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The Crucial Role of UX Research in Solving the Right Problems

At TechFabric, our "User-centric" approach emphasizes early incorporation of UX Research in our development process. Let's look at why and how we do this.

Why is UX Research Important?

Research is crucial to the process as it reveals unforeseen obstacles, overlooked pain-points, and pitfalls that may arise during development and after launch. UX practitioners often discover more challenges than organizations anticipate, which can be mitigated by implementing research methods upfront before a project begins. UX Research has other benefits including:

  • Generates user-centric solutions coupled with business needs
  • Helps product owners prioritize features for road mapping
  • Keeps stakeholders aligned during ideation
  • Identifies REAL and not fabricated or perceived user needs

How does TechFabric conduct UX Research?

We follow a concept and methodology called "Design Thinking" to help our clients solve user problems and develop solutions for digital products. Design Thinking has 5 major steps including:

  • Empathy - Understanding User Needs
  • Define - Narrowing Down The Problem To Be Solved
  • Ideate - Exploring all possible solutions
  • Prototype - Build a working mockup of the solution
  • Test - Getting feedback through user testing

This methodology is effective but potentially confusing for clients, can be loosely applied without alignment among team members and stakeholders. TechFabric's diverse clientele makes full implementation challenging. To simplify, our product teams adopt the "Double Diamond Model" from the UK Design Council.

Using The Double Diamond Model As A Framework.

The Double Diamond Model is broken into two phases or "spaces" as we call them. The first being the "Problem" space where we conduct research to identify the criteria needed to form a "Problem Statement". This problem statement is based off research findings and unexpected signals that become the "right" problem to solve. The Problem space has two distinct steps, the "Discover" and "Define" phase.

The Ketchup Example

In the UX community we often hear about the ketchup bottle example where the glass bottle is often regarded as "UI Design" and the new innovative upside-down bottle is "UX Design". We'll use this example to help illustrate why UX Research is important.

The evolution of ketchup bottles

The classic ketchup bottle, a timeless design on the left, served its purpose for years. However, the common struggle of slapping the bottom for ketchup led to a new design that addressed this symptom. Yet, the middle design skipped identifying the real problem and only solved one symptom without addressing systemic issues around the glass ketchup bottle.

The Problem Space

In the Problem space's Discover phase, we use exploratory research to identify user needs. Project stakeholders, including TechFabric UX researchers, diverge to explore all potential problems or pain-points.. The research methods include:

  • User Interviews - Talking to users directly
  • Field Studies - Observations to understand how users work
  • Diary Studies - Analyzing customer service data & analytics

In the Define phase, stakeholders converge to create a problem statement—a narrative addressing key issues to solve. This can involve features, technical debt refactoring, or even a concept for a new product offering. The analysis produces the following:

  • "Signals" or patterns from research findings
  • Ideas to consider during the "Solution" phase

The Ketchup Bottle Problem

Following the Double Diamond Method, researchers identified ketchup bottle issues like "ketchup juice" accumulation and unpredictable application. Considering all user pain-points helps product teams address the actual problem—the bottle itself. The old glass bottle's rigidity and vacuum effect caused these symptoms.

The Solution Space

In the "Develop" phase of the Solution Space, we use "Evaluative" research methods to test potential solutions based on signals from our exploratory research. As a team, we "Diverge" to conceptualize ideas for solving the problem, testing various approaches with users using simple methods like:

  • Usability Tests - Testing Wireframes & User Flows with targeted users
  • Tree Tests - Testing the organization of navigation and menu categorizations

In the "Deliver" phase, the team converges on the right solution by analyzing test results for intuitiveness and stakeholder input. TechFabric collaborates with clients to define post-launch metrics, focusing on "Usefulness" (Utility + Usability) Nielson Norman Group. We prioritize providing the right functions and ensuring they are intuitive and pleasant for modern users, making the solution truly useful.

The Ketchup Bottle Solution

In the ketchup analogy, by exploring multiple ideas, a product team provides varied solutions for user testing. Tests like "usability" and often "tree" tests reveal patterns in user feedback, guiding the definition of the right solution. Taking time in the "Problem" space, instead of rushing into "solutioneering" or the "Solution" space, yields different outcomes. Using UX Research with the "Double Diamond Method" results in better adoption, global system optimization, and significant efficiency gains, providing a comprehensive solution.

Key Takeaway

Through the Double Diamond Method, we often uncover unexpected problem statements, diverging from initial assumptions. Addressing this requires buy-in and alignment from stakeholders who tend to rush into the Solution Space, a practice known as "solutioneering" in UX. Incorporating UX research in project timelines and budgets helps avoid roadmap pitfalls, technical debt, and strategy pivots, ensuring we identify the right problem to solve.

Interested in learning more about this topic? Contact our solution experts and setup a time to talk.