Philosophy of UX research and design: Horizon three (benefit)

I mentioned earlier that I think of UX research and design practice in three horizons:

  • Horizon one, detail: creating detailed designs, testing those designs, preparing for shipping, supporting development, instrumentation
  • Horizon two, concept: generating and selecting among concepts intended to deliver a chosen benefit
  • Horizon three, benefit: learning about the problems people face and the benefits we might offer them to alleviate one or more of these problems

Our goal in horizon three is to

  1. understand the people we intend to serve, the work they are doing, and the difficulties that they face so well that we can
  2. come up with multiple benefits we might offer these people, then
  3. select among these according to their value to these people and to the business.

To do this we have a handful of learn activities and a handful of make activities, in a learn/make/learn sequence:

  1. Learn
    • Examine about how people work in the domain in which we operate to detect difficulties or gaps in the experience (you’ll recognize this as qualitative research), via
      • Interviews
      • Job shadowing
      • Customer advisory boards/focus groups
      • Surveys
      • Etc.
    • Measure how people use the product now, or alternatives to your product if you don’t have a product yet (you’ll recognize this as quantitative research), via
      • Testing existing experiences – summative testing
      • Reviewing sources of experience data
        • User success metrics and other user behavioral metrics
        • Support contacts themes and details
        • The frequency of error messages
        • Etc.
      • Reviewing sources of user opinion data
        • Ratings and reviews
        • Customer complaints
        • Net Promoter scores and comments
        • Etc.
  2. Make
    • Generate a list of potential benefits – results that are desirable that don’t mention the specific manner in which these results are delivered
    • Express each benefit in a way that works for your business, be it a benefit statement, a value proposition, a magical prototype, etc.
  3. Learn
    • Check each benefit for strategic fit – would deliver this benefit help us with our chosen strategy, or distract from it?
    • Check each benefit for product fit – would delivering this benefit strengthen the product’s value proposition, or dilute it?
    • Examine each benefit with the help of the people you serve – to what extent would having this benefit appeal when compared with competing benefits? How well would this benefit address existing complaints or difficulties? Would this benefit encourage subscriptions, renewals, purchases? There are numerous tools to do this, including max diff survey, dot voting, landing page testing, crowdfunding, and many others.

At the end of this you’ll have one or more high-scoring benefits and likely will already have gathered some ideas about how you might deliver each one. You’re ready for horizon two, concept.

You can see that this phase is an example of a single diamond creative process, where we inform ourselves, generate multiple possibilities, then winnow down the possibilities into a select few that we think will be especially good.