Why consumer research is essential to the design process

05.12.19

by Editorial Staff

We speak to two members of our DESIGN Division to find out why research is so vital to the design process. Read on for their sage advice – and warnings

05.12.19

by Editorial Staff

We speak to two members of our DESIGN Division to find out why research is so vital to the design process. Read on for their sage advice – and warnings

Is user experience (UX) without user research even UX? Aaron Booth, Design Director APAC, and Annabelle McGee, Principal Experience Designer, certainly don’t think so.

Read on as they share their experience of running successful programs, explain the risks of skipping the research process, and outline what steps must be taken to turn findings into tangible results.

#1. Why is consumer research important to aiding design?

Aaron: Without research, the design will be solely based on the designer’s own experiences and biases. Also, having research at hand gives the designer hard evidence which they can use to align stakeholders and avoid lengthy debates. “UX without user research is not UX” is a phrase that’s thrown around a lot.

Annabelle: Consumer research is 100% crucial to the success of any design project. Firstly, by embracing an insight-led design process and incorporating customer research throughout the entire process, we’re able to remove bias and use data to support design decisions.

It also allows us to validate concepts often and iterate designs to achieve optimal results that users want. Finally, it allows us to validate and prioritize features to help define a minimum viable product (MVP) and product roadmaps.

#2. What are the risks if you don’t carry out consumer research?

Annabelle: You run the risk of decisions being made based on personal, unvalidated opinion. This can lead to missed opportunities when it comes to understanding user behaviours, attitudes, and motivations. Ultimately, you risk building a product or service that users don’t need or want.

#3. When it comes to your research, how should you prepare?

Aaron: Generally the research is split between two groups.

  • Users: Where you are trying to identify problems and opportunities
  • Stakeholders: Where you are trying to ascertain business intent, influence (and identify any possible troublemakers)

#4. How do you tend to run the research?

Annabelle: We like to conduct consumer research at all phases of the project process. The type of research we do at each stage depends on the project, timeframe, and budget, but at a high level we tend to follow this structure.

  • During the discovery phase, we conduct customer research to understand current and potential users and define what the value proposition is
  • During the conceptual phase, we conduct customer research to validate which of multiple concepts resonates best with users and then use the insights from the research to refine the concept
  • During the detailed design phase, we conduct customer research to test more complex flows and edge cases
  • During the development phase, we validate if the product is being built against the designs we delivered

Aaron: The research is also grouped into two types.

Quantitative: Large groups of users with usually statistical results. We often use tools like online surveys.

Qualitative: Smaller groups where outcomes are usually observations or quotes. They often involve one-on-one interviews, sometimes with a prototype.

#5. What happens next?

Aaron: We take our findings and use them to formulate insights. We create a document to summarize the findings so they can be communicated to the client.

The result is often a set of design principles that inform the design process and an experience promise, which is a sentence describing the final product in its ideal state from a user’s perspective.

We use the design principles and experience promise throughout the project to frame internal decision making and align stakeholders.

#6. How do you know if the consumer research has been successful?

Aaron: To be honest, it just always is. I’ve never done research and thought it was a waste of time. Even if it just re-affirms your original assumptions, it means that you have evidence to refer back to validate your design decisions.

Annabelle: It’s important to clearly define what the objectives of the research are before commencing. This will help steer how the research is run and the questions/tasks to be included.

#7. When does consumer research end?

Aaron: Generally we do it twice: right at the beginning to ensure we're solving the right problems, then once we have some concepts, we test them with users to ensure our approach is correct. The other time we may do user testing is if a product is adding a new feature or is choosing from a range of new features.

#8. How has the process at Deltatre evolved over the years?

Annabelle: It used to be quite standard to engage with third party research/usability agencies as opposed to running the research internally. These days, our designers plan and execute the research which allows us to gather insights and make updates a lot more efficiently.

#9. Can you share an example of research impacting an OTT product?

Aaron: Yes, every single project. For example, we were recently engaged by a client to help reinvigorate one of their products. Several senior stakeholders on the client side had differing ideas on what the product needed, including features like podcasts, night/day mode and editorial articles.

Our testing proved that all users really wanted was the ability to more easily find the game they were looking for. We focused on personalization and rebuilding the content discovery from scratch. When we tested it with users of the existing app the results spoke for themselves.

Annabelle: We also recently redesigned a member-facing portal and took three concepts to user testing. We were very confident that one was going to be the stand-out winner in terms of usability and as a preferred design – however the testing results skewed to another design. Users admitted that whilst they could perform some tasks fast in one concept, they preferred the layout of another as the interaction model felt more familiar.

#10. What advice would you give to operators without robust programs?

Aaron: In the short term, bring in a UX consultancy for short engagements to test your existing product and/or ensure your next release will hit the mark. In the long term, look to make user research part of your process.

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