We can discern plenty of valuable information about a customer from this data, based on what they do and when they do it. That data, however, doesn’t answer the question of why they do it...
User research is used to give is the Why, and the How for our users actions.
At Frog they use a system called the "research learning spiral." This spiral has 5 distinct steps. The first 3 have a goal of formulating and answering questions so you know what you need to learn during your research. The goal of these three stages is to build a research plan that you can present to your stakeholders. Once you have sign off on your research plan you can start actually doing the research which is the final two steps of the plan.
- Objectives - What question(s) are we trying to answer?!Use framing questions to facilitate this discussion. After you have your framing questions picked out you should cluster them into categories and convert them to research categories.
- Hypotheses - What do we think we already know? This part of our plan should include both guesses about their behavior and potential solutions we have to accomplish their needs. Your Hypotheses should be single statements like "Breakdancers like to dance on streets that have both foot traffic and history"
- Methods - How we plan to fill the gaps in our knowledge and answer the questions to prove our hypotheses.
- Conduct - Gather data through the methods we've selected.
- Synthesize - Take the data we gained and apply it to our objectives, and hypotheses to discover what opportunities and implications exist for our design efforts.
“It is built to be replicable and can fit into any part of the design process. It is used to help designers answer questions and overcome obstacles when trying to understand what direction to take when creating or moving a design forward."
This process can be as formal or as informal as possible. Imagine you are sitting in a room of strangers, you assume that one or two of them shares your interest in breakdancing. You ask a sweeping question if any of them like to breakdance, and follow up with more detailed questions about breakdancing. You take notes of who likes breakdancing, and how much experience they have. Next time you are about to lay down your you can use the information gained to invite along some new b-boys.
This process can also be very formal. When conducting research for a project you will need to be more detailed and diligent about each step in the process.
The sources for this research are Smashing Magazine: A Five-Step Process For Conducting User Research