Recent Takeaways about Research

So, after a full two days of really taking everything in at a company, I've come away with some really important lessons. I'd like to share them here:

  • Just as important as the research is the QUESTION. A clear question helps keep research on track, and can point back to goals... company goals, project goals, key questions, and specific questions stemming off of those key questions. That way, when a client asks you to include some additional research, you can point back to the project goal and ask if it fits within the scope of the project (No? Ok, that might be another research assignment)
  • Homework is important. The work a participant/interviewee does before the interview can be just as important as the interview itself, even if you don't necessarily care about what they write down. Getting them in context of what you'll be talking about later can really help them give you more accurate and truthful answers (Not that they intend to lie! Many times, they simply can't remember...which is why the homework helps them identify things they do to tell you about later!)
  • Different types of research are good for different projects. Well, that seems a bit obvious, but hear me out. There's evaluative, iterative, and generative work. Evaluative is about testing existing products to figure out what works, doesn't work, and identifying areas that could work better. Iterative design is more about creating something, testing it, creating another version, testing it, etc. Rapid prototyping is highly valuable with this type of research. Generative work (for me perhaps the most "exciting") is about creating something new by understanding user's "ideal" and then working with stakeholders to determine how close to that ideal we can get. Generative work usually involves creative activities like drawing, wishing, and more. Lextant has a really cool map with stimuli they use to get participants thinking creatively (pictures, words, objects, smells, etc.) which was extremely fun to participate in as well as hear the important *why* involved in their choices of different stimuli. I'm quickly noticing that ethnography and observation have different strengths and research outcomes than group/individual interviews, and should be assigned thoughtfully with respect to what you're interested in discovering.
  • Different companies have different opinions about when and how to involve the client. I noticed some differences between what I was hearing from Taylor at Lextant and what I'm learning from Ben over from Conifer. It seems like some prefer to include the client/stakeholders in interviews and fieldwork and then go off on their own to do the analysis and synthesis (bake the cookies... make the magic...) to present back, while others feel it is important to include the client in those two additional steps as well. I imagine it depends a lot on the willingness of the client and stakeholders to be involved, but in the end, I can see the benefit of both. In one instance, it's good to have them involved in collecting the research so they get firsthand knowledge of what users are saying and feeling and then connect that with the final suggestions, but there's always a fear that they may get stuck on a specific point or idea and not be able to move past it during analysis. Similarly, there's always multiple agendas at play, which can make data collection and interpretation tricky at times. In the end, I imagine these perspectives all draw from experiences with each company. For a research project I'm in the middle of right now, in addition to inviting a stakeholder into an interview, I decided with my team members to include the client and other stakeholders in an analysis session next week. Let's see what happens!