UX Research Process in Product Design

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15 Mins

All great design aims at solving users’ problems and to achieve that, understanding the end-user through research is essential. Effective collaboration of project managers with products makes a big impact only if your product is considered useful by your customers.

Like all design, this approach is integral in UX development. Without the UX research process, it is inevitable that the final product design for your app or website will not satisfy your customers. At the end of the day, it is your customer that is using your product and if the design doesn’t solve the issues they are facing, then it is simply not good enough. This is one of the key reasons why many great products fail. It’s great to have a list of features and ideas to offer but taking time to understand the issues that your users will face and how to tackle them is the differentiator between the success and failure of your product – especially in the digital world. If your app or website is not responsive in the right ways then your customers are bound to stop using it – an outcome nobody wants.

So, now that we understand why UX research is so important, let’s look at the process. While it is a long and layered process, we made it simple for easy understanding. It is important for you to know each part of the process to understand how it adds value to the final design. The more you know, the more you are involved in your own product’s design!

Phase 1: Discovery

UX Research Process - Discovery

This is the first stage of the research process where the product idea is discussed and problem statement is defined. During this part of the process, the end goals of the UX research are defined.

Step 1: Kick off meeting

The purpose of the initial meeting is to discuss the product idea with all your team members. The goal of this is to have a clear definition of the problem you are trying to resolve through your app or website. During this step, there needs to be an in-depth mapping of the problem space. This includes:

  • What is the problem and what knowledge do we have to solve this problem?
  • What are the gaps in knowledge to solve the problem?
  • Who are the key stakeholders?
  • Who are the users and how would they respond to your solution?
  • What are the spaces around this problem which are affected?

It is crucial to discuss all of these points to formulate a problem hypothesis. Once the problem hypothesis is created, it allows you to analyze the possible directions your research can go into. This is important as it gives you many research questions and you can choose which of these questions you want to pursue.

The end goal:

  • Define the problem hypothesis in a clear manner.
  • Align your team on the knowledge as well as the gaps.
  • Discuss problem-related spaces, biases and key stakeholders.

Step 2: Create your research plan

This is the creation of an actionable research plan. Outline your approach to the research and define an outcome for your research. Discuss which would be the most appropriate method to resolve your problem hypothesis. Depending on your product idea and the stage of your research, you can choose if you need to follow generative research methods (learning based) or evaluative research methods (testing based). Define the user profile and the criteria for participants to qualify for your research so that you are targeting the right participants for your product development. Accordingly, look at various methods such as discovery interviews, concept exploration and prototype testing. You need to gauge which of these methods allows you to gather the best kind of information to answer your problem hypothesis. Establish the measurement criteria with the key stakeholders. Essentially, definition is key for this step. Each aspect of your research needs to be clearly defined so that you obtain the right kind of data for your research process.

The end goal:

  • Have an outlined research plan and an outcome.
  • Decide which research method would be best suited to your problem hypothesis.
  • Define the user profile.
  • Define various aspects of the research such as participant criteria and measurement criteria.
  • Assign roles to your team members for the research and clearly state the expectations.

Step 3: Implement your research plan

Once the roles have been assigned in the previous step, let each member figure and discuss the logistics of how you will go about the research. Once the logistics of your research are clearly defined, start setting up discovery interviews, starting with a few sample participants before rolling out on a larger scale. Prepare for the interviews with the right kind of questions and discussion guides through practice. The more refined the questions are, the better the quality of information you will obtain through this process.

The end goal:

  • Prepare the logistics for executing the research.
  • Prepare questions and discussion guides.
  • Have sample tests to refine your research process.

Step 4: Research Calls

You should be prepared with a possible outcome that will be validated or disproved when the research is underway. Engage with the participants to understand what works, what fails and any other perspective they can present to you. Collate important findings from each participant in a manner that each member can access it and everyone is on the same page.

The end goal:

  • Gather data from participants.
  • Organize the data in a clear manner.
  • Present the data to the team so that everyone has the same knowledge.

Step 5: Analyze the information

After the data has been collected, it is important to have a meeting with all members to discuss your findings. This step is important in understand if your chosen research method is providing you with the right kind of data and understanding how you can use this data for design. Look at what is missing. Is there a need for additional testing? Do we need more participants? Do we need to change the type of participants or include more types of participants? If it is the right kind of data, then you can see if your outcome was validated or disproved and look at any key insights that emerge. These insights and information are important as they will help you generate your design requirements, which in turn will lead to your final design.

