UX Research as a Creative Process

Jemma Frost | 02/21/2017

We are User Experience (“UX”) researchers; we research design and design research for digital experiences. Determining what methods will best answer the types of questions that inform and inspire digital designs can take as much creativity as the design itself. The nuances of our tools and techniques are part of what distinguishes UX research from other types of research (e.g., market research, customer experience research). Here are some ways that the EY Intuitive research team infuses creativity into our UX research efforts:

  1. We collect cool stuff.

    We embrace our “inner child” and look at the world with wide-eyed curiosity. We think about what kind of data would be most inspiring to analyze, and consider methods that could yield different types of data beyond traditional transcripts and notes. Anything goes, including doodles, maps, photos, and other participant artifacts. We always find surprising insights when we challenge ourselves to analyze new data sources.

  2. We collaborate across disciplines.

    We include our design and development colleagues in our research process. We ask designers and developers to review interview protocols, watch usability studies or take part in contextual inquiries. One of the easiest ways to look at something from a different perspective is to bring those with different perspectives into the process.

  3. We analyze for inspiration.

    We try to uncover hidden design opportunities that might be buried in our data. A lot of research analysis can focus on what “most” of the participants did or said. This helps identify important patterns. But what about the thing that only one participant said or experienced? We don’t dismiss it, because it could very well provide the spark that inspires an innovative design solution.

  4. We communicate with empathy.

    We distill our findings into a single, clear narrative that empathizes with our target audiences. We like to bend our brains to explore different ways of communicating complex research findings. Visual learners might need a data visualization, so we consider how to communicate our findings through pictures. Auditory learners might need concise one-liners threaded throughout to keep them on track, so we try to summarize our research in three sentences or less. Tactile learners might need short activities to stay engaged, so we think about how we would communicate our research if we weren’t standing behind a podium.

UX research is both a science and an art. The science is in methodically collected data and rigorously applied analysis strategies. The art is in what we collect, how we collect it and what types of meaning we look for in what we find. Operating along a “blurred line” between the two helps our UX research team bridge the gap between theoretical research findings and actionable design opportunities.

Illustration by Ashley Conner