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How to conduct design research and capture actionable insights?

Duration

The time required to conduct design research may vary depending on the scope and goals of the research, the research methods, and sample size. Typically, it takes 1 to 3 weeks.

Complexity

Advanced

Contributors

Design researcher, UX designer, Design manager, UX writer, Product manager

When ?

Design research is conducted throughout the design process, from the initial stages of gathering insights and understanding user needs, to the final stages of evaluating and refining the design solution.


Getting Started

Design research is a user-focused approach to understand the users, their problems, and their needs. It helps designers to offer informed and inspired design solutions for the user needs. 


How to?

According to Erin Sanders’ research learning spiral, there are five main steps to conduct a design research:


Types of Research Methods

Through research methods, you observe the users, understand their mental model, and analyze the gathered insights to identify user patterns and trends. 

 

Primary Research Methods

1. One-on-one user interviews

2. Focused group interviews

3. Contextual inquiry

4. Diary study

5. Usability testing

Secondary Research Methods

1. Internal data

2. Government data or statistics

3. University research centers

4. Respected magazines, newspapers, and journals

Generative/Exploratory Research Methods

1. User interviews

2. Surveys

3. Contextual inquiry

Evaluative Research Methods

1. Usability studies

2. Summative research

3. Formative research

To know more about different types of research methods check out User Research Basics 


When to use which research method? 

Different research methods are used at different stages of a UX design process and for different intents. 

Research methods to be used during each phase of the design process are:

Phase

Need

Research Method

Product Definition

Defining the scope, getting requirements and prioritization

Stakeholder interviews


Good Questions for Stakeholder Interviews Template from IxDF

 

Reviewing past product usage data to understand how people had been using the product

Data Analysis

 

Feedback from past version of the product

Customer Satisfaction Survey

Research

Identify the target personas 

Screener Surveys

Survey & questionnaire templates & examples from Typeform

 

Find out individual user’s pain points

User Interviews 

User Interviews Launch Kit from UserInterviews

 

Find how users behave and work in their native work environment 

Contextual Enquiry

Shadowing (Observation)



 

Know how people interact with a product / service over a period of time, going through different phases of usage 

Diary Studies

 

Understand users’ expectations, preferences, and responses while being a part of a group

Focus Groups

 

Find what other similar products are doing and how well they’re doing

Competitor analysis

Competitor Benchmarking

 

Evaluating proposed Information architecture

Card sorting

Design

Testing the low-fidelity design to check if it’s directionally good

Guerilla Testing

 

Evaluating an interim version of design

Design Audit

 

Check if the IA of a product is working for the users 

Tree Testing

 

Checking which one of the 2 variations of a feature/ flow is working better

A/B Testing

Validation

Checking if the design is usable for the users

Usability Testing

  • In-person 

  • Remote 

 

Evaluate accessibility of a product

Accessibility Testing

 

Identify problems a user might be facing without actual user’s participation

Cognitive Walkthrough 

 

Check how a digital product is doing on a set of standard parameters

Heuristic Evaluation

Heuristic Evaluation Template from Figma community

 

Which parts of the UI is being explored and interacted with the most 

Mouse tracking & click tracking

 

To find which parts of the UI are being seen most by the users

Eyetracking

 

Reviewing product usage data to understand how people had been using the product/ service

Data Analysis

Handover

   


Synthesizing Data from Research

After conducting the research, it is equally important to convert the data  into product requirements. Different methods are used to synthesize research data into actionable insights as below:

Affinity Mapping

Affinity mapping is one of the most used methods for deriving patterns from research data. In it, patterns are identified from received data and it’s best done together with the team. This is done in 3 steps:

Ecosystem mapping

Understand the relation of a target user with the system they operate in and use the product.

User Journey mapping

Analyzing the overall experience and identifying any gaps that need to be fixed. You might find new opportunities this way that you hadn't considered before.

Task flow analysis

Going through a task as a user would go through step by step.

User Stories

What tasks would user need to do while using a product.

Translating Insights into Product Requirements

From synthesis of research data, pointers can be classified under the following categories:

Value proposition mapping

It helps put together what the product should be and how it should address users' pain points.


Do’s & Don'ts

Do’s

Dont’s

  • Be clear on the intent of each research activity.

  • Be well prepared.

  • Understand what the users are doing along with what they’re saying.

  • Use the most apt research method for the reason it’s being conducted.

  • Do a dry run before doing the method with invited participants.

  • Synthesize and process research data with the team and not alone.

  • Don’t overwhelm the research participants.

  • Don’t be biased.

  • Don’t prompt the users.

  • Don’t skip any received input from users

  • Don’t ignore user feedback.

 

Templates 


Suggested Tools 

For Preparation & Planning

For Conducting Surveys

For Usability Testing

For Research Synthesis

For Sharing Documents


References 


Other Related Best Practices