deliver the prescriptions…” “So, tell me how you receive the items finally”

✅ Learn from an experienced moderator. 

Product managers wear multiple hats, but that doesn’t mean they’re experts in every area, especially when it comes to Interviewing as a skill. Sit in on a user interview moderated by someone more experienced and learn from them. 

✅ Find the right testing environment. 

Do you need to rent a public space like a hotel conference room or a co-working space for in-person research? Or do you want to conduct remote sessions?

✅ Maintain neutral body language and facial expressions. 

Your personal bias can manifest physically in your facial expressions or your body. Try to maintain a neutral state of calmness to minimize bias in UX research. 

✅ Prepare a moderator guide, but be ready to go off-script. 

Users can be unpredictable sometimes, especially during live sessions. Expect the unexpected and be ready to divert from your script.

✅ Take effective notes. 

Even if you’re recording sessions, your notes can significantly speed up your analysis and synthesis process. Get tips, templates, and methods for effective note-taking. 

📚 Learn more: User Interviews for UX Research: What, Why & How

While it might sound easy to simply talk to your users, user interviews require much more than simple conversation.

Use these tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your qualitative research session. It’s important that you ask the right interview questions and make sure you’re being conscious of your personal bias. 

User interviews are not the only type of generative research that product managers can do, but the main thing for you to remember when conducting generative research is to uncover attitudes, stories and motivations.

📚 Learn more: User Interviews for UX Research: What, Why & How

Evaluative research tips for product managers

Product managers are most likely accustomed to doing evaluative research when they have a huge launch, or a sudden overhaul that they need to ship out. That’s because evaluative research focuses on testing and monitoring the product before and after launch.

👇Here are some tips to keep in mind when conducting different types of evaluative research:

Qualitative usability testing 

  • Focus on measuring behavior of users when interacting with a specific usability design, not their words alone. Use this type of research to evaluate high-fidelity designs and identify problem areas or areas for improvement.
  • Choose the right type of usability testing. Choose from explorative testing, assessment testing, or comparative testing. Explorative focuses on the users’ opinions about the product; assessment testing determines the users’ satisfaction with the product; comparative testing compares different product alternatives. Pick the approach that best suits your needs. 
  • Use it during the early stages of development. This type of testing is great for validating prototypes and helps you gauge user satisfaction while measuring technical performance.

Preference testing

  • Ask a range of questions from specific visual aspects of a particular design to more broad perceptions of your brand or product.
  • Ask users to explain their choices. Why do they prefer one choice over the other? Dig into the reasoning behind the participants’ preferences.
  • Use preference testing as lightweight evidence. Preference testing is about asking users to imagine a future where a certain design or feature exists, so don’t rely too much on the validity of the results of preference testing.

A/B testing: 

  • Layer in A/B testing with other qualitative testing. A/B testing provides stronger quantitative evidence for a user’s preferences, but it’s important to round it out with qualitative evidence that explains “why”.
  • Focus on testing one variable at a time. Testing too many variables at once gets complicated and difficult to track. Isolate the variables or do three different A/B tests at different times. 


  • Don’t underestimate survey writing. Survey writing isn’t as simple as you think it is, but you can practice survey planning, choose the right survey tools, and craft better survey questions that are intentional and provide deeper insight. 
  • Keep it short, sweet, and engaging. If your survey is too long, participants might get bored and quit halfway through. Cut to the chase and make it easy for customers to engage with in order to minimize panel fatigue
  • Write your questions for humans, not robots. Product managers are used to using technical terms and getting in the weeds with data, but that doesn’t mean the survey participants are. Speak in their language in a way that they’ll clearly understand the questions.
  • Ask one thing at a time. It’s exciting for product managers to get direct feedback from users, but it’s important not to ask leading or double-barrelled questions. Remember, simple and clear questions are the name of the game.
  • Test your surveys like you test your product. The UX of your survey is just as important as the UX of a product. Make sure to QA your survey. 

First click testing

  • Focus on user comprehension and interface complexity. Establish the time it takes for users to find and click a target as a benchmark for the usability of other design alternatives.
  • Ask follow up questions. It’s important for product managers to get in the habit of asking “why?” and gather qualitative feedback from users during research sessions.

Continuous research tips for product managers

Only doing user research for a big launch date is like only flossing before your dentist appointment. If you’re not regularly flossing every day but you choose to floss right before your annual dental checkup, you’re not really making any improvement in your overall dental health. 

Making UX research a continuous habit in your product strategy will help you maintain a healthy long-term product strategy while meeting short-term deadlines. By doing lightweight research more frequently, you’re technically doing less work by saving your organization time, money, and resources that it costs to go back and do a huge redesign or overhaul.

Research doesn’t have to be a heavy lift, especially when done on a regular basis. 

A GIF of a quote about doing continuous research for product managers
“Similar to Agile development, your continuous research program doesn’t have to and should not launch as a fully featured lifecycle initiative.” 

- Alex Mitchell, Founder of The Modern Product Manager on Why Product Managers Need Continuous Research 

Product managers should integrate continuous research into their product strategy because:

“The best teams, however, are recognizing that digital products are never done. We can always iterate and improve. Facebook and Netflix will never be finished projects. If they stopped iterating and developing, their competitors would catch up.” 

Teresa Torres, Author of Continuous Discovery Habits

Great product managers already know that product improvement doesn’t end at launch. And that means that there will always be a need for UX research to continuously validate and provide direction for these continuous improvements.

You can do continuous research with methods like:

  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • User session recordings

👇Here are some tips for product managers doing continuous research:

A list of tips for product managers doing continuous researchh

✅ Practice asking open-ended questions. 

