Tips to boost your design research

Transcription of speech given remotely in the Gov Service Jam that took place in Birmingham, UK on March 2016. This event was organised and hosted by Spaghetti Jams, an organisation aiming to empower citizens and communities through the value of design. Find the original speech here

Hello Jammers!

My name is Alvaro, and I’m a User Researcher working for Wakoopa, in Barcelona. I’m glad to introduce you a few tips to Design Research that might help in your design process.

Design research is a necessary procedure that helps you as service designer to understand the user’s needs, motivation and preferences and guides you towards what is called the human centred design approach.

If we want to build something meaningful for real people, we obviously need to know what’s meaningful for them, understand their feelings and have this empathy feeling; and this is very important. The best and fastest way to know that is talk to real people directly, and here’s is some tips I’ve learned on my experience as a design researcher to maximise this process:

  1. Ask everything

Be careful with your assumptions, the social stereotypes and how you believe things work. It might not be that real. Don’t ask questions with an answer implied, try to make open questions, nothing direct to the point, and encourage people to talk by themselves.

Instead of asking: Do you like the NHS website?, you might ask: What was the last time you used it? Did you get to finish your task there? Did you need any support? And you will get a much more complete and honest answer.

2. Go to the deep of their needs.

Don’t try to figure out what people want, but figure out why people want it. Don’t try to know the facts, but get the insights. This will give a much more open and realistic frame of the situation, and a lot more room to play with on ideation. Check this out: If you got a real insight, you will have no problem in come out with ideas for it.

If you find out that elder people prefer take doctor appointments on the clinic rather than online, ask you why they choose to do so, what problems they find, what needs they solve by doing so. Again, avoid direct questions, because they might don’t know the answer to them

3. Use the rule of the 5 why’s..

To figure out a real problem, ask you or your users 5 times why is this happening. It will guide you towards the real insight, the reality of what’s happening. You will get surprised on how effective this is. Try this out with your team a couple of times before you get out, and then will be easier.

4. Focus on your target group.

But go big! Before you go outside and talk to people, you need to first frame your research. If you try to please everyone, you won’t please anyone, because people are different, are diverse and they have diverse needs and motivations.

That said, you can get creative when choosing your target group. Choose something in common to start with, something you’ll like to approach and then continue from then. But don’t panic, because research will help you to refine or change this it’s needed..

Ex: people with dogs, Youngsters who pay taxes, People who work for the government, elder tourists, people who use buses….

To do so, creation of personas is a really helpful tool within the design thinking process. Personas are archetypes of people that fits on your target group; With a concrete age, gender, location, income level, digital behaviour, likes, dislikes, motivations, etc. Even a picture helps you fully empathize with them and get right on their shoes.

N.B: Please don’t confuse your target group with Personas. Target groups are segmentations of people you’re aiming to reach, (i.e, people with dogs in Birmingham) whereas Personas are fiction archetypes of those people, that help you understand them. (i.e. Jenni is a Finnish expat in Birmingham who just bought a dog)

5. Data is our friend!

Take notes on what people say, and extract the numbers out of it. Stakeholders will trust your research more if they realise there is a stable research behind, and data can really help to that; Numbers give credibility to the facts, humanising your ideas.

Is not the same saying “Many people in Birmingham thinks that public transport isn’t enough” than saying “9 out of 10 participants of the study say that Birmingham public transport doesn’t fill their commuting needs”

6. Context is as important as Content.

If you stick on researching the core of an idea, you still have the risk of missing something on its implementation. Try to figure out what media this people consume, how digitally minded they are, who or what influences them, how attach are they to the status quo, or who or what they trust.

Many brilliant ideas get lost as a result of a bad implementation, don’t let yours do the same, and think also on how are you gonna make this work.

That’s it, I’m sure you will get a really nice research that will lead a wonderful service to be designed.

I wish you lots of luck and send you lot of love from Barcelona. Really looking forward to see your work done.

bye bye!