A Masterclass summary on User Research


Our Product Design Fellowship kicked off with the module of User Research which was conducted over three sessions. The learning objectives of this module were to:

  • identify and explain the need for user research
  • create a research plan
  • analyze the research findings
  • identify key insights
  • describe the target users and their jobs-to-be-done

The speaker for our first cohort, Rikta, is a Design Researcher and Creative Strategist who has over a decade of experience working on design, research and strategy projects. She guided our fellows into understanding the mindsets, processes, and methods of User Research for Design.

The Double Diamond

Illustration 1: The Double Diamond Design Thinking Process

The first session was kicked off by acquainting the Fellows with the ‘Double Diamond’ design process which involves consecutive diverging and converging points under the phases of discover, define, develop, and deliver. These phases help in exploring the problem, deciding what to fix, testing potential solutions, right up to refining the final solution. This methodology was further explored by taking examples from the fellows’ design statements and lines of enquiry.

The problem statement always requires more Exploration and Investigation

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Stakeholder Mapping

Another useful visual tool – Stakeholder Mapping, was introduced to the cohort. This map is representative of all the people who can influence the project. It also helps establish relationships amongst the stakeholders via prioritization. This technique is useful when you need to frame a new project which helps in defining it well and creating a shared understanding amongst people involved in it. An interactive activity was also conducted with the cohort’s project-partners, to further their understanding of the tool. The method of defining Hypothetical Target Groups was introduced next; which is an easy way to develop an understanding of the users who you are solving for.

Here’s a snippet from our masterclass about Stakeholder Mapping

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Situating User Research and Frameworks

The second session helped the fellows understand methods of Situating User Research with relevance to the tech industry, organisations, and the design and development processes. Research frameworks from micro to macro were also discussed which included operational, tactical, strategic, and exploratory processes. Two sets of research frameworks – Explorative versus Evaluative, and Qualitative versus Quantitative were looked into, further. While the explorative processes give you a deeper understanding of users, thereby finding opportunities, the evaluative methods are used when you are trying to assess how something works. Qualitative frameworks are primarily explorative in nature that give you insights into underlying motivations of the users and are largely unstructured; whereas, the quantitative frameworks are used to test assumptions and are objective in nature, with a defined structure.

You are always complementing the Explorative and Evaluative processes of research based on the kind of information that you need

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The Research Learning Spiral

Illustration 2: The Research Learning Spiral

Next, the five parts of a Research Learning Spiral which include objectives, hypothesis, methods, conduct, and synthesis were explored; together with ways of structuring a research plan and defining research questions. Various Research Methods under the umbrella of Observation, Communication, and Interaction were introduced to the fellows. Observation methods like self-ethnography, journey maps, diary studies, etc. were described in detail. Live intercepts, one-on-one interviews, stakeholder interviews, and focus group discussions were some of the Communication methods of research that were discussed. Methods of Interaction research like role playing, card sorting, scenario storyboards, and a few more were explored as well.

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Making sense of Research

The final session of the module dealt with the processes of ‘Making sense of Research’ by synthesizing data. These frameworks help in creating a coherent summary of your learnings. They include Affinity Mapping which helps you find organic emergence of connections, Journey of use which helps to build structure by using data points, and Jobs To Be Done which is useful in identifying casual drivers to create opportunities in Design. Following this, an introduction to these frameworks with activities where the project-partners had to Cluster data from 2-3 interviews to build consensus and arrive at emerging themes, were also conducted.

Here’s a snippet from our masterclass about Affinity Mapping

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As an effective way to communicate research findings, she introduced the concept of Telling Stories that complement rationale with emotion. A method of doing so is by using User Personas which are realistic representations of the key audience segment while another framework, Ecosystem Maps allow you to paint a ‘big picture’ representation by first displaying all entities and then connecting them based on value. Two more mapping frameworks – Experience maps and Journey maps were introduced; the former helps you understand general human behaviour and is product agnostic, and the latter is useful in the visualization of the process a person goes through to accomplish a goal.

Structuring your Research findings also provide you with information about “What you learn about users” and “How to act on what you learnt to impact your product”

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Jobs to be Done Framework

For Actioning Research, the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) framework was introduced next. This allows designers to understand how users define progress and the ways to measure it. There are two categories of this framework – Main JTBD which describes the task that users want to achieve and Related JTBD which users want to accomplish in conjunction with the former. A good JTBD framework needs a good Job statement which includes the users’ barriers, unmet goals, their desires and constraints.

Illustration 3: Template of a ‘Job’ in the Jobs to be done framework

By using a JTBD framework to refine Journey Maps or User Personas, designers can define Unmet Goals - a future experience a consumer wants, but can’t get at the moment or is underserved, Constraints - the cause of an actualization gap that prevents consumers from making progress towards one or more unmet goals, and Catalysts - events that create an unmet goal, affect the value of an unmet goal, create a constraint, affect a constraint, or affect our choice set.

Here’s a snippet from our masterclass about Jobs to be Done

Here’s how you can learn more:

Here’s a list of books that will help you learn more about User Research

  • Just Enough Research, by Erika Hall
  • The Mom’s Test, Rob Fitzpatrick
  • Competing Against Luck, by Clayton Christensen
  • Measuring the User Experience, by Tom Tullis and Bill Albert
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