Introduction to a series of articles documenting research methods for designers.

A list of all the research methods covered in my articles divided into 6 categories.
A list of all the research methods covered in my articles divided into 6 categories.
All of the methods covered in my articles.

Conducting research as a designer can be hard. Starting out, I realized that even if I knew what different research methods were, it was always confusing to understand how to apply them, knowing what data to collect and how to make sense of that data.

As part of my Master’s program in HCI/d, I took an Interaction Design Methods class by Prof. Shaowen Bardzell which helped me learn about a lot of different methods used in design research, and actually apply them to projects.

I’ve documented 25 of these methods that I learned about, to hopefully help designers like me who are new to research and trying to make sense of it all. I explain each one with steps on how to implement it, an example of how it’s used in projects and suggestions on how to use the collected data. …


A group of people smiling and talking to each other.
A group of people smiling and talking to each other.
Photo by Jopwell from Pexels

⚽️ Brainstorming technique: Metaphor ball

Brainstorm or warm up with your team by passing an imaginary ball around, and create crazy ideas. Everyone stands around in a circle facing each other. The first person starts with a metaphor and tosses an imaginary ball to someone else, who then has to build on that metaphor.

Designers find that by doing this activity, they not only withhold judgment of their ideas and others ideas, they also recognize the creativity that results from saying what first comes to mind.

Elizabeth Gerber, 2009

Procedure

  1. The main point of this method is to quickly generate and receive ideas without judgement. Try to say the first thing that comes to your mind while tossing the ball around, even if it seems obvious, unlikely or crazy. …


Conducting qualitative and quantitative analysis of your data.

Colorful sticky notes arranged in categories on a whiteboard.
Colorful sticky notes arranged in categories on a whiteboard.
Photo by Hugo Rocha on Unsplash

📝 Affinity diagramming

Analyse collected data from your research, form connections and discover important insights and themes in the design space. This method should ideally be used when there is a lot of information to sort through and a lot of different factors involved in the problem.

Affinity diagramming is an inductive exercise — which means that instead of grouping notes in predefined categories, the work is done from the bottom up, by first clustering specific, small details into groups, which then give rise to the general and overarching themes. …


Methods for interviewing your users and getting to know them better.

Three women engaged in discussion sitting across a table from each other.
Three women engaged in discussion sitting across a table from each other.
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Semi-structured interviews

Get the information you need, while also being flexible and allowing room for exploration. In this type of interview, the researcher asks open ended questions to participants, but from a preplanned list.

I selected the semi-structured interview because I was able to narrow down some areas or topics that I want to ask to the junior researchers. A completely unstructured interview has the risk of not eliciting form the junior researchers the topics or themes more closely related to the research questions under consideration. …


Designing with your users and stakeholders.

Group of people having a discussion together in an office space.
Group of people having a discussion together in an office space.
Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Participatory design

Help users and stakeholders to actively contribute to the design process and give their valuable insights and feedback.

“Participatory design integrates two radical propositions about design. The first is the moral proposition that the people whose activity and experiences will ultimately be affected most directly by a design outcome ought to have a substantive say in what that outcome is. …


Methods to design futuristic concepts and explore possibilities within your design space.

A person using a VR headset.
A person using a VR headset.
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

“What-if” scenarios

Share and generate ideas about the future use of a product or service with participants. The idea is to generate scenarios, draw them on cards and test them with people to gain insights into your ideas.

A scenario is a believable narrative, usually set in the future, of a person’s experience as he or she engages with a product or a service. Ultimately, the purpose of writing scenarios is to make design ideas explicit and concrete, so that the design team can empathetically envision the future ways in which a product is likely to be used.

Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington, Universal Methods of…


How to understand the people and the environment we are designing for.

A crowd of people crossing a busy street.
A crowd of people crossing a busy street.
Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

Ethnography

Get a deeper understanding of people, their activities, environment and cultures.

Design Ethnography is aimed at understanding the future users of a design, such as a certain service. It is a structured process for going into depth of the everyday lives and experiences of the people a design is for. The inten­tion is to enable the design team to identify with these people, to build up an empathic understanding of their practices and routines and what they care about.

Dr. Geke van Dijk, 2010

Procedure

  1. Find the group of people you want to observe, and the environment you want to observe them in. This would typically be their everyday life, but it also depends on the context of your study. …

About

Rohini Malpe

UX Designer. MS HCI/d at Indiana University, Bloomington. https://www.linkedin.com/in/rohinimalpe/

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