23 Nov 2016

Understanding the Research Process

So you’ve decided to incorporate research into your design phase. Great! So where do you go from there? This post will outline a basic six-step process for performing design research.

  1. Define the problem. All research should start by determining what problem you’re trying to solve. Are conversion rates too low? Are users unaware of how to use an existing feature in an application? Are you trying to learn more about the audience you’ll be targeting for your new web site promotional campaign? The outcome of this step should be a set of specific questions that you’ll be able to answer at the end of the research process.
  2. Select the Approach. There a various types of research approaches that you can take depending on the problem you’re looking to solve. These include organizational research, user research, competitive research, or evaluative research. Some projects may require multiple types of research. If your questions are about users and their behaviors, user research is a great place to start. Evaluative research is appropriate for testing an existing design or a potential design solution.
  3. Prepare and Plan. In this stage, you’ll want to start with a problem statement that you’re looking to solve. You can then determine the duration of the study, identify who on your team will be performing which roles (interviewer, note taker, etc.), and identify the subjects of the study (potential customers or users of the existing application).
  4. Collect the data. If you’re performing qualitative research, data may come in the form of notes collected during user interviewers or observational sessions. Quantitive research may come in the form of results from user surveys or existing software analytics data.
  5. Analyze the data. At this phase, you’ll begin attempting to identify any patterns and insights from your research data. You can begin to think about how this data may impact your ultimate design solution. However, you’ll want to avoid looking at specific solutions at this point. The goal of research is simply to present data that will be used during subsequent phases of the design process.
  6. Report the results. Depending on the type of research, you might be reporting these results to your client’s stakeholders or to an internal team at your company. Deliverables can include both raw research data as well as observed patterns.

Ideally, the results of your research will leave you well-prepared to begin the next phases of the design and development process.