Stuck in a digital design rut? Get inspired by these 5 preliminary research tips

Stuck in a digital design rut? Get inspired by these 5 preliminary research tips

The Impact of Preliminary Research in Digital Product Design 

In my years of crafting digital products as a UX/UI designer at TTT Studios, I’ve realized the transformative power of preliminary research in shaping solutions that genuinely make a difference in users’ lives. This experience has taught me valuable lessons that I want to share with you. So, let’s dive into some actionable tips that will help you create successful digital solutions efficiently and effectively:

Tip #1 Don't Overlook the Discovery Stage 

Why the Discovery Stage is Critical for Your Digital Product’s Success 

The Discovery stage lays the foundation for your digital product's journey. By investing time and effort upfront, you gain a comprehensive understanding of user needs, business goals, and the problem space you and your team will deep dive into. This will set the stage for alignment discussions to help your team and stakeholders row together towards a single product vision and create a valuable solution that resonates with their intended users.

Whether starting from scratch or modernizing an existing product, preliminary research during Discovery ensures you approach problem-solving with a user-led design, avoiding costly back-and-forth with failed iterations or stakeholder changes down the line. 

Tip #2: Observe, Listen, and Interact with the Target User 

How User Observation Enhances Digital Product Design 

In digital product design, assumptions often shape our initial vision, but the real magic lies in grounding them with genuine user insights. At TTT Studios, we focus on understanding user behaviours and interactions. Observing users in their environment provides valuable insights beyond the screen. Additionally, interviews extract detailed feedback, but context matters here too. Engaging users in real-life scenarios uncovers nuances they may overlook because they consider them ‘normal.’ 

For example, during the interviews stage on an airport project, employees talked about their processes from top to bottom. Still, it wasn’t until we shadowed them on-site that we realized that one of their ‘simple’ tasks involved time-consuming trips to a specific site every time a problem arose. This insight allowed us to prepare our app with an offline mode, solving a critical pain point users had overlooked during interviews because they had grown used to specific barriers that deterred them from achieving their goals. 

Mapping the User Journey

Once the information from interviews and contextual research is gathered, we map the process users go through. Understanding their steps, the information they consume, and the systems or people they interact with helps define a better value proposition for the solution. Translating user insights into actionable requirements ensures your product aligns with user expectations and continuously evolves with their needs.

Validating Assumptions

If time constraints or users are not readily available, good desk research is also a great way to find valuable information when doing contextual research. Sources might vary, but depending on your problem, checking industry reports, statistical sites, or social media sites where users discuss their specialized issues can help find behavioural patterns that will help you create better assumptions so you can start rolling. 

It’s crucial always to validate your assumptions down the line. No matter where you got the information to create your initial assumptions, always validate with real users once you start prototyping or wireframing! 

Tip #3: Leverage Storyboards and Prioritization Workshops Early

Fostering Empathy and Shared Vision

Alignment can be challenging sometimes, especially when stakeholders have a different vision for the product or need clarification on user preferences. To address this, we employ storyboarding coupled with prioritization workshops; these techniques help us extract must-have features and create a shared understanding among stakeholders from the get-go.

Visualizing the Product Vision

Storyboarding also works as a great tool to create empathy amongst your team and stakeholders because it’s easier for them to see the challenges users face in their journeys. It is also a great way to show a product vision concept so everyone can understand how the solution works and how it will provide value to the people using it. If all the team agrees on the product vision concept, then defining features and prioritizing what your solution needs to have becomes an effortless task.

Tip #4: Detect Risks Before Building with Industry Scans 

Gaining Industry Insights 

During the discovery stage of developing a digital solution, conducting industry scans during the preliminary research is a crucial step that offers numerous benefits. These scans provide a broader perspective, offering insights into the competitive landscape and industry trends. 

Proactive Risk Management 

Moreover, industry scans play a proactive role in risk detection. For instance, let’s say you’re developing an AI solution; an industry scan might reveal an upcoming regulation that aims to regulate transparency in the type of model you are thinking about using. By incorporating this insight during the early stages of development, organizations can act proactively to manage risks and avoid potential setbacks later on. 

Tip #5: Never Lose Sight of Business

Achieving a Harmonious Balance Between User and Business Needs

Ensuring you and your team know what business goals your clients want to achieve by creating the solution they are asking from you is crucial to defining certain aspects of how you will need to approach the problem.

As designers, it is our duty to find the right balance between business and user needs, and to do that, having a clear, defined business goal is a must. Not only that but if there is no business, that solution that will empower users and make their lives easier will not be able to exist for long. 

Clear communication with stakeholders and the business-oriented members of your team will ensure you can deliver both and keep everyone satisfied.

Unlocking Success Through Preliminary Research

In conclusion, preliminary research is the secret sauce that sets the stage for remarkable success in digital product development. By embracing these tips, you can harness the power of user research early in the process and create user-centric, competitive, and successful digital solutions that stand the test of time. 

If you're interested in taking your digital solutions to the next level, reach out to us at TTT Studios. Let's collaborate and create remarkable products that elevate your business and resonate with your users.