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Get Started with Methods

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Author: Andy Braren | Last edit: July 11, 2024

When to use Methods

There are many different ways to visualize the research & design process, from double diamonds to sprints to möbius loops and even board games. None are perfect, but within Red Hat UXD we’ve found it helpful to describe two complementary categories/mindsets — Discovery and Delivery — with methods supporting each.

Identify where your team is currently at in this loop, and which areas you may have gaps. Ideally every team should be regularly practicing at least some of the methods in each area of the loop. For example, if your team has already delivered a solution but hasn’t set up any metric collection to track its success, that would be a great area to focus on first.


The method or part of the process you should focus on depends heavily on a wide variety of factors, including:

Timing
Certain methods are more natural at certain times in a product’s lifecycle. For example, when a product team is just starting to form and its future roadmap is very murky, Discovery methods can be very helpful to inform the product’s direction. If a product has already been shipping for a while, focusing on Delivery methods and improving product analytics to inform improvements and future user interviews may be a good area to start.

Investment
Consider the amount of time a method will take, whether it will require involvement from others, and whether the output will be useful to the team immediately or in the longer-term. Some methods have a quick turnaround time and can help teams with their immediate deliverables. Others may take longer, but investing in them can pay dividends and influence the product’s direction. Consider and balance a mix of both.

Appetite
Product team dynamics and stakeholder expectations can vary widely. Some may always be in fire-fighting mode and never seem interested in discovery methods, while others may want to ensure they identify the right solution before building anything. Identify what the team’s expectations are, challenge them if you think another method’s output would be more valuable, and work with the team to ensure that everyone is interested and invested in the results.
 


How to choose a method

Step 1: Understand the context

Whenever you join a new project or are asked to design a major new feature, consider the following:

  • Do you understand the business problem that the product team is trying to solve, and how solving it supports the company’s strategy?
  • Do you understand the product outcomes and goals that the team is targeting?
  • Do you know who the target users are, and how the solution you’re working on will help them?

If you struggle to answer any of these questions, a quick Problem Framing activity (template here, Method coming soon) can help you gather up the foundational knowledge needed to inform your next best step.

Step 2: Consider the circumstances

Choosing the right method or methods to apply depends on timing (where you are in the product life cycle), the investment that will be required by you and your team, and the team’s appetite for the final result.

The table below offers some suggestions based on various circumstances, but if you’d like help determining which method or approach might work best in your situation, feel free to ask in our #uxd-hub Slack channel!

 DiscoveryDelivery
PhaseResearch - understand the problemIdeate - identify opportunitiesDesign and evaluate - refine the solutionGather feedback - measure impact
When you need toFigure out what the problems are that you could solve 
Determine how people feel at the current time 
 
Understand opportunities and gaps, see which problems matter most, or map out current trends, behaviors, and sentiments 
Compare possible solutions 
 
Ideate on and deliver solutions that address user needs 
See how people will react to something 
Evaluate usability of proposed solutions 
 
Understand why people feel the way they do 
Establish metrics to measure the impact of changes 
 
Some methods to considerProblem framing
Surveys
Secondary analysis
Job/User stories
User outcome survey
User Interviews
Qualitative data synthesis

 
Journey mapping
Flow diagramming
Competitive Analysis
Solution brainstorming
Assumption test
A/B concept testing

 
Journey mapping
Flow diagramming
Tree jack test
Card sort
Stakeholder review
Mid-high fidelity prototyping
Usability test

 
Defining success metrics
Sentiment survey (e.g. NPS, SUS, etc.)
User outcome benchmarking
Product analytics
Telemetry/Log Analysis
 

 

Step 3: Try new things!

Every designer and researcher at Red Hat is always encouraged to try out new techniques, frameworks, and methods so that we can continuously improve the way that we create better product experiences for our users.

There is no one approach or process that’s perfect for every situation, and we’re constantly inspired to try new things from a wide variety of sources, including:

UXD Methods are our own small collection of repeatable processes that include Red Hat-specific examples, resources, and tips to help our team more easily navigate parts of the product design process at Red Hat. They help us save time when setting up activities and ensure some consistency when needed, but they are not strict rules to follow, and they’re also not a comprehensive set of the methods we use.

Innovation requires experimentation, and that applies to processes as well. Use these methods as a helpful guardrail if you need one, but never be afraid to try something new!

Share your experiments and experiences with these methods in our #uxd-hub Slack community, and learn how to contribute to this collection!


What are the Methods?

Discovery

Understand the problem

MethodWhen you need to…
Problem framing (coming soon)Quickly understand what the business needs, what product outcome/goal the team is targeting, and what assumptions are being made about the target user.

Understand user needs

MethodWhen you need to…
User interviewsUnderstand the “why” underlying user behaviors, preferences, or survey responses via a semi-structured discussion.
Qualitative data synthesis (coming soon)Identify themes across multiple user interviews or many written survey responses.
Secondary analysis (coming soon)Quickly find new insights within existing research data we have in EnjoyHQ.
User outcome surveyHelp a product team prioritize based on the top unmet needs that users care about most.
SurveysQuickly gather information from a large sample of users for quantitative analysis.
Job storiesExplain the context and motivation for a user’s behavior, focusing on the situation they’re in rather than the persona they fit.

Journey map (coming soon)

A visualization that shows where users experience friction when completing a task today.

Identify opportunities

MethodWhen you need to…

Solution & assumption brainstorming (coming soon)

A workshop to collaboratively brainstorm solution ideas and identify key assumptions that should be tested with users.
Competitive analysisReview competitive products to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.
As-is user flow diagrammingQuickly identify areas in the current product experience that may confuse users or prevent them from completing tasks.
Assumption test (coming soon)Quickly test key assumptions that must be true for a solution idea to succeed, rather than the entire solution concept itself.
Solution concept test (coming soon)Understand user preference between two or more low-fidelity solution concepts to inform product direction.
Graffiti wall activityWhen you need to collect rapid feedback on a concept, question, or idea.

Delivery

Design the solution

MethodWhen you need to…
To-be user flow diagramming
(Miro, Figma)
Quickly iterate on the steps a user will take to complete a task with the product. Usually created before mockups.
High-fidelity prototyping
(PatternFly & Figma)
Mock up what a future solution could look and feel like to facilitate discussions or use for user testing.
Usability testingTest whether users will be able to successfully complete tasks using the new solution.
Treejack testing (coming soon)
(Optimal Workshop)
Measure how effectively users are able to navigate a menu to find the right place to complete a task. Useful to test a proposed information architecture (IA) prior to implementation.
Card sorting
(Optimal Workshop)
Understand how users think about and group together a set of words, concepts, tasks, or ideas. Often used to inform information architecture of user interfaces.
Stakeholder review (coming soon)Share progress on a solution’s design with other decision-makers (product and engineering).

Measure impact

MethodWhen you need to…
Defining success metrics (coming soon)Prioritize which metrics to track based on user outcomes & product outcomes.
User outcome benchmarking (coming soon)Measure how a user’s satisfaction in their ability to achieve a user outcome changes over time. Useful for determining whether new solutions are improving the user’s experience.

Collect in-product feedback (coming soon)

Measure user satisfaction with a product experience over time and whether it helps them achieve their desired outcomes
Product analyticsTrack in-product user behaviors to determine where improvements may be needed.
Product telemetry (coming soon)Find and learn from usage data collected by our products.

methods process

Get in Touch!

Spotted a typo? Any feedback you want to share? Do you want to collaborate? Get in touch with the UXD Methods working group using one of the links below!

Drop us a message on the #uxd-hub Slack channel

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