Research Driven Design

Pretty pixels aren’t the answer.

Today, many UX designers will tell you that user testing is king. Testing has it’s place but I believe the first phase in the design process, research, is more important. Part of being a UX designer is developing empathy for people. This is impossible if you think you already know the solutions to your target audience’s problems. If you don’t discover what people’s real pain points are it doesn’t matter if you solve them effectively or not.

Some of the most common ways I do research are by conducting user interviews, creating surveys, and watching people interact with the current interface. I’ve found that these methods can be conducted quickly and are effective at providing solid information. Of course there are thousands of research methods and the one’s I employ not limited to these three. Rather than obsess over finding the perfect combination, I choose a few techniques I believe would be a good fit for the project and do them.

I gain the most information through watching people who are in the same room as me but many times this is impossible. Frequently, the audience is too well defined and too spread out for me to be physically present. It’s also usually harder on the budget.

The evolution of new technology has enabled remote research to become more effective. Screen sharing is one of the best ways to spot people’s issues. I’ve also had success with video interviews and surveys. I haven’t tried it yet but virtual reality has become more mainstream. The more real you can make your research the better. Virtual reality is as real as it gets without being there. It’s only a matter of time before Starbucks is full of VR headsets!

If you’re still unclear about which research method to use for your project take a look at this article on Nielsen Norman’s website, “When to Use Which User Experience Research Methods”. It provides an overview of 20 common research methods and sorts them into a graph showing when you should use them.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article I’d appreciate it if you’d heart it. If you want to read more check out other posts I’ve written.

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