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Welcome to episode #017 of Custom Made and today I’m joined again by Sarah Reid, Vice President of Design Research here at Dialexa.

Once you have finished listening to this episode, you can hear more from Sarah on previous episodes of Custom Made such as Episode #8 where we discuss the value of Storytelling in product development, and Episode #5 where we explore Lean Design Research.

Sarah is a Product Designer whose fascination with how design and psychology interact has led her on a relentless pursuit to shape user experiences that enable elegant solutions to complex problems. Her specialties in web and UX design include layout, interaction and aesthetic design for websites and software products.

Prior to joining Dialexa, Sarah leveraged her love of design thinking to design administration tools for AT&T Business to Business Services and game art for GameStop's PC download business.

Most notably, Sarah worked for a healthcare industry software provider where she used her UX problem solving and process improvement skills to streamline online interactions that contained a massive amount of user information, options, decisions, complex rules and restrictions. The only precedent to an application in this industry was paying someone to sort through spreadsheets and faxing the paperwork.

Sarah is someone who is concerned with the why of a product, workflow and user experience. And, she is a fan of pragmatic research work to enable her to provide insights in a fast and smart manner - which is exactly what we are going to be discussing today.

On this weeks episode Sarah and I are discussing why you need to take a pragmatic view to user research, so that you understand just enough to move forward with your product development rather than spend too much time on research that slows down the product development process, or no research at all that leads to unsuccessful products.

Successful products come from understanding the user needs, their pains, and their experiences that the product is trying to deliver against. But research is still seen by many as either an area to cut from the product development process, leads to analysis paralysis or would rather move forward on assumptions based on historical data points or opinion.

Typically we first encounter Research in school with research papers - learning about a topic through the systematic investigation into, and study of, materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions - and then writing a report about it.

But in the real-world this approach is not always practical, and research needs to take a different, more agile, approach if it is to be successfully applied to product development.

During this weeks episode we are going to explore the three main types of research to inform your product development, and define what “just-enough” means. These three types are:

  • User Research - which focuses on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies.
  • Market Research - which is the action or activity of gathering information about consumers' needs and preferences.
  • And Design Research - which was originally constituted as primarily research into the process of design, developing from work in design methods, but the concept has been expanded to include research embedded within the process of design, including work concerned with the context of designing and research-based design practice.

And before you say it, don’t get me wrong, successful products can be created by following your gut and intuition. The many successes of Steve Jobs are because of this - though the less discussed product failures are also based on gut and intuition as well.

But you don’t get a good gut and intuition without being immersed in the world you are designing for. You must know about the people and their behaviors as well have the vision and strategy to bring about change. You need to build experience - and by following the advice Sarah shares in this episode, you will be on your way to building that experience to have an informed opinion...or gut!

Throughout our conversation Sarah recommends a couple of resources to develop your skills around user research, here are some quick links to help you check them out::

You can catch Sarah's full Custom Made episode here:


Here are some of the memorable moments from Sarah's episode of Custom Made:

If you prefer to listen on the go, you can get all episodes of Custom Made on these platforms and many more. Do subscribe on your favorite platform to catch each episode as it is released, and let me know any feedback, questions, and recommendations on twitter @dougplatts.

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I hope you enjoy this episode!

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