The end goal:

  • Analyze the data for validation and insights.
  • Look at the need for additional testing for well-rounded data.
  • Create design requirements from learnings.
  • Share information with designers and researchers.

Phase 2: The Design

UX Research Process - Design

During this stage, the learnings of the previous stage are applied and the direction of your product design is set. Creation of the product design and refining that design are the key parts of this stage.

Step 6: Creating mock-ups

Now that the design requirements are created, the design team can work on those requirements to create the initial UX design. Mock-ups are created to be presented to all stakeholders so that everyone can understand the practical application and direction for the design. Once you have a set of mock-ups ready, you can use them to do another round of testing with potential users.

The end goal:

  • Create mock-ups from learnings.
  • Present mock-ups to all stakeholders to communicate design decisions.
  • Use mock-ups for second round of testing.

Step 7: Concept Testing

In this step of the research process, the original product concept is tested with the participants again. If your concept is validated with the mocks, then you can move towards testing the user experience of your product.

If your focus is testing the user experience of the product, then your approach of collecting data will also change. In this part of the process, participants should be given fewer directions to see how they respond to your product. Here, observation is important to understand the user’s journey through your product. How do they operate through your mock-up? Are there any other ways for users to use your product and if yes, how can you accommodate that? Can the design be refined further to guide the user to the end goal? What other tasks are related for your user’s journey? Is there a way to integrate it?

The end goal:

  • Another round of testing for ensuring concept validity.
  • Gaining information of user journey and user experience with your mock-ups.
  • Exploring questions and options that appear in user experience mapping.

Step 8: Analyze and Iterate

It is important to make sure your concept testing is rigorous. In order to do so, try to manage three concept tests with all your mock-ups before you decide which mock-up and direction should be considered. After your concept tests, analyze the information and the feedback. Look for any new insights that appear. Look at the results to see if the design direction does resolve the user’s problems. Do you need to change the design or is it doing what it is supposed to? Once you analyze the information, you can apply it to refine your design.

The end goal:

  • Analyze the information from concept tests.
  • Refine your product concept from the feedback.
  • Gauge if more concept tests are needed or you can move forward.

Phase 3: Development of UX research

UX Research Process - Prototype

During this stage, prototype creation and testing are at the forefront. Feedback is applied to the further enhancement of the final product.

Step 9: Prototype development

In this step, the focus is on retesting new mock-ups from the previous step or creating a prototype if your mock-ups have been successful. If the design needs an overhaul, then new mock-ups are created and tested. If the mock-up designs are successful, then the team can step in and start working on an interactive prototype. Prototypes help in understanding how new features work within your design for the user. If your prototype is interactive, your participants can see how they use it and give feedback about how they would use a feature in day-to-day use. This step is important for two main reasons. Firstly, a prototype development can speed up the final product development. Secondly, having a prototype helps all stakeholders see the product concept and features. This helps if you want to add more things or explain any changes you are making as you have a live example of how the decisions affect the product.

The end goal:

  • Retest new mockup or create an interactive prototype for initial development.
  • Have another round of research using the prototype.
  • Demo the prototype to key stakeholders to give them an idea of how the final product can look like.

Step 10: Released design and embrace feedback

It is important to establish key metrics to measure the success of your product and its features. Establish the metrics and have a final review of the design to make sure everything is as it should be. Once everything is in place and the metrics are established, you can release your product!

After your product has been released, look at what the users have to say and write about your app or website. What are the pain areas? What can be better? How are the users using your app or website? All of this information is integral to refine your product. Consider having a round of interviews with the users of the product to see what issues and insights emerge. The findings can be used to create better changes for a second version of your product.

The end goal:

  • Establish metrics of success.
  • Review the final design and features.
  • Launch your product.
  • Listen for feedback, issues and insights for further development.

Just like any research process, the UX research process for product design is a long one. However, without following this process, you can make fatal mistakes with your product design. The research process is integral for your UX strategy and provides you with a lot of information even before the final work is launched, which is very valuable for development. So, make sure you invest your time and money before to avoid problems later. After all, the success of your product is a direct result of the quality of your research!

Do you have a vision, a big idea for your new product? Need someone to guide you with product discovery or creating an interactive prototype? Ingenious Branders is here to help. Get in touch with us today to start your journey!

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