in User Research

Maybe Don’t Call Research “Research”

Here’s a small but important lesson about getting field research done in a corporate environment. If you propose research, folks may hear that word and think R&D, and that’s not capitalizable, i.e. the cost can’t be allocated against a particular product/service. That means the cost can’t be delayed and counted against future revenues (delaying costs can be good for budget reasons or simply for the time value of money). This is because if you’re doing work for a project you have a much higher degree of confidence it will provide a return versus doing pure research & development.

If you can make it clear that the work is applied against a particular project, great, but otherwise be careful of using the word research to people who might interpret it in the accounting sense of the word. As an alternative, how about information gathering? Any other suggestions?

  1. I’d rather go for “insight gathering” than “information gathering” – but I’d still be very unhappy with the verb “gather. Gather is very passive; suggests (as so many would have you believe) that this stuff is out there waiting simply to be scooped up. It devalues the creativity and synthesis, IMHO.

  2. I use “requirements gathering”. Not only do you not get much push-back with that phrase, but it actually seems to create a little, inpenetrable force bubble around your research actvities.

  3. Austin — you crack me up, but it’s true, by framing the activities using your audience’s language you gain respect, though you could suffer later if it results in a mismatch of expectations.

  4. Huh. I have been looking into how in our projects the work we do during:
    – requirements gathering
    – inception/elaboration
    – investigation
    – discovery

    or whatever eles you would like to call it can be documented in a way so that it is useful to our customers organization in the future. So I’m trying to show how our project work could contribute to corporate R&D. I did 7 months at a large bank in 2005 and read many reports from all over the corporation that could help us in designing their new corporate portal. As a contractor I found them extremely useful but no one on the client team ever bothered to read them, quite a shame really.

  5. I spent a whole semester in college, doing
    ‘research’, we called it….

    VOC – Voice of the Customer Research
    Focus Group Research
    Observational Research

    Not sure if any of this is helpful, do you mean research that is not specific to any particular project?

    Also, I thought that especially in a corporate environment or design team, there would be a specific person with the position of Product Research..errr something?

  6. Reminds me of a case in which we used “research” for the field study and the personas creation.

    The CEO of the company then went and ordered a research from a marketing research team to compare the results. (Surveys, analysis a lot of other stuff).

    He just couldn’t understand that our research was actually looking for insights and not looking for statistics.

  7. I completely agree!

    Plus, the Hawthorne Effect is avoided by calling it “research” and we pave the way for more untouched results.

    The methods of research should be dynamic and adaptive to the requirements of obtaining the most accurate and efficient results possible.

    Whatever it takes.. without dishonesty, I am for. Innovation must feed itself into all facets of product development, whether it be pre-design foundation research, or iterative research.. you must be an innovator in all your approaches otherwise you will not succeed.

    If you are not prepared to be wrong, you are not prepared to come up with anything original.

    Gump Design:

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