Making Sense of User Research: 5 Tools for Finding & Refining Winning Product Ideas

by Deanna Dial on April 16, 2019

Collecting quality data about users and markets is foundational to discovery and product innovation — but it’s only the first step.

Guerilla user research, contextual inquiries, user interviews, and usability tests allow designers to gather accurate information about who would use a product, when they would use it, why and how they would use it. The next critical step is to discern meaning, develop strategy, and design interfaces based on that raw information.

Following generative research, designers and product leaders use a variety of visual communication tools to turn user research into actionable insights for their product designs.

Practical, visually plain, quick and easy to create — these tools serve several practical functions:

  • Facilitate the design thinking process, allowing designers to process meaning from their research
  • Create alignment among stakeholders
  • Assist in real-time discovery sessions, facilitating intentional, user-centric, research-based discussions
  • Accelerate innovation when incorporated into standard practice at an organization
  • Interpret factual user research into smart product strategy

These tools are simple, easy to learn, and portable. By incorporating these tools into usual discussions and product planning, organizations can foster a culture that regularly practices innovation without costly investment.

User Personas

User personas are communication tools that help product owners, managers, strategists, or UX designers teach both clients and product teams about the people who will use their products. User personas should be based on facts about real people who already do or could potentially use the product being designed.

Before fleshing out a user persona, conduct research through surveys and contextual inquiries to learn about the people who will use the product. Visit them on site to observe the context in which they will use the product and their behaviors in that context.

Download Praxent user persona template and ebook Praxent

How to Create User Personas for Digital Products

Create clear and compelling user personas in Sketch or Keynote using our free templates.

Download includes a guide to understanding user personas and six questions to ask during early user research.

User Journey Map

User journey maps allow designers to maximize ROI on usability tests, providing a big picture perspective on the efficacy of a user interface design. They are important communication tools documenting the “why” and “what” behind a product design.

User journey maps depict product goals and requirements from the user’s perspective. They outline each stage of the user’s experience with a product, highlighting their thoughts, emotions, and actions. Each separate user persona requires a distinct user journey map.

Download Praxent user journey map template and ebook Praxent

Create Your Own User Journey Maps in Sketch or Illustrator

Maximize ROI on usability tests and foster smart decisions for new product development with user journey maps.

Access the free step-by-step guide and handy template for diagramming user experience.

Mental Model Diagram

A mental model diagram dives deep into the motivations, thoughts, mindset, and environment of each human interacting with your product. It also provides a space for clarifying how each feature or aspect of your product will address user motivations and pain points seamlessly within context.

The process of creating mental model diagrams is a helpful activity, in and of itself. As teams organize statements and ideas from the user’s perspective, they begin to think critically about a product’s features and goals, testing core assumptions behind a design.

Download Praxent mental model diagram template and ebook Praxent

Turn user research into actionable insights with mental model diagrams.

Accelerate innovation and make user-centric decisions with mental model diagrams.

Access the free step-by-step guide and templates for Sketch and Keynote.


Wireframes lay out the structure and visuals of a product in a non-interactive, 2D format. They are created in stages: low-fidelity for communicating basic visuals and screen layouts early on, and high-fidelity for a more developed picture of the end-product. Low-fidelity wireframes are often black and white with no consideration for font or graphic style. High-fidelity wireframes contain color and thoughtfully selected fonts, and begin to express a distinct graphic style.

User Flow Charts

User flow charts are similar to user journey maps in that they track each stage of the user’s experience with a product. The difference is that user flow charts are a step more developed than journey maps. Rather than focusing so much on the mindset and motivations of the user, the user flow chart will outline in detail all the steps taken by the user and the prompts and triggers provided by the digital product.

Download Praxent field manual for rapid innovation ebook Praxent

5 Tools for Fostering Practical Innovation.

Learn skills for cultivating an innovative culture within your organization.

From guerilla research to helpful sketching exercises, these 5 methods prove innovation doesn’t have to be a costly burden.

  • Получите доступ к пошаговому руководству для облегчения преднамеренных, переносимых и экономичных сеансов обнаружения в вашей организации.
  • Мастер 5 инструментов для определения инновационной стратегии продукта.

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