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How persona research helped AccuWeather better serve its audience

Every business looks to create value for users — but few start with persona research to understand them. With plenty of people already turning to AccuWeather’s apps for weather predictions, it would have been easy to consider the market understood. But the team knew there was an opportunity to target niche users with new features, and came to Table XI to find it.

By looking at their own analytics and a bit of market research, AccuWeather’s team found that construction workers were one of their most valuable audiences, making critical business decisions off of the data in the AccuWeather Professional app. Weather plays a huge role in coordinating materials, scheduling contractors and everything else that goes into a new building. So every construction team leader keeps a sharp eye on outdoor conditions.

Much like construction crews use AccuWeather to understand their environment, AccuWeather approached Table XI to create personas that would help them understand the unique needs of this audience.

We had one big question to answer: How can we make AccuWeather invaluable in the construction industry? By taking the time to answer that question properly with user persona research, AccuWeather was able to launch new features that make building easier.

“With Table XI’s frequent communication, it felt like we were one team. Developing our solution was definitely an interactive process.”

Bill Boss, Senior Director, Subscription Services at AccuWeather

The goal: Conduct persona research to identify new challenges

AccuWeather knew construction workers were a valuable audience, but wanted to learn more about why they loved AccuWeather’s data. To build a better solution, you first need to know everything about the potential problem. AccuWeather had mountains of data on how people were already using the app, and our UX team has a process for combining that quantitative data with qualitative research to make sure we’re building the right software in the right way.

Learn more about why we do user research

We started with persona research questions for users in the construction space, to learn what they were already getting from AccuWeather (and their competitors), and what they were missing. We interviewed construction managers in various types of work — small vs. midsize, office vs. onsite and retail vs. residential. Getting the full range of user needs helps us identify all the features users might want, and which are most universal, so we can help AccuWeather prioritize a path from Minimum Viable Product to full-featured application.

 

“By Table XI challenging the premise of our solution, we discovered that we were trying to solve a different type of problem.”

Bill Boss, Senior Director, Subscription Services at AccuWeather

 

The tools

  • User Research
  • Persona Creation
  • Product Strategy
  • UX Design and Prototype

 

The results: Using the persona research method to build a better product

As we talked to people in the construction industry, we realized that the existing AccuWeather app worked great. With a few new features, however, it could give that audience exactly what it needed — something no other weather app was entirely doing.

Tenting up a site to work around poor weather can cost thousands of dollars. The risks are so high, people in the construction industry need to get all the data and get it right.

By listening to users, we were able to get feedback on how the current AccuWeather app could work better. By making some of minor improvements to the existing application, AccuWeather could better serve the audience without embarking on a whole new build.

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User research personas mitigate risk while making a better experience

Software without a user is like a restaurant without diners — empty, cold and quickly out of business. Fortunately, it’s a fate no one needs to suffer from. The reason we do user research sprints and Google Design Sprints is precisely because they help us avoid building things that aren’t useful, and that therefore won’t attract users.

The common statistic is that every $1 spent on user research before development produces a return on investment between $2 and $100. Nowhere else in business can you so consistently get a 2x to 100x return.

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Screens from the Accuweather prototype

Getting to a deeper level with user persona interview questions

Each user interview provided a new layer of insight into how construction workers could use the AccuWeather app.

“The forecast might say rain, and it might be a drizzle,” said one user. “It's experiential, how the rain feels on your skin at the time. I'm trying to mesh data I get with my devices and what my guys are feeling on site to inform the final call.”

By talking to the real target users for AccuWeather’s proposed construction app, we were able to see past the data to learn what construction workers weren’t getting. 

The benefits of persona-based design

Our interviews revealed one common goal for construction workers: to plan for and monitor weather impacting their job sites. All they need to know is if the weather was going to be bad, how bad it was going to be and when it would affect their work. Our prototype answered all those questions with a glance:

Accuweather prototype

The solution we created with AccuWeather offered a dashboard showing multiple job sites with color-coded weather risks. Glanceable summaries for each one made it easy to get the basics while links offered more details. It also included a multi-site radar — critical for people who weren’t willing to bet a construction site on a summary.

 

“Table XI will provide you with talented people that help you find the best solution to your problem.”

Bill Boss, Senior Director, Subscription Services at AccuWeather

 

AccuWeather incorporated user research at exactly the right time — when they had an idea of where to go but hadn’t yet started working toward it. Instead of pushing forward into the unknown, we were able to work together on a map based on real user needs.

“Working with Table XI means that you will be in a partnership where you both positively challenge each other. If you had all the answers and didn’t need a new perspective, then you wouldn’t be looking to hire anyone.​​​​​​​”

Bill Boss, Senior Director, Subscription Services at AccuWeather

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