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Collecting Data to Inform Design

Research is imperative to ensuring that the products and initiatives you create are successful. While it isn’t often the first step on most digital communicators’ checklists when developing a digital or brand experience, it should be.

Consider the task of buying a gift for someone you don’t know that well. Suppose the gift is for your partner’s mother. Your objective is to impress your partner’s mother and convince her that you are a caring, compassionate person. What would you want to do first to make sure that you get her the gift that achieves this? 

You could start by talking to her more; learning what her hobbies are, and what kinds of things she likes, etc. Or you might talk to your partner about her; asking probing questions about her interests. You’d then, hopefully, have enough good information to get her an appropriate and thoughtful gift. Seems intuitive, no?

When taking on a website, brand, or content build, this common-sense research approach is the same. Understanding your users, their environment, and best practices are key to creating an impactful, long-lasting digital or brand experience. 

Why We Conduct Research

At Forum One, we conduct research to understand how we can best help our clients reach and serve their audiences. More specifically, we conduct research so that we can successfully:

  • Design for the people who will use the product;
  • Validate or invalidate assumptions about audiences; and
  • Provide clear direction for how to develop an experience.

We use the findings from our research to inform user experience, design services, overcome challenges in design, build new brands or revamp existing ones, understand where there is opportunity, and build a set of best practices. 

Areas of Research

Just like buying that gift for your partner’s mother, there are many ways to help get this valuable information. We think of research in four different buckets depending on what we are researching and what we are hoping to learn. 

Design Research

Design research helps inform the design of an experience. The goal is to learn more about target users: what they care about, and what drives them to action. It is primarily conducted through qualitative research, but can also be informed by quantitative surveys and in-person interviews. When conducting design research, we seek to understand how audiences react to certain experiences, and how they behave in defined scenarios, e.g., conducting usability testing to see how they navigate a page or interact with a piece of content. This type of research supports a human-centered design approach as it uncovers motivations and barriers, and builds a sense of empathy for the user.

Brand Perception Research

Brand perception research aims to understand how people feel about a particular brand and its visuals and content. Through a mix of qualitative and quantitative research, it answers questions such as what makes them happy or sad, how do particular images make them feel, and what draws them to the brands they trust. It also looks at how users directly interact with brands by defining reactions to content, wording, design elements, and calls-to-action. Brand perception research also seeks to understand key opinion leaders in a certain field, looking at their biases toward particular brands, and what they value in the brands they interact with most.

Landscape Analysis / Market Research

Supplemental market research about competitors and comparators in a specific topic area is helpful in understanding the environment in which you are working. This type of research seeks to understand what others are doing in a particular space, e.g., what kind of content are they using to communicate with their own users, where there are gaps that you could use as opportunities, and what users are accustomed to when it comes to channel strategy. Landscape and market research also informs a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis about the organization itself by understanding what is happening outside the organization.

Analytics Data

Analytics data provides insight into the actual movements of users on a digital platform — how they arrived there, how long they stayed, and so much more. This data helps to inform how to best arrange content online and drive users to take action. It also gives the ability to correlate quantitative data to qualitative data collected from other types of research.

Want to learn more?

Stay tuned on our blog to learn more in-depth research tactics, including tools and guides, and how to get started with the research types mentioned in this post. 

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