User Research is Overrated
Jonathan Courtney

Hi Jonathan,

this is a nice provocative article, however my main concern is that it might add something to your personal brand but little to the discussion in the community. Let me start by saying that there are quite a few different types of companies, small to huge, digital to traditional industries, agencies to brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce to food and healthcare, international to local, agile to waterfall, mixed teams, individuals — you name it. All of them have their challenges and ways to do Design projects. All of these projects have different scopes, starting at different points in the Design process from immersion to creating artefacts and while it’s always tempting to propose “one-size-fits-all” & “just do it” it’s good to remember that it can be just as much of a trap as doing user research upfront. I find Design to be a slow process and to say otherwise is a lie, the idea that creativity is easy & fast. It’s about understanding, building empathy, framing and iterating and there’s no way to fast-track these activities. It seems like in your former agency you’ve done research to deliver documents rather than focussing on creating immersive experiences for your clients (the way it’s described in “Customers included” and numerous publications).

Furthermore in tooting “user research is overrated”, you’re damaging the credibility of those using user research for good reasons. I constantly come across managers who read headlines like “User Research is dead” (remember, they never read the full article) and than I have to convince them that this might be true for some particular case but not in general. I feel like you could add something more substantial to the discussion by just talking about the exact type of project and conditions where user research added little value while pointing out which type of scope should be tackled with Design Sprints. And btw I’ve used Design Sprints and they’re great for the right challenge.

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