Open up the conversation during qualitative research and focus on bringing empathy to your product insights with questions that encourage storytelling and deep responses.

✅ Find the right participants. 

If you’re looking to do research on a more regular basis, you need to have easy access to the right people at the right time. Participant recruiting solutions like User Interviews makes it easy to recruit participants in a matter of hours.

✅ Focus on figuring out the right questions to explore.

While it’s important to prioritize doing research the right way, shift your focus to figuring out what questions or problems you want to explore through user research. What questions would help you build your product strategy? Come up with a list of research opportunities and questions that you want to visit in the future so you can continue the cycle of continuous research.

✅ Get comfortable with qualitative data. 

Whether it’s taking notes during a qualitative research session or analyzing qualitative insights, getting involved with subjective insights isn’t the same as interacting with quantitative data. 

  • If you’re blessed with a dedicated UX research team, you can start interacting with qualitative data by sitting in on a research session to observe and see how the pros do it. 
  • If you’re doing UX research on your own, start browsing through templates and tools to help you streamline the process of recording, storing, and analyzing qualitative data with minimal expertise.

💡Browse through these note-taking templates, tips for user research recordings, and product analytics tools in the 2022 User Research Tools Map to help you streamline the process.

✅ Validate your quantitative data with qualitative data. 

While quantitative data is necessary to validate qualitative data that is rooted in opinions and subjectivity, qualitative data is also necessary to bring empathy and user-centric context to your quantitative data. 

✅ Know your limits.

While it’s important to practice doing user research on your own to become familiar with incorporating user research into your product strategy, it’s important to know how to do research with the resources and knowledge you have. 

Not everyone has the same budget, bandwidth, or access to tooling to do the same caliber of UX research that a full dedicated team of researchers can pull off. Start off doing lightweight research and get the hang of basic UX research fundamentals first before diving in head-first.

✅ Gather support for continuous research.

If you’re the sole person who does research (PwDR) in your organization, you might understand the importance of doing continuous research but everyone else might not agree with you. 

You don’t have to do it all by yourself. Find other team members on the Product team or other teams who are also passionate about making research a habit. With the support of others championing research, it becomes easier to persuade stakeholders of the value of UX research.

✅ Integrate your research into your sprints.

Plan to block out a day during each sprint cycle dedicated to user research. Once you get in the habit of blocking off time to get involved with research, you won’t find your team scrambling to do research when necessary. It’s also easier to simply cancel if research isn’t suitable for your sprint goals than to coordinate time for research last-minute.

Provide a clear layout of each sprint for your team so they understand what to expect during each day of the sprint and have time to prepare any assets for user research, like prototypes or design iterations.

📚Learn more: A Framework for Continuous Research

Tips for analysis and synthesis

  • Use qualitative data to bring empathy to your quantitative data analysis. Learn how to tell a story with anecdotes, quotes, and users’ opinions to support the numerical data.
  • Your notes are valuable. Schedule in time after each research session to take notes of your immediate reactions, thoughts, and what you observed during the session. Once it’s time to sit down with your notes and analyze, you’ll find it easier to piece things together.
  • Find a way to structure and organize the data. Product managers are always working with data. But knowing how to organize large amounts of data is a skill that also applies to user research, especially when you’re not only dealing with numbers.
  • Share your findings in an engaging and purposeful way for other teams. Make sure the summary of your insights are written in a way that all teams can take action from. Learn how to write effective research reports and presentations.

📚 Learn more: Analyzing UX Research: Tips and Best Practices

Tools, templates, and kits to conduct your own studies

Doing user research doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel. Plus, doing research on your own without the help of a dedicated UX research team can get overwhelming.

Lean on tools and ready-to-use UX research templates to help you streamline the parts of research that take up the most time, like recruiting participants or taking notes during research sessions.

Here’s a list of user research resources, tools, templates and more to help you get the ball rolling on user research

For fast, easy, and reliable participant recruitment: 

For panel management and recruitment automation: 

For planning user research: 

For conducting research:

For sharing and synthesizing user research insights:

Additional resources:

🤖 Curious about how AI tools like ChatGPT are affecting the UX research industry? The 2023 AI in UX Research Report (based on a survey of 1,000+ researchers!) is full of great data and insights about how researchers are currently using artificial intelligence, which tools they’re experienced with, and what they think about AI’s strengths and limitations. 

Great UX research starts with streamlined participant recruitment.

“The quest to gather insights from customers has rightfully become everyone’s ongoing responsibility.”

Monty Hammontree, Partner Director of User Experience Research at Microsoft in The Future of UX Research

As more organizations recognize the value of user insights, the practice of user research becomes a shared goal across teams.  

While product managers are not user researchers by title, they are some of the best champions for user insights. Great product managers know how to effectively layer in user research continuously throughout the product development lifecycle to improve the long-term product vision while meeting short-term deadlines.

As a product manager, time spent coordinating logistics for user research is time spent not shipping things out. But doing user research doesn’t have to be a time-suck, especially with the right tools to help streamline the nightmare of logistics associated with research. 

With User Interviews’s Recruit, the process of recruiting the right participants is easy, fast, and reliable. You can find even the most niche recruits in a matter of hours, and complete a research study in a matter of days. Sign up for a free account today and start finding the right people to kickoff your user research projects. 

Rachell Lee
Copywriter at Seamless.AI

Rachell is a SEO Copywriter at Seamless.AI and former Content Marketing Manager at User Interviews. Content writer. Marketing enthusiast. INFJ. Inspired by humans and their stories. She spends ridiculous amounts of time on Duolingo and cooking new recipes.

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