Understanding who you are designing for: the research design. Building a UX Playbook. [2 of 4]

Laura Cochran
5 min readMay 10, 2022

Once we scoped our Customer Playbook to the small business segment, it was time to form teams to understand these customers.

In the understand phase, we wanted to uncover the following insights in order to lay the foundational groundwork for the design and content of the Customer Playbook.

  • Understand how SMB customers can be better served through digital services that streamline their online banking needs and reduce their dependence on physical bank branches and/or business bankers
  • Understand the sub-groups within the SMB segment and the nuances in behavior that exist within each.
  • Identify the blockers and/or mindsets preventing SMBs from transitioning to online and self-service banking.
  • Gain information to be able to lead ideation of new products and services that VB can develop to better serve this customer segment.
  • Understand how customer mindsets intersect with known business needs, will lead us to identify which products and services should be transitioned to self-service or online banking.
  • Uncover customer mindsets and motivations that are unexplored in prior research so we can refine or pivot key business goals.
  • Uncover how the current customer buyer experience (brand, product, offerings, relationship banking) connects or disconnects with customer needs, behaviors and motivations.
  • Uncover pain points with current SMB products and services (usability, capability and gaps).

Preliminary Inquiry

The team of researchers and experience strategists started by diving deep into a dataset created when from the new PPP loan customers. These customers tended to fit the criteria for a small business and Valley had just onboarded thousands of these customers. Given it was such a unique situation when the pandemic hit, we had just surveyed these new customers. We wanted to uncover who these business owners getting PPP were and if their needs were different than the core Valley customer so we could respond to their needs and meet expectations.

This data gave us a jumpstart on how people were thinking about their goals at the moment [growth or stability mindset for example]. It also told us people preferred to use specific channels [branch, phone, online] to do specific transactions [check balances, make deposits, send wires] but it didn’t tell us the why for most of what we wanted to know.

Primary Research

We decided to use a mixed-methods approach — starting with in-depth interviews then validating the patterns with a survey to customers and non-customers.

For both methods, we recruited business owners across various dimensions to capture diversity of thought and banking mentalities.

In-Depth Interviews: 18 Interviews

In-depth interviews allowed us to understand mindsets and motivations of small business owners when it comes to their business and banking needs. IT also gave us insight into any specific industry needs in terms of business banking, which was a key hypothesis our stakeholders had. We needed to understand Healthcare business owners and Real Estate investors.

In our interviews, we discussed what was working and not working about their primary business banking relationships, including trigger moments that resulted in moving a full relationship or parts of a relationship to another bank or service provider.

Survey Design [Internal and External]: 500+ responses

The survey validated findings and insights gleaned from our in-depth interviews and coding process. It also allowed us to gather feedback from a larger population representative of existing and potential Valley Bank customers. We needed this data to support the archetype development.

The survey was particularly useful in validating trigger moments as well as what drove people to initial select a specific financial institution as their partner. Some prefer efficiency, seamless digital transactions while others lean on the branch as their convenience arm because there is nothing faster than having a human do it for you.


We needed to make sense of what we heard. A structured system for coding the data was crucial to doing this since we were spread out across interviews.

Coding the Interviews

In order to conduct interviews and make sense of all the data we were collecting as a group, we implemented a standardized coding taxonomy that allowed us to capture key observations from each interview and categorize each “nugget” of information in a standardized way to surface patterns. This was inspired by Tomer Sharon’s nugget system.

  1. Type — was this observation or statement an attitude, behavior, need, goal
  2. Frequency — is this something they describe happening once, not often, often, constant, never
  3. Magnitude — how big of an impact did this have on the person high, low, neutral
  4. Actions — what action were they taking in the story they shared (e.g. “Writing checks”, “Visiting a branch”, “Bookkeeping”)
  5. Method — were they doing the action in-person, online
  6. Channels — what touch-points were involved (e.g. phone, mobile app, email, ATM)
  7. Products — did they mention a specific banking product(e.g. savings, line of credit, payroll)

Identifying and Validating Themes

We began with a set of perspectives, the types of people we wanted to speak to. Through synthesis we validated and evolved some of those perspectives, while newer themes emerged from what we heard.

We mapped every user we spoke to on a handful of matrixes. Our coded data (nuggets and evidence) justified their placement. Where we began to cluster groups of users on a continuum or matrix is where we formed archetypes, or mindsets.

Defining Archetypes

We ended up with seven archetypes that represented patterns across our interview and survey data.

Back to the Design Challenge

How might we identify and communicate small business owners needs, behaviors, goals and attitudes in a way that this information becomes the bedrock for conversations on what it means to be a trusted partner to small business owners and people use this information to take action?

So, now you know how we identified the archetypes. This was a big lift for the entire team. Specifically, for these individuals:

Experience Strategy Leads: Mindy Yuen, Hadassah Damien

Researchers: Joel Rosado, Amy Lanza, Ingrid Nieters

Now, it was time to define, design and develop the Customer Playbook function and form [how we would communicate what we’d just learned].

Up Next:

Communicating user needs: determining function and form. Building a UX Playbook. [3 of 4]

Previous Post: Understanding who you are designing for and helping people design for them. Building a UX Playbook. [1 of 4]