(Raw) Design Research Deliverables – what to deliver and what to ask for

Earlier this year I was on a project where I had to re-purpose another team’s design research. My job was to make a set of task models. I had the following available to me:

  • Research findings
  • Personas
  • User stories (participant profiles from the research)
  • High level journeys

I combed the research and was able to extract goals, some tasks but there was a problem. I didn’t understand the motivations underlying the tasks and I simply needed more context. I asked for the raw notes. Unfortunately they weren’t available.

Design (ethnography) research is expensive for our clients. Should it be a one off investment with only one pay off? The research findings on the project suited the brief at the time but afterwards the needs of the project changed. Detail needed to be understood and made visible as the project progressed from strategy to implementation. What I needed were the raw research notes. I propose delivering some of the raw research alongside formal deliverables.

Raw research deliverables – what are they?

  • Transcripts – can be 20-30 pages long for a 90 minute interview. Transcribers can be found on freelancing sites like Amazon Turk and O-desk. Ask for raw transcripts that are “unclean” to preserve the ums and ahs. This helps convey the participants’ non verbal cues.
  • Photos – If the research findings don’t include photo evidence then provide photos separately. Add notes to indicate the participant reference and what is important evidence in the photo.
  • Customer stories – these are the raw persona type profiles of participants typically made after contextual interviews (contextual inquiries). Attributes might include behaviour, needs, goals, motivations, triggers, and tasks.
  • Recordings – audio, or video. Especially useful for user testing.

Retaining these assets can prolong the life of the research and extend the initial investment. If you are a practitioner consider what it means for you to deliver raw notes. How much extra time would it involve? How might it change the quality of what you record knowing that someone down the line might pick it up? If you are a client reading this, consider asking for raw notes in your project deliverables. Understand that you might have to accommodate a little more time and budget to make it happen.

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