Exploratory Design Research

Uncovering the needs, motivations, and pain points of your target audience

What is Exploratory Design Research?

Conducting research is a foundational first step to creating a successful product or experience. In the early stages, Exploratory Design Research allows you to study the issues your users are facing and gain valuable takeaways that inform the direction you should proceed. These important findings help you shape your vision, inform the decisions you make on your path to innovation, and ultimately allow you to build something that people will want to use.

Great design happens when user insights meet creative business problem solving. Whether you want to discover opportunities or evaluate existing ideas, we perform a variety of research methods to identify patterns in user behaviors and match product design and services to them. This enables users to accomplish their goals while you successfully achieve yours.

How is Exploratory Design Research Valuable?

From research to design, every aspect of your product is influenced by the people you design for. Through customer-focused methodologies, this type of research design allows you to explore and uncover user needs and further target their priorities and behavior. Through exploratory studies and qualitative methods, we’ll collect data on specific audiences’ motivations, why they struggle with certain problems, and help clarify how you can begin solving those problems. This way, you’ll have a better understanding of the problems you are trying to solve before generating solutions.

Understanding Your Target Audience

Design research is an important part of the product discovery process and provides new insights into a user's experience with a product or service. Through targeted research questions and data collection, Exploratory Design Research helps you to:

  • Ask open-ended questions that result in insightful qualitative data

  • Utilize this research data to understand who your users are and what problems they’re facing

  • Perform data analysis to better understand the cause and effect relationships of user behaviors

Research-Informed Strategy

When we work on a new product, we start by taking a step back and looking at the problems that need solving. Exploratory research is an important tool that can provide the building blocks for a research-informed strategy that allows you to:

  • Uncover more conclusive results around how your target audience will be using your product

  • Develop solutions that are better aligned with these needs and decision-making behaviors

  • Identify opportunities for future research, refine your hypotheses, and determine next steps in the research process

How we do it

All of our research methods relate to whether or not the user's context is accessible to us and the length of the behavior that we are interested in observing–short or prolonged.

For Exploratory Research, most methods are contextual so that they allow us to understand people in context and observe differences between what people say and what they actually do. Qualitative methods are the best way to achieve this because they allow us the luxury of time and going deeper into the 'why' behind what we see.

"We wouldn’t be achieving our business goals without Highland. Everyone on their team was very clear on what we set out to do. We worked with an incredibly high-caliber group."

- Jill Cole Mesaros, Director of Membership at Thrivent Financial

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