Research Makes Me a Better Designer

Diana and Brian discussing a user interface design

Designers are trained to use their judgment, experience and knowledge throughout the design process. While trusting our instincts is an important quality, relying solely on assumptions will lead to poor user experience (UX).

Designers and creative teams need to design with the user in mind, in other words, solving real problems for real people. A great way to achieve this is by making design decisions based on data and insights collected through research before, during and after the design process.

Research helps determine people’s true, underlying needs. Being in the field talking to people, asking the right questions and observing them use the product allows the team to arrive at informed conclusions that will guide them in every step of the way.

Res.im is unique for a small team in that we have a full-time UX researcher who works closely with clients, users and the entire company to make sure we’re creating the right product for the right people.

Here are some of the reasons I’ve found UX research to be incredibly helpful as a designer:

It provides quality user insights

Personas are no longer fictitious or hypothesized identities. Interviews and usability testing allow designers to meet face to face with real users in their own context. It allows them to observe body gestures that analytics don’t give them access to; is the user happy, worried, lost, do they want to smash the device because of the suffering they are being put through? After data has been gathered, the research is used to form recommendations that arm designers with a sharpened focus.

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It sets a path to follow

There are hundreds of proven design patterns but there’s no such thing as “one size fits all.” Design patterns, visual style and even content tone must be aligned with the user. UX research simplifies the designer’s job by pointing them in the right direction. For example, after a series of questions, the researcher finds out that the users interacting with an interface outdoors have trouble reading the app’s interface in the middle of the day. The designer now knows that one of the key tasks of this redesign is to guarantee high contrast and optimal legibility.

It reduces mistakes

Mistakes cost time and money. Understanding user needs and ensuring the design fulfills them helps avoid any potential errors that could jeopardize the launch or completion of a product. It’s easier to make changes to early concepts than it is to correct implemented design. As concepts become clearer and design work progresses, prototyping and user testing are great allies when it comes to providing design feedback and complementing that initial research.

It justifies design decisions

This is particularly helpful when presenting a design before a committee that could have their own preferences and assumptions on how the product should look. Yes, clients know their users well, but behaviour and needs are constantly changing, and it’s important to make sure that the product evolves with them. If designers base their decisions on data collected through research, the resulting design is no longer what the designer wants, but what the user needs.

It encourages collaborative work

The days of designers being handed a brief and disappearing to work in isolation are over. Involving designers in research and researchers in design decisions gives everyone the opportunity to expand their skillset and make informed decisions on behalf of the user. Creating a great user experience is not a one-person job.

Attention is moving towards user experience as a key differentiating factor in business. Customers are growing to expect good user experiences and becoming less tolerant of bad ones. In order to create human-centered solutions, we need to learn how to empathize with our users. UX research, when done correctly, can bring us one step closer to delivering user experiences that exceed expectations.




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