Just a few years ago, clients didn’t have specific requirements towards research, nor towards the design process. Now, things have changed – both research & the design phase are precisely time-specified and we have to make sure that we meet all requirements before the deadline. In order to do so and still fully benefit from UX research, we started using a periodic research cycle.
To be sure we are heading in the right direction, we strongly advocate including periodic research as an integral part of the design process. One good inspiration for it is the RITE method. First introduced by Medlock, Wixon, Terrano, Romero and Fulton from Microsoft, is founded on the idea of a fast-as-you-can assessment of solutions chosen by designers. In the original form, it is based on constant research of interfaces and it allows the design to be changed even after observing one participant. There are also such schemes as rapid research, outlined by Heidi Sales from Google, who describes constant, agile research within a product company.
In our case, we usually work with our clients in specified time-frame. To fully use the potential of research, we frequently recommend a time-varied, two-iteration research cycle. We recommend using a one-day usability testing session to gather observations from five or six users, prepare recommendations, implement changes and re-assess the changed interface in the next research iteration. We believe that this kind of research cycle can bring us great results in a shorter time.
In order to implement this model, you need to make sure the whole team understands and supports the idea of fast, iterative changes backed by research data.
Then, together, you should agree on how to organize each of the iteration phases so that every member feels they have enough time to prepare his/her part of the work.
- Scope definition – together with the team, define what you want to check during this iteration and who should be recruited as a participant.
- Scenario & prototype preparation – this is a phase where the UX Designer & UX Researcher should cooperate very closely while preparing the flow of the research session from a visual and spoken perspective.
- Research session I – the UX Researcher conducts the interviews, the UX Designer can take part as an observer.
- Recommendation preparation – the UX Researcher prepares a top-line report with recommendations of interface changes.
- Fast changes implementation – the UX Researcher discusses the recommendations with UX & UI Designers, who then implement the agreed changes to the prototype
- Research session II – again, the UX Researcher conducts the interviews, the UX Designer can take part as an observer.
- Final report preparation – the UX Researcher sums up findings from two research iterations.
- Implementation of final changes – the team discusses findings from this research cycle and decides on which changes should be permanently implemented in the product.
- Tailor-made interface
- Instant feedback from users
- Lowering costs of changes – they are caught and made before they influence other elements of the interface
- Contact with the users – designers, apart from working with personas, have real, frequent data about their users’ thoughts and habits
- Gathering surprising insights – participants tend to have very interesting and unanticipated ideas about how elements of the interface should work or even about new unforeseen components
- The need to organize the team’s work very precisely – if you decide to work in an iteration model – you need to plan each member’s time quite strictly
- The need to assign a higher share of the project’s budget to research – it becomes an integral part of the project, not only its supplement
- This method is not suitable for the concept phase
- Qualitative methods track local problems but cannot supply us with overall comparison with other solutions
I hope that this article gave you a glimpse of how it’s possible to use the UX research cycle in time-framed projects.
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If you have any questions or tips – I will be more than happy to hear from you!