Module 4: Project Management and Market Research in a Digital Age: User Experience, Technical Communication, and Content Strategy

Purpose

After doing this assignment, you should be able to:

  • Understand the project management process in a digital age and your potential role in it
  • Understand how market research helps create better products and services
  • Explain how UX, technical communication, and content strategy work to help build and market better products and services
  • Generate a findings report from a market research study

Technologies

On this module, you are encouraged to use any technologies that you personally own, including word processors, web browsers, and online applications (e-mail, chat, blogging, etc.). We will cover some of these technologies as we go along, but you can use any that you are proficient with or want to experiment with on this module.

You will definitely need access to the following technologies to complete this module:

  1. A working and recently-updated Internet browser (Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari are recommended)
  2. A word-processing application that allows for the production of documents in standard formats (.doc, .docx, .rtf, or .pdf; Microsoft Word, Open Office’s Writer, or Apple’s Pages are recommended)
  3. A reliable email client (Outlook, Apple’s Mail, or Gmail are recommended)

Situation

In the age of social technologies, content becomes incredibly important. By “content” I mean “relevant information.” Think about the World Wide Web: there is a lot of information on it that is completely useless to you at any given time. And the information you do need may be hard to find, may be inaccessible, or you may not even know you need it. In this environment, organizations who can deliver good content to people when they need it are going to have an enormous advantage.

Enter the positions of content strategist, UX designer, and technical communicator as purveyors of relevant information. These people are not web designers, per se, but often work in close proximity with designers to make sure content is useful and that websites are usable. They will often conduct focus groups or other research to adapt existing content to customer needs. Overall, they manage, shape, and deliver content, and help design the applications that contain this content. They also teach organizations, and people within organizations, how to do so as well.

Your assignment in this module is to create a Findings Report that explores information you’ve collected on a particular type of problem. Because this is a service-learning class, this should be a problem that you think is meaningful to our client, because you will be presenting this research to them at the end of the semester.

Documents You Must Produce for this Project (Media and Modes)

The following writing and review tasks must be completed in Eli by the following dates / times:

  • 3/20/16: Draft of Findings Report is due to Eli by midnight
  • 3/30/16: Review of Draft of Findings Report is due to Eli by midnight

The following must be posted to Blackboard by the following dates / times:

Audiences

The only audience for your cover letter is your instructor, who will use it to evaluate the choices you made when constructing your documents. Your primary audience for your Findings Report is the contact person for the organization you are preparing it for, but the people that this person is trying to reach are also an important audience to consider. Your instructor is an important audience of this document as well, however, as he will assess it based on the grading criteria for this module. Your peers will also act as an audience by helping you respond effectively to this overall writing situation.

To Complete This Project (Workflow)

1) 3/21/16 by the start of class >>

Do Homework #5

2) 3/21/16 – 3/30/16 during class >> 

Tips and Tools Day: Project Management and Market Research With TryMyUI, SimplyMeasured, and SurveyMonkey

  • We will create free TryMyUI accounts, and will also play around with the free versions of SimplyMeasured and SurveyMonkey
  • Be sure you bring a laptop to class for this activity

3) 4/6/16 during class >>

 

Market research is hard, which is why most people, even those running businesses, don’t do it. Which is probably also why 90% of small businesses fail. If you aren’t making data-driven decisions, you’re stabbing in the dark. And as we learned in Module #1, getting a job is about being able to solve problems. In this module, then, you’re going identify a problem that our client is facing and then create a plan to solve that problem through research.

Easy, right?

Step 1: Identify a problem to solve. Below are some ideas.

  • The process improvement problem: identify a process within your intended profession that could be made more efficient, engaging, or just plain better.
  • The job market problem: identify a problem with the job market for your intended profession (aka the network of people that hire people and the people trying to get hired).
  • The social problem: identify a problem with the ways in which people in your intended profession interact.
  • The technological problem: identify the ways in which new technologies are/are not being implemented within your intended profession.

Step 2: Write your problem out as a research question. Make sure the answer to your question is “the best way to do X.” Below are some examples.

  • What are the best ways to for nurses to communicate with patients outside of hospital settings?
  • How do hiring managers in engineering identify promising new job candidates?
  • How do people in the developing world find information on new products?
  • How are social media changing the way marketers interact with customers?

