What does data-driven mean?
Broadly, data-driven means that our progress in design sprints and projects is compelled by data derived from end-users. We get this data by performing user interviews, surveys and understanding the user journey. Being data-driven means that our user research period can afford to be succinct, short and qualitative. It actually informs our design process because iterations and testing make up so much of our progress with a client.
We believe humans are rich points of data. Yet designers’ obsession with contextual observation is lengthening the process to actualise products and perpetuates subjectivity.
Our look into data-driven design, and the way it informs our process, means we can talk about the efficacy of data-driven design and the way it can enhance the design process across a range of design fields.
Data and user research and testing
In 2016, we took a timeout from using a strict human-centred design approach for designing complex systems and started experimenting with other methods of discovery, design and delivery. We were fortunate to have the blessing from a couple of forward-thinking (albeit fundamentally behemoth) organisations to put our ideas into practice.
Where we landed after multiple iterations, is at a place, or rather a methodology, that we are calling “a data-driven approach to design”. Think of it as a human-centred design process that brings data to the forefront of every decision and pushes design teams to respond to data rather than intuitively. Using this approach designers are encouraged to use their instincts, but stay grounded in data analytics and synthesis.
Listening and empathy
How do you listen well to your users? How well do you measure your ability to gauge whether you reached the user’s needs?
We need to keep our empathy in check earlier on in our discovery process. You can work towards delivering tangible outcomes that can be tested with more rigour and with greater awareness of the data you are collecting. You also learn how to evaluate data more scrupulously.
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Steve Jobs said that. He believed that people weren't always in the best position to understand their needs. As designers, we should work to better understand data and allow it to drive the way in which we design products and services.
Understanding and empathising with the people for whom we are trying to solve problems is essential — but we believe that designers are better placed to empathise with the data.
Bridge the gap between user research and design
To do this, designers need to get better at understanding the value of data and allow data science to drive their decision-making process. Knowing how to drive your designs with data will make sure your project will always address the user’s needs.
User research is an asset in every design toolkit, but it can be a costly and drawn-out activity if the data obtained isn’t utilised properly.
Performing interviews and contextual observation to come towards some statistical significance is a time intensive process. For a designer, that means coordinating large groups of people within large organisations to systematically provide free time for you to be part of their lives. It’s not a fun process, nor is it a fast one, but it is invaluable.