Getting Creative with UX Research

Fully uncovering people’s stories about their experiences can take a little creativity. Here are 3 imaginative methods we love.

Stephanie Guaman
Aug 28 · 4 min read

As UX researchers, we are stewards of the stories that the people we serve share with us. While we rely on plenty of standard tools and methodologies to discover and tell those stories, we’ve found that we have the biggest impact when we add some creative approaches to the mix.

Let’s walk through three of our favorite ways to apply creativity to research.

1. A thousand words: Using images as a prompt

The deepest insights about how people feel about our products don’t always come from interview answers. Images capture so much meaning and feeling in a compact format.

To apply this approach, ask participants to share an image that represents their experience with your product or service at least a day before your in-person or remote UX session. Your request to participants might look something like this:

Please share an image from the web that captures your experience using [product].

Why did you choose this image?

What does it say about what your experience has been like, or how it makes you feel?

Discussing the chosen image with participants during the UX session often yields deeper insights than a straightforward interview question would have — sometimes drawing out feelings that participants might not have been consciously aware of.

Apply when you need answers to:

  • How do people feel about my product experience — and why?
  • What’s an analogy for how people feel about the initial experience of my product?
  • What is the overall impression of my product experience?

2. It’s not you, It’s me: Writing to your product

Another way to help people open up about how they really feel about a product is to ask them to write a letter to it, as if it were a person. This can be a love letter, a breakup letter, or anything in between. Here are some sample prompts for a love letter:

  • How did the relationship begin? How did you meet?
  • What traits or qualities did [product] have that you attracted you?
  • How did you feel at the start?
  • Were there any bumps in the road? How did you get through it?
  • Was there a moment when you knew you were in love?
  • What does [product] do to keep your affection?

When asking people to share their letters in a group setting, be sure to listen for how people read their letters. What do they emphasize? What emotions surface? Use probing questions to uncover the deeper meaning of what they read. This can also serve as a way to see where people agree or disagree in the room.

This activity can be done in person or remotely, and can fit into other research activities. For example, it can serve as a warmup for the product box game (covered next).

Apply when you need answers to:

  • How do people feel about my product — and why?
  • What values are most important?
  • What is the core functionality that people can’t do without?

3. It’s all in the pitch: Revealing the dream value

The product box game is an innovation game that helps uncover a product’s value proposition by asking people to create the box of their ideal version of that product. It’s a creative way to learn more about the value people dream about from a product offering.

To apply this approach:

  • Create a space that engenders creativity for the group (8–10 person) session — for example, use round tables, set expectations, use music as background.
  • In small teams, give participants about 20 minutes to build the box of their ideal product experience.
  • Materials needed include blank cereal-sized boxes, markers, magazines, stickers, pipe cleaners, tape.
  • Have each team pitch their product box to the rest of the group in a 3-minute pitch.
  • During the pitches, listen for the narrative that participants share.
  • What are the benefits of this product? What problem does it solve? What matters most?
  • How do people in the room react to the pitch? Is there agreement/disagreement on the value proposition shared?

Apply when you need answers to:

  • What value proposition can our product offer that makes us stand out from all the rest?
  • What key features matter most? What are the benefits of the product?
  • What values underpin the product experience?
  • How do people want to feel as a result of their experience with the product?
  • What should our go-to-market strategy be?

These are a few ways we’ve gotten creative with UX research (for more ideas, see Celebrating Creativity in UX Research). But we know there are so many other approaches to learn from. What else are UX research teams doing to practically apply creativity in research? We’d love to hear from you — please comment below!

Author: Stephanie Guamàn, UX Researcher at Facebook

Illustrator: Drew Bardana

Facebook Research

Learnings from the people who study human behavior for Facebook

Stephanie Guaman

Written by

Facebook Research

Learnings from the people who study human behavior for Facebook

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