Step 3: Choose at least two methods to help you solve your problem by collecting data, or information collected for research purposes. Choosing two methods allows you to compare your findings with two different sources of data. This is called “triangulation.” Here are some methods:

  1. Comparative analysis: a close study of best practices for the kind of project you are working on among competitors.
  2. Survey: used to get a sense of the demographics of a given market, plus some general preferences of stakeholders within that market.
  3. Interview: used to gain in-depth stories, preferences, and perceptions from selected individuals.
  4. Focus group: used to gain somewhat in-depth stories, preferences, and perceptions from fairly randomized groups of individuals. Ideal for brand testing.
  5. Usability test: used to test how well specific types of people are able to use, learn, and engage with a digital technology such as a website or mobile application.
  6. Content audit: used to assess the effectiveness of the content contained within a website, technical document (i.e. a manual or guide), or social media network.

Step 4: Create questions for your survey, interview, or focus group or tasks for your usability test or content audit. Below are different types of questions, depending on what kind of information you need from people:

  1. Stories: Stories are useful when you want to understand the history of a particular process or product. Stories can be used to gauge the relevance of a particular process or product to current people. They can also be useful for gauging the perceptions people have of particular processes or products, or their preferences regarding a particular process or product. Example question to ask someone: “Tell me about a time when you…?”
  2. Best practices: Best practices are useful when you need to find innovative solutions for developing a certain process or product or improving an existing one. Your goal in looking for best practices is to locate the most pertinent, and cutting-edge information on a particular kind of process or product. Many times, this information is located in the minds of experts within a particular profession. You might try to identify the most cutting-edge people in the world for a particular type of process or product to discover how they are approaching the process or product. Example question to ask someone: “How have you been able to…?”
  3. Worldviews: Worldviews are the beliefs people hold about the way the world works. Worldviews can be useful in helping you understand where a particular customer or professional is coming from and why they’re making the choices they’re making. Example questions to ask someone: “Why do you think… What do you think about…?”
  4. Examples: Sometimes you need to collect example documents, templates, images, products, or other materials to solve a particular problem. You can also show examples to people during market research in order to convince them of something or get their opinion. Example questions to ask someone: “Could you show me…? Could you talk about…? What do you think about this…?”
  5. Decision points: Decision points are forks in the road. Decision points are useful to think about when you have a lot of options before you and are unsure how to proceed. If so, you might need to put forth the options you have before you to your research participants to help you decide how to proceed. Example question to ask someone: “Why did you decide to…?”
  6. Buy-in: Buy-in is a means of getting people to do something, whether that is to invest money, make a purchase, or donate to support a cause. If you are you struggling with one or more types of customers who are resistant to doing something, you might want to simply ask them what it would take to earn their business. If you’re experiencing a personality conflict, you can try to identify the source of the conflict and try to get the other person to buy into a solution that works for both of you. In a project, you might identify folks who are acting as obstacles and try to think about how you can make them they feel like part of the project. If someone is trying to sabotage you, you might think about how to seek other people out will support you. Example questions to ask someone: “What would make you…? Why did you…?”
  7. Level of engagement: Many times, doing business means engaging with people, and assessing their level of engagement with a process or product. Engagement can take many forms, from a simple conversation to a formal proposal. Example questions to ask someone: “What do you find most appealing/unappealing about…? What do you most want from…?”
  8. Experiences: Sometimes you need to asses the experiences someone has with a process or product more directly, by observing them using it. This is often the case when assessing the usability of a website, for example. In this case, you want to give people tasks to complete, observe how well they are able to complete the tasks, and then ask them to talk about what they were thinking while completing the task. Example questions to ask someone: “Why did you complete that task in the way that you did? Walk me through your thinking behind what you just did…?”
  9. Content: Sometimes you need to assess the types, relevance, authority, or currency of content, defined as “relevant information.” Questions to ask about content / to ask someone about content: “How much do I / you trust this content? How well do I/you feel the content been maintained? How current do I/you feel the content is? How authoritative do I/you feel the content is?”

