How our product design framework guides UX research

Our product design framework: Right Problem, Right Solution, Done Right

Jen Cardello
Published in
5 min readFeb 11, 2019


High-impact UX research supports product teams in identifying the right problems to solve, discovering the best solutions to those problems, and designing effective, efficient, and delightful experiences that encourage desired user behavior and drive business outcomes.

At Fidelity, we believe user experience (UX) research is fundamental in guiding our agile product development lifecycle. In order to scale user research across our hundreds of product teams and ensure we are delivering value, we have established three core initiatives:

  1. Research framework: Consistent research methods and instruments mapped to a standard product design progression (the focus of this article)
  2. Experience measurement: Consistent instruments that generate UX metrics to quantify concept and experience quality
  3. Research democratization: Empowering non-researcher product team members to conduct some types of research themselves.

Product design framework

This article focuses on our research framework which standardizes what research we conduct, with which methods, and when in the product lifecycle. Note: Future articles will address our other two pillars.

Phase 1: fall in love with the problem

In order to best support our product teams, the framework starts by ensuring the right problem is identified and quantified before solutions and detailed design are undertaken. Why? Focusing on identifying and quantifying “the problem” from the get-go helps multi-disciplinary teams build strong alignment and combats against solution bias. During the “right problem” phase, we conduct generative and evaluative research. In addition, we incorporate innovation methods such as Jobs-to-be-Done to quantify customers’ and prospects’ unmet needs.

Questions to be answered:

  • What are the jobs people are hiring our products/services to do for them?
  • What are the unmet needs of our customers and prospects?
  • How do people currently approach a particular process? Where does it cause strain? Where can we reduce strain?
  • Why doesn’t an existing workflow / feature / page produce desired user behavior and outcomes?

Qualitative methods:

  • 1:1 Interviews
  • User observation

Quantitative methods:

  • Jobs-to-be-done
  • Usability testing (summative)
  • Analytical/heuristic review
  • Standardized user perception surveying

Phase 2: usefulness before usability

In this model, we decouple testing for usefulness from usability to ensure we have strong product-market fit before diving into detailed experience design for new products and capabilities. Some background:

At Fidelity, we recognize 5 different types of design projects:

  1. New product: Adding a new product to our portfolio to serve unmet needs of customers and prospects.
  2. New capability: Adding a new workflow/feature/functionality into an existing product to meet the needs of customers.
  3. UX debt: Redesigning an existing workflow/feature/functionality because it is not generating desired user behaviors which is preventing us from meeting business objectives (i.e., acquisition, retention, operating costs).
  4. Tech debt: Redesigning the UI because of underlying technology changes.
  5. Optimization: Incrementally improving an experience to increase desired user behaviors and impact business outcomes.

With new product and new capability projects, it’s critical that we understand how well early concepts resonate with target customers. The other three project types (UX debt, tech debt, optimization) are not introducing new concepts, rather they are exploring potential design variations. Design variations do not require concept testing — they require traditional evaluative research.

If a concept does not resonate with customers, we want to know that early on in the product lifecycle, so we can pivot to find stronger product-market fit. This ensures our teams are focused on the initiatives that will deliver the most value to our customers.

Questions to be answered:

  • Do people see value in this workflow / feature / functionality?
  • Would people use this workflow / feature / functionality?
  • Do people think this solution addresses an unmet need?

Qualitative method:

Concept Feedback interviews

Quantitative method:

Concept validation surveying

Phase 3: pace over perfection

In the “done right” phase, we are focused on helping teams rapidly iterate and test design variations that lead people to take actions that achieve business outcomes. To do this, we initially rely on human factors techniques such as usability testing and analytical/heuristic review. We focus on the most critical use cases first and encourage teams to reserve space in their backlogs to incorporate in-market experimentation for optimization and fine-tuning the design.

The creation and usage of a design system helps teams get to a usable and accessible design faster by starting with a usable and accessible kit of parts. Evaluating adherence to the design system can reduce the amount of testing required to put something into market that is effective, efficient, and delightful.

Questions to be answered:

  • Is this workflow / feature / functionality effective, efficient, satisfying, delightful?
  • What can we change to make it so?

Qualitative methods:

  • Usability testing

Quantitative methods:

  • Usability testing
  • Analytical/heuristic review
  • Standardized user perception surveying

Aligning research methods to the framework

Aligning research methods across the product discovery and design framework

This is what our framework looks like with the methods mapped to the phases. This model is deliberately streamlined to help product team members (i.e., non-researchers) understand how to best incorporate research into their work. There are many additional UX research methods that can be applied given the nature of a project (e.g., card sorting, tree testing, first-click, etc.). We recognize that there will be instances that require those and other research methods.

Our intent is that a clear and consistent research framework will help us deliver value to our product teams by clarifying how UX research can help in the quest to design and develop useful and usable experiences that our customers value and that grow our business.

Join our team! We are hiring strategic, innovative, and agile UX Researchers and UX Research Directors at Fidelity in both Boston and Durham, NC locations.


Originally published at on February 11, 2019.



Jen Cardello

Vice President, Head of User Experience Research & Insights at Fidelity