Design research goes hand in hand with curiosity. The curiosity to know your user better. Their intentions, expectations, concerns, interests and the context in which they operate. That’s why we search out the users. In their context.
As designers we’re naturally empathetic: we can empathise with the user. But in environments like hospitals, airports, schools, concert halls, museums and rail stations, any number of unexpected environmental factors can play a role. Then it’s fairly impossible to design a good product or service, without first researching and mapping out the context.
Research in the whole process
We prefer to weave design research into the entire process. Something that also fits nicely into the lean approach that we use so often. In the initial phase research is still very exploratory. Who is this actually about? What’s the biggest problem that we’re trying to solve? What image does someone link with a particular brand or product? With what intentions, doubts and concerns will someone use the thing we are going to develop? Where will they use it? How will the environment influence the experience? How is the current solution being used?
For example, read the story of SmartOcto, where we went 'undercover' and tailed web editors to discover their context. Or see the work we did for housing association De Key, where we mapped 450 different repair requests by holding interviews with customer service, repair and administration staff.
Research is curiosity in action. It takes a lot of creativity!
We gather up all our insights and get straight to work. Then hit the road again as soon as possible; we want to test the first concepts, ideas and hypotheses with the target audience. Do we uncover new questions? Then we do more research.
As with the new GVB ticket vending machines, where we have tested the designs extensively in each phase: from cardboard creations to realistic mock ups in subway stations. For the Allerhande Cooking app we carried out usability tests after every few scrum sprints. We continue to iterate and sometimes even establish a test lab, so that we can test continually and improve the output.
From atmosphere sampling to in-depth interviews
It's always worth it to go out and look at the user context. To learn about all the other channels and means of the client. When designing a webshop for a fashion brand like Expresso, we also look at the physical store. Working with the multimedia tour of the Van Gogh Museum, we go to the actual museum to see for ourselves how the tour works, see the artworks and ask questions of the visitors. Does the project improve on the services? Then we listen to the call center staff, to find out what kind of questions customers come up with.
Don’t take our word for it
Doing research yourself is fun, informative and fast. Not to mention essential to satisfy your curiosity. Still, there are times when we let a specialised agency take over. Or we do both. The latter is ideal; seeing the context and speaking to the users ourselves, but also involving an objective specialist. Partners that we enjoy working with include Ruigrok Netpanel, Valsplat en Frankly, Green + Webb.
Would you like to know more about design research?
Please contact Anna.
Or take a look at a selection of our projects concerning design research in our portfolio.