Managing Design Innovation

with Matthew Beebe

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Plan Research

Adjusting scope and perspective

Matthew Beebe

Design & Idea Expert, User Experience, Human-Centered Design

Lessons Learned

Understand the problems people have today, whatever your domain.

Strive to find people who will have unique perspectives on the activity of interest.

Use your observations & conversations, creating well-researched questions and learning objectives.


Lesson: Managing Design Innovation with Matthew Beebe

Step #6 Plan Research: Adjusting scope and perspective

With research planning, inevitably you are going to get to a point, probably early on in the project, where there's things you would like to know that you don't know. And, in my case, I think there are a lot of different kinds of things you might wanna go learn, but I'm really focused on things we don't know about existing user experiences.

So, basically, I'm trying to understand the problems that people have today in whatever the domain is that I'm working in so that I can have a foundation, a meaningful foundation for coming up with new solutions to those problems. It's anchored on the activities in the user experience, all these things that people do that are part of this experience of eating lunch that you would like to understand better, because it's by looking at those activities that you'll start to see the problems that people have and the frustrations, unarticulated problems, unarticulated frustrations, or obvious problems and obvious frustrations that people have that are the problems we might want to go solve in our solution. So, to basically outline those activities and then for each activity, you can now think of the people we might want to go talk to to learn about that activity.

So, for instance, let's say it's eating lunch in an office context is the activity, maybe it's interesting to talk to the office manager because this person probably has a unique perspective on the lunch habits of the office. Or, maybe you want to talk to the social coordinator person at the office who is always figuring out where everybody wants to go for lunch. Basically think of the types of people you would talk to to learn about that thing, people that have unique perspective on that activity.

And then the final piece for that activity, you want to talk to these people and you want to ask them these questions and use these research methods. So, it might be direct observation, it might be an interview, it might be a journal, a journaling study, all the different methods you might use to learn from these people about this activity.

So now you've done this for,I've got a matrix basically, a bunch of different activities, a bunch of people to talk to about each activity, bunch of different methods. Inevitably there'll be some methods that you would want to deploy across all these different activities and some people probably you would talk to that touch on all the different activities and the questions basically from each activity is where you create the interview protocol.

So now I have created this huge map of all the things I would like to learn, the questions I want to ask, and the people I want to ask, and the things I want to learn about and now I can just translate that basically into a list of questions which I then take into the research activities. I use it as a loose guideline for the things I want to talk to the people about so that I have something to fall back on if the interview is not going very well. I can pepper the question with a bunch of stuff from my worksheets, basically.

You create this huge map of learning objectives and then that is a great thing to look at when you're trying to decide which ones should we actually go do. The thing we're trying to learn about is, let's say, the experience of eating salad and I'm gonna just break it down into these three main activities of before I have salad, eating the salad, and after I have salad. So, those are the three phases of my experience that I'm interested in. I think in reality, you might want to break it down a little more granular than that but just for the purposes of trying to explain it.

My interview protocol would have these three main headlines, before, during, and after basically and then part of the filling out the worksheets is what are the questions you have about before. So, the worksheets are meant to be the dumping ground of all the questions I might want to ask about before someone has lunch. And then the protocol is where I said, "Okay, these are things I really want to go ask about. These are the highest valued questions, I think." And so now I can basically walk into each research task, like in this case, it's about direct observation or some kind of interview, and know that these are the kinds of topics I want to cover.

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