Just the word research brings up memories of statistics classes in college. Worse; tediously formatted bibliographies in High School reports. But over time, I have come to realize that research is a much broader term, and have applied it to my life and work. Before you run, allow me to explain why designers should apply research to their process. It can be applied without tedious citations and formal presentations weighing you down.
Regardless of how you receive project goals, there has been research involved to get there. It could have been formal market research, a detailed report of web analytics or even a customer complaint that drove the thought behind it. I am grateful to work with those who form priorities on behalf of the business and who our design team can partner with on many research items. But, that does not leave responsibility off the table for making sure our solutions line up to meeting the needs they were intended to meet.
I don’t know about you, but I love not having to rely on someone for everything I do. While others focus on market and business needs, our team is able to contribute by performing research that pairs nicely. Additionally, it keeps us moving on detail decisions. For example, we can perform simple A/B testing and usability tests. Something as simple as testing for the best icon a huge asset to not have to revisit later in the design process. There is enough to iterate and revisit later on.
I love that lately more product folks are sharing their experiences. Many no longer rely on others to get user perspective injected into their process. There has been a shift from huge research reports that become paper weights to simple ways to gather information from humans. They save time to perform yourself. It's still important to partner traditional research with your higher level findings that I’m proposing you try.
Another reason that research is for designers is to directly discover details that aren’t passed on. In the subconscious whisper down the lane effect, details are often left out. When you work more directly with customers you gain more from the experience than a report could ever gather. As a problem solver, it can even be used as generative research; sparking ideas way outside the realm of what you’re researching at the moment.
Erika Hall’s Just Enough Research has been a great launching point for ideas to grow user involvement in our process (Thanks for the recommendation, Chris Cashdollar!). She outlines all sorts of considerations to think about to gather just enough research to make smart decisions for your business and your users.
Before, during and after a project is launched there are many ways to:
- Generate ideas
- Solve problems with design
- Confirm they are being solved
It takes a team to ensure these points are met. I encourage you to take responsibility to learn what works and come up with ways to organize your research.
Previously, I have outlined a few ways I have been gathering internal customer data to improve our design process. Next week I’ll be outlining a few tools I use to organize ideas to research as well as findings in context of design work.
Read Organizing User Research now.