Design Research is a process that inculcates sense into a project. It is a fundamental part of solving relevant problems. The research revolves around users and understanding the needs of people and how the products or services we develop will help them.
In our first post - Who came first, Design or Design Research? — Part 1 - we wrote about the importance of design research. We believe "Jumping right to the product without understanding the client brief, the target audience or the end-user, competitor landscape, product-related trends and analysing the data that's collected, your design process will be mostly guesswork. Overall it will be an inefficient way to design."
Making research logical and dominant is a problem we all share, and there are countless approaches to solving it. Let's make it work. Shall we?
| Steps to Design Research
1. Primary Research
1.1 Understand what the Client Needs
Understanding client expectations continues to be a critical capability. Listen first, It all starts with hearing out your client. They rely on our experience and expertise to guide them through the solution to their problem that is why it's very important to ask the right questions. Keep asking “why?” and keep digging until you get to the root of the problem. Learn their business, listen to what they tell you and take lots of notes. This will allow you to visualise the information and understanding expectations leads to increased performance.
Understand the client intensively and then start to work.
1.2 Understand the Users
A designer should see the value in an instant end-user. Who are the users of the product? What are their behaviours, goals, motivations and needs? Reassess your assumptions and keep going back to the facts.
It is important to research all scenarios of our users while designing a digital product. Human needs and concerns change over time, to stay relevant in the development of digital products, we need to think at a higher level than screens and devices only then we can end up with something that is more flexible and usable.
Having an extreme user analysis is like digging in the right spot. The goal is to build up a deep understanding of the user's life, their daily challenges, understanding their decision making and build empathy.
1.3 Define a Timeline
Timing is everything but it shouldn’t be scary, it should just be realistic and comprised of spacers. The most credible projects that get the best of interest where design is concerned come along with an unexpectedly short deadline.
The fast design does not equal a good product. Create an outline for the entire project and pick a timeline for research within the same frame. Keep breathers in between - good research always takes a longer time than you plan, Just saying.
1.4 Get Consistent Feedback
Get feedback early and often. Now isn't just the time to go to your client yet but is to engage everyone in your team with the research through agile retrospectives. It’s easier to make small adjustments instead of correcting big mistakes when a lot of time and effort has gone into it. Create a space to reflect, review, analyse, and course-correct. Keep coming back for feedbacks at all stages of your research.
Encourage actions with a problem-solving approach rather than rehashing issues over and over again. Consistent feedback also promotes continuous learning and improvement for the project and built long term positive relationships within designers and project managers or decision-makers.
2. Secondary Research
Good research is specific, actionable, and practical and it's cant only be conducted at a desk. It works its way from paper to the real world.
There are many methodologies that are effective in producing research, If you are clear and candid about your goals and questions, reach out to the right source of the information, find studies, blogs, publications online, go outside during lunch and observe people, read books, get out in the field, attend meetups and mixers. Also, it's important that competitor analysis becomes a key part throughout the secondary research.
Secondary research is used as a way to validate user insights and create a stronger case for an overall design. The practicalities of the research need to be carefully considered at each part of the research.
Keep track of time and the impact of the research and don't let any step hold you back from the feedback loop because the whole point of using research is to make sure our work agrees with reality. Once the right data is in hand it's time to shortlist and implement. It's time to get creative with your research.
3. Evaluations and Explorations
Evaluative research is assessing the problems identified. The evaluation seeks to understand the outcomes of research than the process itself.
Finances - Is the research cost-effective as per the time it consumes.
Potential - Is the research substantial enough to stand its ground in terms of knowledge and impact.
Impact - This is where the research is evaluated in broad effects, positive and negative impacts.
Outcomes - To evaluate if you are achieving desired results or there is still a need to dig deeper into the subject.
Credibility - Evaluating the source of research.
Potential - How implementable is the research and the outcomes of it.
A clear part of the research involves explorations of the possible and unexplored possibilities. Here brainstorming becomes a tailored tool toward creating a specific result which helps gain deep insights of the inner working of an Idea and by observing it from different angles, we begin to see in an angle that we initially didn’t.
Explorations are the refinement of ideas and exploring an idea's potential, through clear explorations it becomes possible to both expand and refine at the same time.
During every stage of research keep up with the feedback loop, be open to comment and critique and make changes as they come across valid.
Most importantly stay focused on your vision and refine the idea until it is exactly how you want your product to be.
Each stage of research is personalised learning of methods, sources and materiel when something works well for us, we begin to rely on it and doing so again. Good habits are essential but patterns don't work well for creativity. Break those purposeless habits when starting a new project by keeping in mind the certain requirements of your industry standards.
| Convincing the Decision-Makers
This may come easy with some and may not for most of us. As a Designer/Researcher or Writer you have to have the same empathy for the client, project managers, decision-makers and your team as you have for the users.
It's important to explain why good research contributes to the company's growth and stay focused on why is the research necessary while articulating the same.
Design can't be easily put into metrics but the points that can be covered quantitatively are revolved around how long it takes one/team to complete certain research?
If you are a system thinker this should come easy. Move quickly with the feedback loop, present your research in a well-documented form and as scheduled.
In the first part of "Who came first, Design or Design Research?" we mentioned a metaphorical example about how every profession needs its own set of systematic research. Such examples while you make your case tend to be helpful.
Find ways to work research into the company’s process with small steps, and be purposeful about it, simply initiating a series of movements that proceed without any further influence.
Thank you, for reading. Hopefully, we were helpful. In the 3 part of the same series, we will be sharing out our final conclusion on who came to first Design or Design Research?