As daily users of the internet and the various media outlets in search of information, we have grown accustomed to the wide range of domains using ux research. What can start off as a hunch or a bit of curiosity can advance into a myriad of clicks, search input fields and online white papers. For as much or as little as we need it, information is everywhere and more organizations are valuing it enough to allow it to shape their companies with product design research.
In the early times of my personal journey in the product design and research field, I could not overlook some of the things that companies were doing to shape their digital products. Few would fully invest capital and structure into building user experience labs that allowed usability testing with desired users. Other organizations will take an initial hunch and create a low fidelity experiment to validate the concept in order to gain team census and proceed. Whatever your approach may be, research is a highly valuable discipline that can yield valuable insights. Let’s get into the types of research that can help align our products with user needs.
Attitudinal Vs Behavioral Research
There are two types of research that have become the basis for which to examine user products and ideas. The categories are one of Attitudinal and Behavioral Research. When thinking of product experiences, a separation of these types hardly comes to mind due to perceiving them as the same. Attitudinal research looks at the emotional side of a person’s paradigm. These types of methods highlight the innate way a person feels when having an encounter with your brand and/or service. Many times the results shed light on the way others think and can sometimes be communicated in real-time. Understanding this, it’s not a total surprise to see when digital products meet the needs of its intended audience, emotions can surface.
The behavioral research aims to focus on what the user does. Have you ever had someone tell you that they were going to the store to pick up groceries? Mentally you can make assumptions about the somewhat normal experience of a shopping cart, the selection of items followed by bagging, etc… In reality, what they’ve done is parked in a designated area, tapped a button and someone hand delivers their items to the vehicle. This is an example of why we use behavioral research to observe what the intended user actually does. It can tell a full story of a task rather than a visualized one.
Qualitative Vs Quantitative
There have been studies that focus on the differences between these research types and how they bring about varied outcomes. Within an iterative design process, having the right direction to focus on can be a powerful tool. Adding a complementary process to adopt these learnings, can be explored in the ways the results are measured.
As designers, we can begin to fall in love with the exploration process which can lead to limitless possibilities. Qualitative research offers ways to inform that process. It is done by understanding the user’s needs and aims to answer the hard questions. The insights that come from asking “why” can shift how designers and businesses solve difficult challenges.
Conversely, we are unable to understand the value of any approach without benchmarking our efforts. In quantitative research, there is a direct attention on collecting and measuring the data. Having accurate numerical data that can be referenced has the potential to drive change. Many large scale projects require surveys and the ability to count the occurrences of one action or another and ask questions around; “how many” or “how much” with great results.
Context Is Important
Environments can have a distinct effect on the way in which people respond to things. The same holds true with users completing a task in a different environment. The context of use plays a role into how your audience experiences your product. Whether it is in a natural environment, scripted with a guided approach or a hybrid model; the frame of reference can be vital to the solution you and your team can offer.
Your life has color, so design it that way. AD
Check out the following video for a look into these product design research methods and get a glimpse of an ethnographic study that I’ve completed for a large book retailer.