1. Conduct discovery research

The first stage of any project is to do research to discover problems that need solving.

These design methods can help guide your research with both stakeholders and possible end users:

Your goal is three-fold:

  1. Identify and more deeply understand the challenge facing the organization and its stakeholders;
  2. Identify the people you believe could be most helped by your solution; and,
  3. Explore the problem, context, behaviors, and motivations of the people (your intended users).

For example:

  • The challenge: the United States has high unemployment rate and the growth in jobs is for highly skilled workers. We need more citizens who can meet that demand, and we have evidence that college educated workers are more employed and more employable.
  • The people: High school graduates and adults without a degree
  • The problem: Prospective college students lack information about the potential economic outcomes of a college degree, and also lack information that would lead them to be able to select which college is right for them.

Lean product design may change how you do UX research. Some UX practitioners are used to writing big reports at the conclusion of a single research phase. Here, iteration and learning over repeated experiments is valued over breadth of research. Document the results of your hypothesis test clearly and concisely so you can share them quickly with your team, learn from them, and devise another experiment.

For example, the College Scorecard project developed paper prototypes to validate early ideas about a mobile website to help prospective college students make decisions.

paper prototype of a mobile app