Design Research — Part 1: Plan & Conduct

Discover the secret to a solid design research process (and some do’s and don’ts for a fruitful interview session)

Aldi Pratama


Creating apps is more than just slapping codes together; you’re essentially creating an experience that will drive users to take action and achieve the app’s goal. Thus, behind every well-crafted app is a long, thorough, and tenuous design research process

Design research is a daily meal for the DKatalis product design team. It’s the most effective way for us to understand our users and provide the best solutions and experiences for them through our apps.

Although every designer approaches research differently, we are sharing a template we have learned in this series. The following topics will be covered:

  1. Plan & Conduct
  2. Synthesis
  3. Present

Now, let’s jump into the first part!


At DKatalis, we strive to stimulate, and ultimately, catalyze growth through our digital solutions. Instead of creating new problems for users, our products must improve their lives. Driven by this spirit, we have developed the Jago App to address financial literacy, the AMAAN App to empower female entrepreneurs, and the People Xperience App to provide digital solutions that enable organizations to adapt to rapid changes.

In this series, we will use the Jago App as an example.

Case Study

In this case, we take one of the Jago x gobiz projects.

Meet Untung, a successful merchant who also uses Jago to manage his finances. Starting out from a humble shop in front of his house in Jakarta, the business expands to 2 other cities, Bandung and Medan. He finds out later that managing finances for 3 shops are much more complicated than just one.

Meet Untung, a successful merchant who also uses Jago to manage his finances. Starting out from a humble shop in front of his house in Jakarta, the business expands to 2 other cities, Bandung and Medan. He finds out later that managing finances for 3 shops are much more complicated than just one.

First, let’s determine the research objective:

To understand merchant business scope and their behavior in financial monitoring

Key Research Questions

The key research question serves as the point of departure around which your research will be centered.

These questions help you to focus on the details you need to know and probe further, as well as the approach to take in searching for answers.

Good key research questions must be [adjectives]. Here are some examples:

  • How is the user?
  • How do they run their business?
  • What are their needs, expectations, and pain points?

Research Methods

You can select from a variety of research methods based on your needs

for Untung’s case, we decided to conduct an in-depth interview because this is new feature and we want a holistic understanding.

Here are some research methods that you can use, such as:

1. In-Depth Interview (IDI)

In this method, the researcher will conduct a one-on-one interview with the user. An interview session usually takes around 45 to 60 minutes. This method is useful for determining a user’s motivation, goal, behavior, habit, pain points, and other characteristics

2. Diaries / Photo Journal

The researcher will ask respondents to document and photograph activities related to the research topic.

3. Online Listening

The researcher gathers intelligence by monitoring online conversations about the research topic from multiple sources, including social media platforms.

4. Service Safari

The researchers collect information and insights by firsthand experiencing a service, putting themselves in the shoes of a user. Researchers can better understand the user’s journey and pain points by exploring the service from the perspective of the customer

Research Plan


There are important factors to consider when formulating a research plan: time, budget, and available resources. These factors will also determine the research methods you should take.

Discussion Guide

In general, there are 4 main parts of a discussion guide. In accordance with our research objective, the guide we use in this case will be as follow:

If the interview is being recorded, remember to ask permission or notify the participant before starting the session.

  • May we record this session for documentation?
  • Could you introduce yourself?

Broad Questions
At this stage, we are going to get acquainted with the general aspects of the participant’s day-to-day life.

  • What is your typical day?
  • What kind of business do you run?
  • How long have you been managing your business?

Specific Questions
It’s time to focus on the research objective. In Untung’s case, we will inquire further about his financial management.

  • How do you manage your finances as a business owner?
  • What are the issues you encounter when managing your finance?
  • What do you think can help you streamline your financial management?

Sometimes, the participant will want to share insights or opinions that are not covered by the research questions. Also remember that the participant has set aside their valuable time to help you, so show them your appreciation.

  • Is there anything else you’d like to add?
  • Thank you for your time!

Interview do’s and don’ts

If you’re going to conduct your first interview session, don’t worry too much! Here are some tips for an effective interview session:


  • Observe, be an active listener
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Seek for stories
  • Ask follow-up questions, ask “why”
  • Ask them to “show” instead of “tell”
  • Take notes


  • Make a phone call/play with your phone during the interview
  • Interrupt the conversations
  • Judge or jump to a conclusion
  • Ask leading questions

What’s next?

Now that you have created a solid research plan and identified the most appropriate methods, we’ll get to the next step, Synthesis! It’s when you turn your research findings into actionable insights.

Do you find it exciting to design and develop solutions that help millions of people grow? Join our team!