UX Australia 2009

Research methods for user experience design

Patrick Kennedy

User experience design, and user-centred design (UCD) in general, requires an understanding of users and their needs and designing with those needs in mind, balanced by factors such as business objectives and technical constraints. Without a solid understanding of these inputs into the process, design is blind.

‘Design research’ is the process of uncovering and understanding those needs, whether it be direct user research or other means of gathering requirements. Yet, even some experienced web designers, developers and UX practitioners don’t feel well-equipped to take on the research aspects of their projects.

In this one-day workshop, Patrick Kennedy will present the fundamentals of design research from the ‘user experience’ perspective. Specifically, the workshop will be conducted in the context of organising and designing information systems such as websites, intranets and software applications.

This workshop will introduce design research, explain the fundamental principles and teach some simple techniques. The aim is to give the audience a heads-up on the subject and point them in the right direction so they can integrate research into their own work or just better collaborate with design researchers.

Workshop structure

Participants will learn the concepts behind design research, as well as a set of useful techniques, whilst applying them to a mock project scenario. As such, the basic structure of the workshop will follow a generic methodology, consisting of research, design and validation phases.

The workshop will cover:

  • definition of design research
  • principles of UCD
  • general UX research methodology
  • the ethnographic school of thought
  • various flavours of research methods
  • making sense of research results
  • balancing competing requirements
  • explanations of commonly used jargon
  • documentation and communication of research results
  • moving from research into design
  • real-life examples and case studies

This workshop will not be an in-depth, academic discussion of research theory, rather it focuses on practical techniques that practitioners can begin using immediately.

Practical techniques

Workshop participants will be given an overview of a number of research techniques, including:

  • interviews
  • contextual inquiry and other observation techniques
  • focus groups and other group techniques
  • card sorting
  • surveys and questionnaires
  • diary studies and other probes
  • competitive review
  • literature review
  • expert review
  • basic web analytics
  • affinity diagramming and other methods of analysis
  • usability testing and other forms of validation

During the workshop, participants will also be involved in hands-on activities that aim to demonstrate several of these methods and give them an idea of what they would find in a real world situation.

This practical aspect of the workshop will culminate in a ‘micro site-visit’ that takes participants out of the classroom and into¬† the field.

The activities will form part of a mock project that will run the length of the workshop, simulating a realistic, end-to-end research process.

Target audience

This workshop is primarily aimed at those who need to design a website or other information system, but whom have no experience in design research, and those who simply have an interest in learning more about UX and UCD. Practitioners who are inexperienced in design research would find this workshop most useful. 

Hence, no experience in design research or user experience design will be required, but participants should have reasonable experience in using the world wide web as this will form a basis for most examples.

Typical participants include: web designers (creative), web developers (technical), project managers, web team managers, intranet managers, writers, editors and other content creators.

Please note, this is an introductory workshop designed to build core skills, and is not suitable for intermediate or experienced UX or UCD practitioners.