Posted on: 16 Apr 2019
Written by: Ngaire Ackerley
Over the last few weeks I’ve gone into detail about user experience design, what it is, personas, user journey mapping and a lot about user testing and user research. Hopefully by now you can see how important it is when it comes to designing new or updating existing websites and apps.
As designers we can and should design for users, yet sometimes we need to stretch a bit further. Innovative design doesn’t always come from just doing what your users need or want, it often requires design research, ideas and brainstorming. For a designer, it means getting outside of the box, being curious. It can add value to both the company and the user.
So, when do we do user research and when do we do design research?
For me, I still like to do design, competitor and industry research at the beginning of a project. These days I often go further afield too, researching design-related aspects that may be from a completely different industry. That way I’m not limiting my design ideas to just ‘what has been done’ in a particular industry.
It could be looking at login experience for e-commerce shops, booking engines, travel and transport, news and media, apps, tv, mobile, tablet and desktop variations. They could all do something slightly different for their industry that could impact the design of another if considered in the right way.
Design research may be done before, during or after user research. It depends on the project. User research may also help inform design research. It could give a designer ideas of other sites, apps and brands our users visit and like, we could start to investigate why they like them so much and consider how those aspects could impact our project and design.
Sometimes I can be in the middle of a project and hit a tricky point. I don’t know what the design should look like. Maybe it’s an icon or label somewhere that needs to stand out, but still work with the exisiting design styles and systems implemented. It’s easy to google, look at images and browse other sites, yet sometimes that’s not quite enough.
This is when I get out of the box. Dribble, medium, Pinterest are all great websites, but I also like to often get off the computer when it comes to design research. I look at magazines — art and design, sport and adventure, travel, almost anything. Look back through design books or other books you have lying around. Go to a museum or gallery. Start noticing signage and brochures, menus even! Go for a walk somewhere new or in a different season. Talk to different people, go different places. Notice the world around you. Just because a medium isn’t digital doesn’t mean it can’t help inform a digital design.
I’ve course being curious on a day-to-day basis is an excellent trait of a designer, but sometimes it can be easy to become a bit too comfortable. Express and use your knowledge and expertise. That’s great, but an even better talent is being able to spot opportunities for innovation within a design.
It’s when we start to look outside of the ordinary that we can start to create unique experiences. It’s finding that balance between an easy user experience and a memorable user experience. Something so good that our users or customers want to return to. It could stand out or it could be so invisible that users take it for granted (in a good way).
I enjoy using a website that shows me individual store stock of an item, more than a store that just describes an item on a webpage. That way I know if I physically go into a store that they’ll have stock of the item I want to purchase and it won’t be a waste of my time. Subtle addition, but good.
I enjoy using Google Maps when it can identify accurate public transport options. When I’m driving, it can show me as I move how much longer I have and if there is a shorter route which it can redirect me. Before I leave home, I can see the traffic hot spots and make an informed decision of which route I want to take. And that’s just a few aspects that make it great!
It’s all these little tweaks, additions or simply clean attractive design that keeps me returning to a website or app. Obviously user research and user testing is vital to these websites and apps, yet there’s even more we can do for our users through design research.
Being an innovative designer for me, means being inspired from lots of different places. As a user experience designer sometimes we can take the easiest route or the known path for a user to make their experience easy and successful. That’s not bad at all. Yet, it is always good to keep your eyes open past that for opportunities to make that user experience even better!« Back to Blog