UX Research for discovery
A few days ago we wrote an article about different phases in a research and product and service design processes, where several methodologies of UX Design and UX Research are included. These phases are: Discover, Explore, Test and Listen.
On this post we will dive into the Discovery phase.
The first phase in the UX Research process is Discover. At this stage we will try to understand the users’ needs, and also we will try to discover the unknown, so we can be able to contribute with solutions to problems that users are still facing.
In this phase there are different methodologies which we can put into practice, with the purpose of developing a product or a service that will be based on users, or perhaps redesigning an already existing product.
Some of these methodologies are:
- Ethnographic field studies
- User interviews
- Diary studies (field studies)
- Competitive usability evaluation
Discover’s previous considerations
Since this phase takes place at the beginning of a UX Research project, and we are just barely starting to realise its context, it is really common that an unexperienced researcher, when facing a notorious level of ambiguity or uncertainty, leads them to design an investigation plan that is too broad and not too defined.
This means that, when facing uncertainty, their focus might be placed on an objective much further than from what would be reasonably expected. This, which may seem attractive at first (since we all would like to span and learn as much as possible), might end up being a mistake.
Research, or UX Research plan, needs to have a clear focus, since unless we have an unlimited budget and no time constraints, any research that is too broad will turn into too broad findings, with no depth nor weight.
To avoid this we should consider:
- Make sure that this first discovery phase will lead us to enough information about users, their tasks, tools and environment.
- Answer to the following questions: What are stakeholders interested in knowing about the user, other than the business part? Which questions are they expecting to answer through research?
- Have a teamwork mindset: What do all the other professionals involved in the project need to know? Which information is important so that designers will take care of their work in the best way?
- Establish priorities. At this point it might help us to place ourselves in a to the limit situation. Which user group (or subgroup) would we research if we could only pick one? Which tasks would we analyse if we only had one week to carry out our research?
UX Research techniques in the Discovery phase
Ethnographic field studies
Field studies are research activities that take place in the user’s context instead of the companies’ context or in a UX Research Lab.
It is a technique with many different possibilities, since it may vary depending on the interaction of the researcher with the participants.
Some kinds of field studies are:
- Passive observation or “fly on the wall”: where we observe the user in their context.
- Active observation: Really common in research in context where the researcher actively participates in the users’ activities and regularly asks questions about the tasks they are doing.
- We can go one step further, applying functionalities to prototypes, to prove or explore the touching points on existing digital products.
User interviews consist of a dialogue between two or more people:
- The interviewer(s)
- The interviewee(s)
This kind of technique is contained in ethnographic evaluations and is usually the first step taken to approach between users and UX Researchers in the development of a product.
From a user interview we will obtain qualitative information. This means, it is not about numbers, it is about insights that will help focus the project around the overall user needs.
In-depth interviews in particular can be focused towards two different audiences: final users of a product or stakeholders of the project.
Diary studies (field diaries)
Diary studies are a UX Research method used to compile qualitative data about behaviours, activities and experiences of the user throughout time. One of its main characteristics is that it is the participants themselves who take notes of the information through the specified time, from some days to up to a month or even more.
These studies can be useful to understand:
- Habits: When is the product used? How do users share their content with others?
- Use scenarios: How committed are users to the product? Which are their main tasks? Which are their workflows?
- Motivations and attitudes: What motivates users to carry out specific tasks? How do they feel? What do they think?
- Changes in behaviours and perceptions: How easy is it to learn how to use the system? Are users loyal?
- Customer Journey: What is the users’ common route? How is the user experience?
At the same time, diary studies are structured in a way that they focus in one of the following aspects:
- Website interactions: To better understand all the site interactions along an established period of time.
- User behaviour: Compiling information about their lifestyle and attitudes.
- General activities: Understanding how people carry out their everyday activities such as sharing content through social media or buying online.
- Specific activities: Understanding how users accomplish more particular activities such as planning a vacation or buying a car.
Competitive usability evaluations
The competitive usability evaluation method determines the product’s performance, related to its main competitors. This comparison can be made either with general usability metrics or in relation to the contents or design elements of other interfaces.
For that reason, this kind of evaluation can be carried out by an expert or through UX techniques by the users.
This technique tries to understand the things that do not work in a digital product, or which other things the competitors are doing better, from a user perspective or from a UX expert’s point of view.
If you want to become a UX Research specialist, we invite you to take a look at our Advanced Research Specialisation Programme. This training is in Spanish.
This article is a translation of the following posted in our corporate website: