User & Design Research: Towards creating user-relevant product and service innovations, rapidly and continuously

Organizations of the future are the ones that innovate rapidly and continuously. As markets get inundated with new products and services, differentiation would mean innovation; one which addresses the fundamental why’s for every User/ Customer Segment. User/ Design research can help you prepare for that future.

Insights of what exactly shapes User/ Customers’ experience, can empower us to delight them with relevant solutions along their journeys. Research by leading to those insights, drives us to create products which are relevant, accessible and applicable for the people we work with.

Insights generated through design research are realistic and tangible and they go a long way in leapfrogging you towards innovation. Is your organization ready?
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Why take the route of Primary Research?

1. Identify new opportunities

We can market to users what they articulate as their perceived needs but market research cannot guide us in solving problems customers can’t conceive are solvable. In recent times, design practices significantly moved upstream compared to traditional practices, which means that you should engage a design research consultancy like ours before you delve into Market research.

Design research could help us identify opportunities ahead of the market through methods and tool sets oriented much towards your user, which would mean that we are just one step away from pioneering your next big move.

 

2. Validate a concept/product idea

In times when a plethora of applications inundate the app stores, we are left with a question of what might be a clear differentiator which could capture the attention of your user; what might prevent your idea from becoming a commodity. In order to create and own our innovation, we need to gather user insights before understanding the value or capitalization of innovation.

As design research practitioners, we put Why before What and that’s precisely the point.

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Our Approach to User & Design Research

1. The user is always at the center

User research inherently puts the user at the core; orchestrating a user centered vision where unknowns are delved into to find opportunities around what’s not obvious at the moment.

 

2. An intent of creation is in place

Our practice is conducted in the context of creating something tangible and not just identifying a strategic direction. When there is an intent of creation, design research leads it to a creation/design.

 

3. The future is taken care of

Probing about the future, making some future predictions, our practice helps you in understanding the present and past to create a hypothesis for the future.

 

4. Perceptions lead to solutions

User research is as much about perception as facts; perceptions are essential to the extent that user research is incomplete without gathering them.

 

5. Innovations are crafted with an insight

There is a great amount of potential in understanding the “Why”. More often than not, the answer to “Why” is articulated around the User. The end goal being to delight users, we explore with the question of “why” towards understanding their needs, wants, behaviours and aspirations.

With User & Design Research, organizations are ushered into a long term strategy oriented towards their future. The process embarked, lends to creation, inspired by empathy.
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Think Design's Golden Grid: A framework for planning User and Design Research

Many a time, we come across a challenge that needs quick resolution and we choose the route of prototyping and testing instead of researching the problem further. The field of Design research is relatively new and tends to be way too esoteric in that we fail to use appropriate methods to get the right answers at the right time. This leads to trivialization of research practice, disbelief in the subject or resistance to practice it in organizations.

At Think Design, we took the initiative to create a simple yet very powerful framework that design practitioners in our organization and outside can immediately use.

Think + See

Information/ Evidences/ Data

Methods that involve observation and analysis of information/ data.

Outcome: Understanding or insights based on recorded or real-time information.

  • Audio/ Video Analysis
  • Critical Thinking
  • Diagnosis
  • Document Research
  • Heatmap Analysis
  • Social Network Mapping
  • Time Lapse Video
  • Trend Analysis
  • Usage Analytics

See + Probe

Perceptions/ Opinions/ Validations

Methods that involve observation, questioning and/or testing with users or representative users.

Outcome: Understanding or insights based on what people said or demonstrated.

  • Card Sorting
  • Concurrent Probing
  • Contextual Inquiry
  • Dyads & Triads
  • Extreme User Interviews
  • Five Whys
  • Fly On The Wall
  • Focus Groups
  • In-depth Interviews
  • Personal Inventory
  • Retrospective Probing
  • Shadowing
  • Surveys
  • Tree Test
  • Unfocus Group
  • User Testing/ Validation
  • Word Concept Association

Probe + Act

Experiences/ Design Bases

Methods that involve immersing in context and experiencing the situation by probing.

Outcome: Understanding or insights based on researcher’s own interpretation of context.

  • Brainstorming
  • Business Model Canvas
  • Ethnography
  • Guided Tour
  • Participatory Design
  • Task Analysis
  • Visit Survey
  • Workshop

Act + Think

Hypothesis/ Synthesis

Methods that involve exercising empathy by thinking and doing.

Outcome: Hypothesis or synthesis demonstrated through visual or verbal communication.

  • A Day In The Life
  • Audits
  • Be your Customer
  • Bodystorming
  • Customer Segmentation
  • Heuristic Analysis
  • Informance
  • Persona
  • Predict next year’s Headline
  • Prototyping
  • Role Play
  • Role Reversal
  • Scenarios
  • Simulation/ Modeling
  • Try it Yourself

Using appropriate research methods

This framework allows us to choose appropriate research methods based on our orientation, on-the-ground challenges, as well as operational concerns such as sample size, time at hand etc.,

Breaking down research methods into their simpler parts

We broke-down the research methods into four quadrants, primarily formed by two intersecting lines: While we have See and Act on the ends of one axis, we have Probe and Think on the other.

Abstraction to multiple disciplines

Fundamentally, all the research methods we have so far and in the foreseeable future are based on one of these four approaches: Observation, Interviews/ Discussions, Action/ Experiential/ Performance based or Synthesis/ Analysis/ Diagnosis . This is so fundamental that it can be applied to all disciplines needing User or Design research, not just UX or Product development.

At Think Design, we recommend at least one research method taken from each quadrant in order to get a holistic understanding of the situation or problem at hand.

While there are a host of research methods, understanding which ones to choose in which context relies on having theoretical understanding of the method and the experience of actually applying them.

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