Why Research Makes or Breaks Web Design

Posted October 14, 2014 by swimcreativeweb-design-research

For many creatives, research is a dirty word. It means halting the creative process, and sometimes, killing the hard work or shutting down the idea path they were following.

For many clients, research is a scary word. It means spending more money and time on a creative project, and often times, being unsure of what value it will actually bring.

At Swim Creative, we believe giving due diligence to consumer insights as part of the creative process is a must. It not only strengthens the end-result but saves headaches down the road. The power of consumer feedback takes creative to a whole new level of consumer engagement.

Agencies and their clients don’t know what is best for a client’s brand—the consumer does. But, how do you know what questions to ask the consumer? For Swim, the answer lies in qualitative research that is exploratory in nature and focuses on gathering people together to discuss (i.e., discussion boards, focus groups, in-person intercepts) rather than massive quantitative that focuses on asking set questions (i.e., surveys).

This is all good in theory, but how does it work? Let’s use designing and developing a website as an example. You can take a traditional route that looks something like this:

Sitemap > Wireframe > Design > Develop > Test > Launch

Or, you can rely on the expertise of user-experience research (UX research) – another term for qualitative research surrounding websites. When an agency sits down with a client’s direct consumer and receives feedback on designs or ideas, the agency can really start to understand the brain of their target audience. UX research looks something like this:

Usability Testing > Information Architecture (Sitemap and Wireframe) > Design > Develop > (Optional: Usability Testing) > Launch

How this process would work for a web project:

  1. Researcher interviews consumers and asks them to navigate the current website and competitor websites. Researcher receives “wish lists” and “pain points” from the consumer (usability testing).
  2. Researcher brings these insights back to the creative team. Based on insights, recommendations are given for what to include in the website and how it should be laid out (information architecture). From this, developers gain the sitemap and wireframes and the designers can start working.
  3. After design, the researcher can bring more intuitive designs back to the rock stars of the research group. This ensures the new website meets all of the consumers’ wish lists they shared in the first step of the process.
  4. Agency now brings new direction and designs to the client with confidence that the target market will connect with it.

While conducting research takes a little extra time, it actually saves time in the long run. Creating a customer-approved product the first time ensures a much longer shelf life.

Both client and agency are sure to have educated and thought out suggestions, but consumer research allows for a well-crafted, long-lasting end product.

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