What do you do next if you have interviewed, tested, and mapped your way around a problem? How can you ensure you realise the outcomes of your research?
Having dedicated time and effort to observe real human behaviour and converting those valuable insights into actionable outcomes is crucial to prevent them from being wasted.
If your research insights do not find their way into your designs, then your research becomes performative and fails to have any meaningful impact on the people you are designing for. Our objective is to ensure this does not occur.
Setting up your research
When setting up your research, it is crucial to establish a clear goal that addresses a specific question, hypothesis, or problem. The goal should guide your research efforts and provide direction throughout the process.
- Goal Clarity: Clearly define the purpose of your research. Determine whether the goal is to answer a specific question, validate a hypothesis, identify a problem, or create designs for a product change.
- Design-oriented Research: If the objective is to make changes to the product, ensure that your research ultimately leads to actionable designs. This approach is suitable when the product is the source of the problem you are addressing.
- Varying Degrees of Design Impact: Different research studies will have varying degrees of impact on the design process. User testing a concept can influence design decisions and boost confidence in the chosen direction. Other studies may require additional steps and time to translate into tangible solutions. Pay attention to these types of studies in your pursuit of UI designs.
- Hypothesis-driven Research: Initiate your research with a hypothesis you aim to confirm or disprove. If the hypothesis is proven, you can move forward with confidence. If disproven, you can pivot and explore the following hypothesis.
Synthesise and summarise
The success of translating research into design relies on your ability to understand and effectively communicate the findings. Synthesising research involves identifying and articulating the overarching themes that arise from the study.
During this translation process, it is essential to transform raw artefacts into clear and accessible language that stakeholders and team members can easily understand. The chosen format for communication will depend on the story you need to convey. Whether through storyboards, sketches, graphs, or concise bullet points, the goal is to identify themes quickly.
Design opportunities may only sometimes be evident during the research phase. Participants may not explicitly state that the information architecture needs to be clarified or that the onboarding process needs improvement. As a researcher, you must read between the lines, interpret behaviours, and consider contextual cues to uncover meaningful insights and potential design improvements.
In many cases, it may not be feasible to pursue every great idea immediately. Instead, focus on championing the ideas that align with the needs of your users and the goals of your business at the present moment.
Suppose a specific template for synthesis doesn’t exist. It’s more about feeling your way through the insights to uncover the themes that connect them. If you’re researching to create design solutions, these themes should lead you to those solutions.
Share and align with your team.
When it comes to research, it can often lead to multiple solutions of different types and sizes. Exploratory research may only sometimes provide direct answers, and managing stakeholder expectations becomes crucial in such situations. Each project participant may have their idea of the right solution, and it is your responsibility to articulate how a specific solution aligns with the research findings.
As you and your team start generating ideas, it becomes essential to prioritise the best ones. Research projects typically uncover several insights and problems to address. The challenge lies in determining where to start and how to balance significant, complex issues with more minor, immediate fixes.
Practicing rolling synthesis, which involves quickly capturing ideas and insights after each research session. This method allows you to continuously build upon your findings and observations, uncovering new patterns or areas that require further exploration. By documenting your ideas in real-time, you create opportunities to gain deeper understanding and generate new questions for future research sessions.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to prioritising work. Some teams must prioritise based on a single dimension, such as complexity or urgency. However, relying solely on one variable can lead to overlooking other vital factors like scope, cost, or pervasiveness.
If your team still needs a prioritisation framework, exploring and adopting one may be beneficial. Look for a framework that aligns with your team’s working style and business model. Various prioritisation exercises available can provide ideas and guidance in this area.
Explore and test
Once you conduct research, it’s time to generate design ideas grounded by those insights. This connection between research and design is called “design glue.” It’s also crucial to articulate how your UI, product, and solution are linked to the research findings. If you find it challenging to explain the link, it’s necessary to revisit your approach and go back to the drawing board.
Here are some suggestions for identifying design opportunities based on your research:
- Group insights: Consider your app or website’s different sections or pages. Identify which areas stand out based on the research insights. Focus your design exploration in those specific locations.
- Cluster ideas by user journey stages: Analyse the research findings based on the user journey stages. Look for clusters of insights at specific locations and explore design opportunities that emerge from those clusters.
- Segment research by user type: If your research reveals distinct user profiles or types, consider how their needs and behaviours differ. Tailor your design solutions to address the specific requirements of each user group.
To ensure that your design ideas are rooted in research, holding a critique session with someone unfamiliar with the study can be helpful. As they ask questions, evaluate whether you can justify your design decisions with research insights. If you find yourself relying on personal preferences or ideas instead of research findings, it’s a sign that you may need to deviate from the real insights.
Remember that some design solutions will be more evident based on the research. For example, exploring new button copy becomes a straightforward solution if the research highlights that participants consistently misunderstood the text on a button.
On the other hand, some design challenges may need to be clarified. For instance, if participants expressed concerns about their physical safety when using a ride-sharing app, addressing this problem requires a broader design effort. It may involve creating multiple touchpoints and implementing mechanisms to help users feel and be safer throughout their journey.
Constantly sketching ideas immediately after a research session is an excellent practice that promotes alignment and collaboration within the team. By visually illustrating your vision of a potential solution, you can capture and communicate your initial thoughts and concepts while they are still fresh in your mind.
By exploring and testing design solutions firmly rooted in research insights, you increase the chances of creating meaningful and compelling user experiences.
Design solutions are indeed the ultimate goal of a successful UX research project. The insights and learnings gained from research provide the foundation for creating concepts and solutions that effectively meet the needs of people and customers. However, it is essential to maintain sight of this goal during the research process.
To ensure that the research findings translate into tangible design solutions, striking a balance and prioritising the learnings is crucial. This involves carefully assessing and organising the insights gained from the research, understanding their significance and potential impact on the user experience, and aligning them with the goals and objectives of the product or project.
A great product team excels in balancing and prioritising these learnings, transforming them into thoughtful roadmaps and design projects. They consider the resources available, the constraints and limitations, and the organisation’s strategic direction. By making informed decisions about which concepts and solutions to pursue, they can effectively deliver value to users and customers.
Translating research findings into meaningful design solutions is a hallmark of a successful product team. It requires a combination of analytical thinking, creativity, and strategic decision-making. By leveraging the insights gained from UX research, teams can create innovative and user-centred solutions that positively impact the overall product experience.