We will use research insights to create a prototype that conceptualises a potential new product or service, that can be used in additional user research to evaluate the concept
Design research often explores or generates ideas for future services and products. In order to evaluate concepts associated with these products and services a prototype is often created. The level of fidelity of a prototype can vary from being paper-based, a mocked up in-store experience right through to a fully functional digital experience.
At U1, we have experimented with mapping services onto post-it notes, simulated the ATM banking experience with cardboard and iPad and mocked up mobile app experiences with paper tools and playing cards.
What is important here is that we have something to convey the concept and/or functionality:
- to customers so that we can get feedback as to how to progress an idea, or alternatively
- to the project team to help visualise the recommended changes.
If a concept for a digital product or service is under exploration (e.g. a website or app), we typically develop a low-fidelity wireframe outline of the intended digital experience.
With minimal visual or interface design elements, these wireframes are intended to convey functionality and flow for discussion and testing before investing heavily in design.
Wireframes, and any associate prototype, created by U1 will meet UX best practice and are matured and developed to the point where they can be tested with potential users. They will illustrate the placement of key functionality, content and navigation of a website or app.
The fidelity of the wireframes might vary from paper sketches to highly-developed interactive digital prototypes depending on the requirements of the project.
The U1 Toolkit
To provide you with the clearest possible insights and help you deliver real outcomes, we tailor each project to include the right methods and activities from our extensive toolkit.
Goals for a small project may need only one or two activities, while larger projects may use a range of methods and services to deliver on requirements.
Before starting your project, we spend time getting to know you, your intended audience and what you understand about your project (or goal). We meet with you and your team – often using interactive workshops – or use interviews or surveys to clarify understandings, fill in knowledge gaps and determine key goals.
The structure of your site or app can make or break the user experience. We use card sorting to explore and produce the most effective structure (information architecture) possible. Card sorting enables us to understand how users classify content and what terminology they might use to describe this content. IA validation usually follows this activity.
A contextual interview is a conversation with a participant in the environment in which they will be using your products and services. This improves our ability to simulate an actual experience and gives us additional insight into who they are through direct observation of the environment in which they live, work or access your services.
Similar to a contextual interview (above), we gain insight by studying the environment in which customers use your products and services. Observation of actual experiences allows us to uncover pain points and opportunities in the process of engaging with your services – without interrupting your users or customers.
The one-on-one setting of depth interviews means we can dig deep to understand your users’ preferences and behaviours. What we discover contributes to the development of wireframes, design concepts, personas, customer journey maps and digital or content strategies.
It is often important to a project to note a customer or user’s feelings or reactions over time. A Diary Study allows us to track and measure behaviour, attitude, emotion and thoughts from participants across a period of time for insight into how these characteristics might change.
Following card sorting, or to test an existing or draft structure, Information Architecture (IA) validation research uses tasks to explore the effectiveness of the structure and labelling.
Moderated IA validation is conducted in a face-to‑face environment.
Online IA validation uses an online survey to test the effectiveness of the site.
Results and feedback from participants highlight what is working well and what’s not – with recommendations for changes that respond to user needs.
In a Mobile Ethnography study, participants provide us with a unique view into their lives via an app downloaded to their smartphone. What we learn through this process leads directly to more empathetic design and drives product/service development that is suited to customer segments.
Quantitative surveys give you access and insight into your customers’ opinions. Findings can be used to support business decisions, test specific hypotheses, analyse relationships between information, and identify (or validate) key sub-groups of customers.
In a service walkthrough we simulate the end-to-end experience your customer would face when using your product or service. This technique provides invaluable insights into how the customer experience is influenced by many different areas across an organisation, and where it can be improved.
True Intent Online Study
The True Intent study sheds light on who is visiting your website, how successful they are in doing what they came to do, and what their overall perceptions are. We intercept visitors on your site and invite them to provide feedback on their experience. The data can inform who you involve in future research, what you prioritise for a web redesign or content review, and is a great way to assess the impact of changes after a new site is launched.
One of the most popular research methods, Usability Testing helps you gain insight into how well your digital (e.g. website, intranet, mobile application) and non-digital (e.g. paper-based forms, bills) assets are meeting user needs and expectations.
Moderated user testing involves one-on-one task-based interviews with users and enables deeper probing into behaviours and preferences.
Online user testing enables greater geographical scope and larger participant numbers as users complete the tasks online, in their own time and environment.
Both options enable us to deliver actionable recommendations, although moderated sessions provide deeper insights into why problems are occurring. We can deliver one-off testing projects or establish an ongoing program of tracking, following a lean, agile process.
A facilitated review and/or analysis of recent research, this might be internal at U1 or include your team in a brainstorming session. Incorporating these sessions throughout a project allows for involvement of key stakeholders in idea generation and decision-making.
Through our inclusive and participatory workshops, you will gain an excellent understanding of how your users (and potential users) operate in the world. Understand their current experiences and let them articulate pain points to identify opportunities for improvement. You can also ask for their help in creating new solutions.
Gain a visual illustration of the different touchpoints users encounter when interacting with your organisation or service. By mapping out their emotional state, attitude and actions throughout the experience with your product or service, we are able to identify pain points and opportunities for improvement.
Future State User Journeys
The ‘journey’ depicted tells or shows an engaging story based on the ideal customer experience with your organisation, product or service. User Journeys usually correspond with a persona and represent a ‘future state’ vision.
Personas based on user research paint a clear picture of who your users are to ensure your products and services are clearly aligned to their needs – essential for developing successful digital experiences. We bring our research findings to life in a set of personas that become a reference point for your users’ core behaviours, motivations and expectations.
Once you’ve invested in user research, it is important the findings are translated into an improved user experience or ideas for future services and products. Often this leads to the development of wireframes that meet UX best practice and are matured and developed to the point where they can be tested with potential users. Alternatives to online prototypes might include mapping services onto post-it notes, simulating the banking experience with a cardboard ATM, or mocking up mobile app experiences with paper tools and playing cards.
Strategy and frameworks
A digital strategy will help you think (and plan) long-term about the functionality, content, governance, and resourcing needed to ensure your digital channels are effective. Adding a roadmap of actions for the short, medium and long term allows you to focus your efforts in the right places to meet your users’ needs.
Outsourcing our research capability into your organisation allows you to meet the needs of consumers and stay ahead of the competition – with minimal disruptions and overheads. Our outsourcing solution integrates one of our experienced research team into your company for a defined period. The approach is cost-effective, quick to implement, and gives you more flexibility with your in-house resources.