Research beyond UX

Using your research skills to create other opportunities outside of design

Etching and engraving Globe with Mapping Instruments
Globe with Mapping Instruments-Edme Bouchardon.

Whether it's buying a new car or investing in stocks, learning about the subject is necessary to maximize your returns. It may be in the form of formal research where you’re generating spreadsheets or informal research where you’re scribbling in a notebook or on a napkin. Either way, the seeds are being planted for you to make a better decision for your current needs.

Benefits of Research

Research can give you an understanding beyond just getting to know something. You form a deeper connection to understanding the complexities of any company, product, or idea. By identifying patterns and drawing conclusions based on your goals and needs, you’re strengthening your overall analytical skills. You’ll be better equipped to make more educated and strategic decisions across varying spectrums. to identify best practices, as well as potential opportunities and pitfalls.

  1. Identify a problem — What are you setting out to learn and to better understand?
  2. Create a strategy — What constitutes a successful project, how will we know when to move on from initial research?
  3. Observe and learn — leverage relevant existing research to accurately inform strategic and intentional decisions.
  4. Reflect — How do your observational findings better inform your potential opportunities?
One of the earliest American submarine illustrations; Ocean Life — James M. Sommerville. He collected the specimens and lithographed the image.
One of the earliest American submarine illustrations; Ocean Life — James M. Sommerville. He collected the specimens and lithographed the image.
One of the earliest American submarine illustrations; Ocean Life — James M. Sommerville. He collected the specimens and lithographed the image.

Gather both qualitative and quantitative data

You can pour over technical data until the cows come home, but most markets are impulsively moved by public chatter or material information. That’s why it's important to leverage all available resources in both qualitative and quantitative forms to best manage unforeseen circumstances.

Qualitative — Data collected with an understanding of human behavior and the perspective of psychology. This form assumes there’s room to negotiate to define reality. (People buying Tesla stock when Elon Musk tweets about something related)

Quantitative — Data collected with the intention of discovering facts that can be discovered in a fixed and measured reality. Statistics that come from data analysis can be a great tool to summarize our data into digestible connections, but without context, they can be deceptive.

It's best practice to pull as much data, both confirming and denying your assumptions to better leverage your position going forward. After all, this isn’t an empirical, scientific method, and your cognitive assumptions probably heavily weigh on the business or user needs.

Scandal, from “Illustrated London News” —Abraham Solomon. Made when Abraham was in his twenties, this composition centers on an elderly eighteenth-century couple who amuse themselves with tea and gossip, since no longer able to dance or flirt like the younger figures in the background.

Some things to consider

Use Your Intuition: I don’t mean clairvoyance. I mean that eventually in your process you’ll get to a point where reciprocity kicks in. You’ll lean too heavily on the data, get tunnel vision and lose sight of the original problem. Usually the most logical anwer is the one you should follow.

Think in Ecosystems: Consider the bigger picture that’s affected by the cause of your decision. How will this decision effect your partner or your neighbor?

Confirmation bias: People are inclined to stop searching when they find their pre-existing beliefs are supported. (see Anatomy of news consumption on Facebook)

Read: How confirmation bias stops us solving problems

Look for patterns: I put a whiteboard in my livingroom so I can toss around structures and ideas…

A Section of the Constellation Cygnus (August 13, 1885)
A Section of the Constellation Cygnus (August 13, 1885)
A Section of the Constellation Cygnus (August 13, 1885) — Paul and Prosper Henry.

UX Designer w/ a background as a photographer and digital artist. I’m a visual storyteller dedicated to solving complex problems & producing creative solutions.

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