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Analyze the Research

Design research activities produce a lot of raw data, for example

Filtering and organizing this data will help you to produce meaningful insights.

How to Find Interesting and Relevant Observations

Follow these steps to gather observations with your team

  1. Hand out sticky notes.
  2. Ask team members to review the notes taken during the research. They can then write interesting or relevant observations on the sticky notes. Look for
    • Things that are working well
    • Challenges people have (pain points)
    • Opportunities for improvement
    • Powerful quotes You can use the colour of sticky notes strategically (for example, red to note pain points, green for notes about what works well).
  3. If you have recordings, you can make them available. Team members can use them to confirm their observations and get verbatim quotes.
  4. Tell the group to use a single sticky note for each observation and write exactly what they saw, heard or read (for example, quotes or observed behaviour), not what they think it means. This way, the notes will be unbiased and represent the voice of the participant.

Sort Observations

Once team members have written down their observations, ask them to place their sticky notes on a wall. Start sorting them into similar themes. This is often called ‘affinity mapping’. You can group them by

  • Common topics (for example, identity, delivery, payment)
  • Stages in a user journey (for example, ‘supply photo’, ‘attend interview’, ‘pay’)
  • Individual pages or steps in a transaction
  • Audience type (for example, first time user, business person)

Allow people to move notes placed by other people. The idea is to look for patterns or clusters in the data by grouping the notes until clear themes emerge. In some cases this means duplicating notes that may be relevant to more than one cluster.

Name your Groups

Once you have your groups, agree on a title for each that explains the theme of the cluster.

Check if you can break large groups into smaller themes based on matching observations. For example, if users have to supply a photo to use your service, you might have a ‘photos’ group that could broken down into

  • Photo rules and requirements
  • Using a photo booth or department store photographer
  • Taking a photo at home
  • Reasons a photo might be rejected

Determine Findings

The final part of the analysis process is determining what the observations mean.

When you agree on what you’ve learned, write it as a finding or ‘insight’ on a different coloured sticky note. Add it to the relevant group on your affinity map.

Write findings as short statements that summarize what you’ve learned, for example

  • “The legal declaration is threatening and difficult to understand.”
  • “People think they can click the progress bar to navigate.”
  • “People are confused about what they need to do because so many questions are optional.”

Decide Actions

You can use your findings to make decisions about what to work on, change or research next. This supports the agile method of continuous planning with new facts or requirements.

As a group, discuss if there are any actions you want to take. Write these on sticky notes in another colour. Add them to the relevant group on your affinity map. Actions might include

  • New design ideas to work on
  • New questions to include in design research
  • Things you want to change in a prototype and test in another research session
  • New user stories to add to the product backlog
  • New details you need to add to an existing user story
  • Strategic insights you can use to develop your user needs, proposition or product roadmap

To help with prioritizing findings, you can use

  • Feature-Value matrix
  • Dot voting

As part of your analysis you should communicate your research visually for shared understanding.

Understanding who your users are

Building better user journeys

Analyzing Research Remotely

Analysis activities are best done with all members of the team in the same room, allowing for fluid brainstorming and rapid rearranging of ideas. If meeting in person is not an option there are online collaboration tools that can be combined to accomplish these same tasks:

  • Video conferencing platforms such as Skype, where team members can share their screens if necessary to communicate ideas
  • A shared digital working space where team members can collaboratively record and organize observations in real time. Software like Miro, Skype Whiteboard, and Excel Online (via Sharepoint) can replace sticky-notes and whiteboards

When analyzing research online, consider splitting up the 5 steps into several shorter group work sessions separated by breaks or periods of individual work.

Check with your Ministry Privacy Officer before using a software tool for your project analysis to make sure it complies with the Province’s privacy rules and regulation.