Where Research Is Working | UX Collective


As research evolves, the practice will hook into the organization in new ways.

We should, whenever possible, make our ideas visible and tangible. Here I will continue the effort to practice what I preach. Another concept we’ll build on today is that it always pays to start by making sense of things as they are now and their trajectories — the current state — before we make the next move.

We’ll take these two directives to heart while trying to make sense of research itself. To get a handle on our current state, we start by zooming out to the organizational context that research and product are a part of.

For those of us trying to make effective, humane, and valuable software-shaped things — whether we are researchers or not — there are three initial areas we need to be aware of: call them organization, product, and customer context.

A diagram with three boxes, one each for “organization”, “product”, and “customer context”. There is a two-way arrow connecting organization and product. There is a two-way arrow connecting “product” and “customer context”. One more arrow moves from the product-and-customer-context area back towards the organization.
An ultra-basic sketch: the larger system that research lives in.

First and most visible is the product we produce, or the portfolio of products thereof. Just as important as that product output is the current state of the customer context, the larger ecosystem that the product serves. Third, the ultimate arbiter of policy and product is the organization itself.

The connections shown here are important, too.

The same diagram as above, now with the arrow between “product” and “customer context” highlighted. The highlight is captioned, “1. Research observes here.”
We are trained to look at the customer context and context<>product interaction.

Between product and customer context is a link between two ever-changing slices of reality that [we hope will] couple, fit, and co-evolve, with value flowing in both directions. This whole and its parts is where we’re trained to focus our attention as functional research practitioners.

The same image above, now with a highlight over the arrow from the product-and-customer-context area into the organization. The highlight is captioned, “2. [research] reframes what is seen; works to orient the team.”
Reframing and synthesizing new patterns and insights from what is observed helps orient the team on the critical aspects of this reality.

When research works, it provides an interpretive learning loop that establishes, augments, and refreshes the larger team’s understanding and supports effective decision-making. We select and highlight the critical factors of the product <> customer context situation and ensure they’re…


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