For years, I cobbled together various tools in order to help me plan, capture, analyze and share user research. I always thought there had to be a better way…

I love to figure out how to make things work. Give me a word doc, MS Paint, a whiteboard and stand back…I’ll whip up a user-centric design in no time! Although my fellow co-workers give me a hard time as I channel my inner “MacGyver”, I get the job done.

But, I will admit using the right tool for the job can make you much more efficient and effective. Especially when you’re scaling your research practice and including more team members.

Here are the 5 signs you’ve outgrown using paper notes, Google Docs and Excel for user research:

1. You’ve misplaced (read lost) some of your research notes

I loved all my paper notes full of barely legible chicken scratches and the colorful post-it notes clumped together in seemingly random groups on my wall, but sometimes I felt like they controlled me instead of the other way around. Plus, it’s almost impossible for team members to see what I’m working which slows everything down.

2. Searching for previous research puts you in panic mode

“Can you send over what users said about “x” last June? I need it for the meeting I have in 5 minutes.” can be a pretty scary request when you’ve opened the teams’ Google Drive and see there are a few hundred un-organized documents staring back at you.

3. You’ve dedicated blocks of time to merge team members notes

Involving other team members in the user research process is one of the best ways to get user research buy-in and scale research within the org, but spending an entire weekend matching contextual notes to specific user sessions is not my idea of fun.

4. You’ve discovered mistakes in your calculations

I’ll freely admit I’m no mathemagician…and excel loves to remind me of that fact. Especially when I’m reviewing my final report and realize the numbers are wrong because I forgot to update the sum and average equations from the last two rows I recently added.

5. Found yourself wishing for a simpler way to manage research

As deadlines quickly approached, there have been many times I’ve wished there was a way to cut down on all of the tedious work that happens during the user research process. Even just a little automation in organizing and aggregating data could have saved me a ton of time.

user research tool

Why We Built Handrail

After struggling with these problems for few years, I decided I’d had enough. Luckily, my team was on the same page. We decided to build a tool to eliminate the busy work of user research. That’s how Handrail was born. We’ve been using it for a few years now and want to share it with you. You can use Handrail to help your team plan and organize your next research event. Sign up for a free 30-day trial.

In Summary

I believe user research is an important (if non-negotiable) part of the product development process, but unfortunately, it’s not always treated that way. So, if you’ve found yourself in a few of these situations I’ve outlined above, maybe it’s time to admit you’re ready to move on.

Mat Winegarden

Product manager at Handrail. Sometimes I have ideas...other times I am brilliantly late to the party.

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