Template for user research plan

Arash Ranjbaran Qadikolaei
4 min readMay 5, 2022

Including essentials that need to be communicated about the research to set expectations and to keep yourself focused.

In my world of wealth management, it’s precious to get time with users as every minute is worth a hundred to thousands of dollars. My stakeholders expect to hear a strong business case for every user we ask to have a research session with. Research objectives, expectations, and questions always need to be crystal clear and ready to share with anyone who asks about it.

A research plan communicates important information about the who, what, why, and when of research. Together with the research roadmap and protocol, these documents ensure everyone is aligned and knows their roles in the research.

To create research plans quickly, I have a master template to use as a starting point for every project. It comprises essentials that need to be communicated about the research. It makes planning and writing easier.

If you just want to grab the template, you can download it at Research Plan Master Template. Below are tips and instructions for how you can fill out each section.

1. Background

This section summarizes all the conversations you have had with the team leading to why this research was initiated. It’s a brief explanation you can give to anyone who asks what this research is about.

I usually construct this section with 3 short paragraphs:

  • What were the signals or hypotheses that led to this research? What needs to be validated or explored? E.g. user problem in the current-state, business problem, or opportunity…
  • What has been done prior to this research? E.g. any solution ideas, research, analysis of ROI…
  • What insights will this research generate? How will those insights be used / what decisions will be made based on those insights?

Though there might be a lot of information, keep this section concise so that everyone in your team will read it.

2. Objectives

BUSINESS/PRODUCT OBJECTIVES AND KPIs

What metrics are your business stakeholders or product teams trying to enhance? Help people understand what is the bigger picture of doing this research.

I frequently use the following business objectives where design and research can play a critical role:

  • Revenue growth (through conversion optimization and providing more user values)
  • Customer growth (through delightful user experience, new product development, or modification of an existing product for a new customer segment or a new geographical market)
  • Customer loyalty (through delightful user experience, innovation)
  • Efficiency (by prioritizing the right product and features to build, streamlining the process, improve the experience in internal software)

RESEARCH SUCCESS CRITERIA

  • What qualitative and quantitative information about users will be collected?
  • What documents or artifacts need to be created?
  • What decisions need to be made with the research insights?

3. Research Methods

List all the methods you will use, including both secondary and primary research. If your stakeholders aren’t familiar with different methods, you can include one to two sentences explaining what the method is and its purpose.

4. Research Scope & Focus Areas

This section helps my sanity. Before I used to jump straight to writing questions for users and I always got overwhelmed by how much information we wanted to collect. This section keeps the research focused and avoids overpromising expectations. You will write:

  • 3–6 topics of questions (optional: ranked by importance)
  • Design focus components which include interface qualities such as 5 usability components
  • Primary user scenarios

5. Research Participant Profiles

I list both SMEs and users to recruit for research. With users, I also include information about their segments and the criteria used to screen them.

6. Appendix

In the appendix, I include information that has been discussed prior to creating the research plan. Some examples are:

  • A list of initial hypotheses was uncovered through an assumption mapping workshop with stakeholders. This can be in the format of proto-persona, journey, or just bullet points of assumptions.
  • User ecosystem map outlining who interacts with and influences users
  • Highlights of meeting notes (any noteworthy discussion, consideration, etc.)

That’s everything about the research plan!

In case you missed it earlier, you can download this free template here: Research Plan Master Template.

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