Conduct user research WITH – not ON – your Customers

science, chemistry, technology, biology and people concept - young scientists with test tube and microscope making research in clinical laboratory over blue molecular structure background

We all like to think of ourselves as responsible designers and researchers. We follow design methods that take into account our experience, we analyse data and we follow user-centred design methods that involve testing with our Customers. But designers who follow design methods don’t commission ALL research that is conducted. Research is often commissioned by project managers, proposition teams, sales teams or others who have various agendas that revolve around saving time, managing scope, conforming to budget, plugging revenue gaps, or fulfilling other less customer or design-centric reasons.

Sometimes it’s just a tick in the box – to say you’ve put your product or service in front of Customers.

People who fall into the above categories often rush unfinished thoughts (designs) into testing, or might test things to prove that they won’t work – in order to prove a point. These people can be seen as experimenting ON their Customers, not conducting research WITH them.

There are valid and responsible research methods and techniques that enable us to gather insight at any stage of any design method that teams choose to follow – pre and post-launch.

But I realise that where we can (and should) test things in collaboration with our Customers, designs or ideas that we firmly believe in, that have come from insight or experience, that we can also abuse our Customers by experimenting ON them – working to prove a point, or provide lazy outputs that confound and confuse them with little or no belief or thought behind them in order to say we’ve done it.

I often hear the phrase ‘dark UX’ spoken by UX designers who refuse to participate in the creation of design patterns that cause people to do things that for moral or ethical reasons are wrong to do. This is where behavioural economics takes a dark turn and design can enable fear, desire or addiction to travel an easy path to a dark place.

Experimenting ON your Customers, and not designing ethical, reasoned, professional research studies where the intent is to collaborate WITH your Customers to create better products or services, is another vehicle to this dark place.

Conduct research studies. Test often.

But don’t be lazy.

Don’t make your Customers do everything for you. Don’t just do it to tick a box to say you’ve conducted research on your project. Don’t just throw some designs together without thought and hope Customers will fill in the gaps and do your job for you.

Do it because you want to learn from your Customers. Do it because you want to improve your designs, services and products. Do it because you care about your work, your reputation, your company and your Customers.

Conduct valid research WITH your Customers as a means to a better end. Not just an end.

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