Step 5: Write up your Market Research Instrument in the following format:

  1. Purpose:
    1. State in simple terms what problem you are trying to solve with your research, and how your research will help solve this problem.
    2. Provide a brief background for your research that identifies at least one trend from your intended profession that provides a justification for your research (hint: do some initial research to help you identify this trend). Again, think back to step one: what kind of problem is it you’re trying to solve? Process-based? Economic? Social? Technological? The more information you can provide here, the better.
    3. List the research question you are trying to answer.
  2. Procedures: List all the things you plan to do to gather information. The more specific you can be, the better, e.g. “I will survey 25 nursing students about their experiences with social media. I will identify these students by searching Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for students in the ECU nursing program. I will then message 75 students individually with a link to my survey and a brief introduction. I will also review the websites of 10 top nursing programs from [X nursing website] to see how they describe their use of social media in order to identify trends.”
    1. IMPORTANT: You will actually be conducting this research, so think about people you can actually contact! Don’t plan to survey everyone in America who just bought a car or 5,000 college students. Think about what is doable in one week, which will be your timeline for collecting your data during Module #3.
  3. Scripts: Include a list of all documents you will use to gather information, such as interview questions, surveys, or focus group questions. Don’t worry right now about how to actually disseminate them. We’ll talk about that in the next module.

Also: the above write-up should be no more than 2 pages!! Clients don’t like to read things.

4) 4/11/16 during class >>

Now it’s time to conduct your market research!

And yes: your research can change gears. If you find a new problem or method, run with it, as long as you can justify the change in your report. If you have questions, just ask me.

And yes: you can keep conducting research through the end of the class, as long as you get some for this module.

There are lots of tools to help you conduct your research in a quick and easy manner:

  • Test out the usability of a website – Recommended tool: TryMyUI
  • Test out a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram you have access to – Recommended tool: Simply Measured
  • Line up 2-3 colleagues or friends who fit the same customer segment and conduct a focus group – Recommend tools: Google Hangouts + A screen-recording tool http://mashable.com/2011/08/04/google-plus-record-hangouts/
  • Send a survey to 10-15 of your friends who fit the same demographic – Recommend tool: SurveyMonkey
  • Do interviews with 2-3 of your colleagues or friends who fit the same customer segment – Recommend tools: Google Hangouts + A screen-recording tool http://mashable.com/2011/08/04/google-plus-record-hangouts/
  • Read 3-5 articles or blog posts related to your problem by thought leaders in your field and write a comparison of what they say
  • Review 3-5 organizations whose mission aligns with your problem and compare what they are doing to solve the problem
  • Create a Twitter list of 10-15 thought leaders talking about your problem and compare what they are saying – how to create a Twitter list
  • Join a Facebook group of people dedicated to your problem and compare the conversations from the 2-3 most recent posts

4) After you conduct your research, you’ll need to analyze it. The following questions will help you:

  1. What trends do you notice (similarities)?
  2. What are key differences between individuals (customer segments)?
  3. What actions should be taken, based on your research (prescriptive actions)?

Then you’ll need to draft a findings report:

  1. Background: Why did you seek out the participants you collected data on? Why are they significant, given your goals?
  2. Method: What procedures did you use to collect data? When was your data collected and how was it collected?
  3. Trends: What are similarities you notice in your data between individuals?
  4. Customer Segments: What are differences you notice in your data that are specific to specific groups of people?
  5. Prescriptive Actions: What should be done, based on your findings?

4) 4/13/16 by the start of class >>

Draft of Findings Report is due to Eli

5) 4/13/16 during class >>

Review of Draft of Findings Report is due to Eli

We will do our reviews together in class. Remember: the key to a good review is to indicate what is successful and also what needs work. Doing only one of these things will not help the people you review.

4) 4/18/16 by midnight >>

Revise all documents you’ve created. Remember that the point of these reviews is to help you improve your writing. This process will be negated if the draft you submit to Eli is the same as the draft you hand in as your final (and end up eventually showing to your community partner). Revise, revise, revise. Listen to your reviewers and make critical choices to improve your documents based on what they say.

Post your Cover Letter and a final draft of your Market Research Findings Report to Blackboard.

Grading Criteria

Grading Criteria for Module 4