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Research & Design: Finding the Perfect Blend

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Slides from a talk presented by Jen Briselli and Kim Dowd at User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA) Boston 2016

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Research and design go together like peanut butter and jelly… or peanut butter and chocolate… or peanut butter and marshmallow fluff… come to think of it, peanut butter and research go with almost anything! Design can look very different from project to project, but research is always a core ingredient when creating great user experiences.

Sometimes it can be tricky to achieve the perfect blend of research and design. This is especially true when each is happening in completely separate, siloed teams, or even trickier, when they are being performed by the same person.

In our organization, we have a lot of experience finding that key balance between the benefits of separate teams and the advantages of close collaboration. We work to find the sweet spot in the middle of the research-design venn diagram, and we’d like to share our insights with you.

We’ll help you maximize the power of both design and research roles whether they’re sitting just across the office, in separate buildings, or inside the same brain. This talk will cover helpful tips and common pitfalls to avoid that we have found from experience to be keys achieving a goldilocks “just right” blend of research & design.

We will provide concrete examples to help you facilitate better research if you’re a designer, facilitate better design if you’re a researcher, and facilitate better collaboration for both roles. Some of the techniques we’ll highlight for researchers include understanding your designers’ process, learning & sharing their vocabulary, and understanding how to create applicable output that will improve designers’ work. Transitioning to a designer’s role, we’ll discuss how to avoid the “handoff & disappear” problem in conventional waterfall process, by being involved in defining goals early on and collaborating on recommendations throughout. We’ll touch on the various ways a designer can find opportunities for research beyond the typical usability study.

Ultimately these insights can help ensure both perspectives are represented in your client deliverables and the user experiences you create.

Published in: Design
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Research & Design: Finding the Perfect Blend

  1. 1. RESEARCH & DESIGN @jbriselli @kimberlydowdJen Briselli | Kim Dowd
  2. 2. Kim Senior Experience Researcher Jen Managing Director, Experience Design
  3. 3. Balance is hard to find.
  4. 4. Balance is hard to find.
  5. 5. Balance is hard to find. Lack of collaboration = bad experience
  6. 6. RESEARCH & DESIGN @JenBriselli @KimberlyDowd
  7. 7. is hard to find. Balance
  8. 8. INSIGHTS & TIPS FOR… researchers designers siloed teams solo teams @jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  9. 9. handoff & disappear model. Avoid the
  10. 10. MAD*POW OVERVIEW | NOV 2015 Adapted from “Double Diamond Model of Product Definition and Design from UK Design Council DISCOVER SYNTHESIZE GENERATE REFINE Initial Insight Plan/ Strategy Prototype EVALUATE IMPLEMENT Deployment Project Lifecycle
  11. 11. MAD*POW OVERVIEW | NOV 2015 Adapted from “Double Diamond Model of Product Definition and Design from UK Design Council DISCOVER SYNTHESIZE GENERATE REFINE Initial Insight Plan/ Strategy Prototype EVALUATE IMPLEMENT Deployment Project Lifecycle
  12. 12. Planning Research@jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  13. 13. Researchers @jbriselli @kimberlydowd Planning Research Involve designers with goal setting Learn what the research will be used for & plan study accordingly Identify issues up front, saves designer’s time! Share moderator’s guide to learn designer’s needs & aid your probes Designers Help researchers define the research goals & plan Share expectations & questions; be candid! Understand the benefits & limitation of different tools & methods
  14. 14. Conducting Research@jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  15. 15. @jbriselli @kimberlydowd Conducting Research Researchers Invite the designers in to the research sessions: Make it low-commitment Sell the value Ask them to help Bribe with candy Enlist the research-friendly designer advocate(s) Understand the designer’s mental model & relate findings Designers Be available, be interested, show up! Take good research notes: Observations, not assumptions Observations, not judgments Observations, not solutions
  16. 16. Making Recommendations
  17. 17. @jbriselli @kimberlydowd Making Recommendations Researchers Meet informally to preview results and discuss recommendations Collaborate on recommendations to move from vague to concrete & actionable Works every time! Designers Help articulate recommendations so they’re actionable for design Help decide the best mode & format for delivering findings
  18. 18. @jbriselli @kimberlydowd TL;DR: The meeting with stakeholders should not be the first time the designer is seeing recommendations! You’re a team.
  19. 19. Creating Solutions @jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  20. 20. @jbriselli @kimberlydowd Creating Solutions Researchers Swing by designer’s desk to participate & reinforce research Avoid the huge risk of “handoff & disappear” model at this stage!
  21. 21. After I saw that design I thought ‘If you just showed this to me I could have told you not to do that based on the research!’ - UX Researcher “” @jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  22. 22. @jbriselli @kimberlydowd Creating Solutions Researchers Swing by designer’s desk to participate & reinforce research Avoid the huge risk of “handoff & disappear” model at this stage! Designers Look for opportunities to infuse research into ideation Invite researchers into the design process, especially brainstorming & critiques
  23. 23. Evaluating Solutions
  24. 24. Rinse, repeat… @jbriselli @kimberlydowd Evaluating Solutions
  25. 25. MAD*POW OVERVIEW | NOV 2015 Adapted from “Double Diamond Model of Product Definition and Design from UK Design Council DISCOVER SYNTHESIZE GENERATE REFINE Initial Insight Plan/ Strategy Prototype EVALUATE IMPLEMENT Deployment Beyond a single project… @jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  26. 26. Know the Lingo @jbriselli @kimberlydowd@jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  27. 27. Know the Tools @jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  28. 28. no substitute for There is seeing research first-hand. @jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  29. 29. Many designers don't make time to watch [research] sessions. But a few always do… and I can see the difference in the quality of the final designs. - UX Researcher “” @jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  30. 30. Advocate forMake sure you’re playing for the same trophy. @jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  31. 31. Feel investment in each others’ deliverables. @jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  32. 32. Advocate for necessary resourcing. Advocate for
  33. 33. If you’re siloed… @jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  34. 34. View the ‘other’ team as collaborators, not as clients @jbriselli @kimberlydowd Siloed Teams Add time to the calendar! Formalized collaboration is still collaboration Be open to hearing outsider perspectives (M*P project recaps) Learn from other teams (M*P buddy system)
  35. 35. If you’re a one-person team… @jbriselli @kimberlydowd
  36. 36. Create separate spaces for design and research: @jbriselli @kimberlydowd One-Person Team Separate the activities and the deliverables Use a proxy/stand-in physical mental virtual
  37. 37. TL;DR
  38. 38. Talk to each other. Don’t disappear. (Early & often) (For very long) Butt in. & Welcome the butting in.
  39. 39. THANK YOU! Jen Briselli Kim Dowd @kimberlydowd @jbriselli

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