User-Centered Approach: Use Design Thinking in Your Next Project
8 Design research methodologies help you understand users better
Dec 20,2021

Design thinking has always been a way of thinking that various industries pursued in recent years. Regardless of the website or App, a good design is essential for every App that requires interaction with users; this is a complete solution. However, as the importance of App design increases, industries are also tempted to try out different research methodologies, hoping to better understand users. Only through a logical research process will enable stakeholders to understand the meaning of the research, and will eventually solve usage problems.


How Does Design Thinking Affect the Industry?

For example, take the founder of IDEO, David Kelley. When he was the dean of the School of Design at Stanford University, he utilized his experience of thinking and solving problems from a design perspective, then applied it to the master's degree program. This established the academic status of design thinking. Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, also proposed a definition in the Harvard Business Review which said “Design thinking is a human-centered design ethos and methodology that considers human needs and behavior, and also the feasibility of technology or business” (National Development Commission, 2021).

In executing a project, combining design thinking puts us in the user's shoes and helps to solve the problems more accurately.  Every piece of user research brings us closer to better understanding the user. Even though research brings a lot of questions, it is necessary to continuously iterate through different research methodologies, and then draw conclusions based on the research. We believe that, as long as it is user-centered, and it fulfills human needs, the outcome will be unlimited possibilities.


8 Design Research Methodologies

According to the properties of the project, we often use the following design methodologies to better understand the actual users.

Heuristic Evaluation 

The Heuristic Evaluation is an expert evaluation of usability developed by Jakob Nielsen, also known as “the king of usability,” and his colleagues in 1994 (10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design, 1994). It is based on market dynamics research to understand consumer attitudes and behaviors. The Heuristic Evaluation uses general principles for interaction design, such as using the user’s language, providing clearly marked exits, good error messages, and removing inconsistent designs, etc. As we compare the feasibility of existing products from the principles for interaction design, and count the missing parts in the user experience, it will lead us to clarify the reasons for the existing problems. Eventually, we will be able to list out the directions or goals that can be strengthened and improved.

Design Workshop

Design Workshop, as the name suggests, is to conduct intensive discussions or activities relating to a specific topic or case; participants are especially important. They need to clarify common problems and goals through interaction. “What activities generate interaction and effective communication?” “How do we guide this group of people to discuss and reach a consensus?” These are the most significant skills of the workshop. However, the ultimate goal is to allow a group of thoughtful people to establish connections and consensus. Before the execution of the project, the participants can interact with each other and understand each other's viewpoints better because of the workshop activities. The moderator can record all the different member viewpoints, and then organize the overall consensus and goals of the project.

Focus Group

The focus group consists of 6-8 homogeneous target users, which gather in the same space to discuss related topics. Usually a project will hold at least 2-6 focus group discussions, that is, at least 2-6 groups will be compared. Respondents need to answer every question from the questioner, such as product satisfaction, expected product price, etc. The purpose of focus group interviews is to conduct a full and detailed discussion of the subject among the participants. The questioner should be able to understand their views on a product, concept, idea or organization, and then infer how to integrate the product into the interviewee’s life.

User Interview

User interview is the most basic and common design methodology. First of all, it is necessary to understand the user type through questions and descriptions about the user’s age, region, nature of work, technological familiarity, etc. At the same time, you can also add specific questions about the information obtained in the interview. For example, “Would you be interested if we add new features, such as...?” Finally, there is the concluding question. During the interview, extended questions are often brought up, or the user will provide suggestions, so that you can have a deeper understanding. We can better understand users’ thoughts and usage habits through user interviews. Sorting the users into different roles and goals allows the design direction to be more focused on solving user problems.

Tree Testing

The Tree Test collects data extensively and summarizes the logical path diagram. It calculates the rate of which the function's execution is successful, and then finds out where users usually misclassify. In addition to the common practice used to verify the information architecture, the Tree Test can also test the user's judgment on the functional classification. At the same time, open questions and answers are often added to the questionnaire to directly understand the user's cognitive thoughts.

Usability Testing

According to the standard definition from ISO 9241, usability refers to the effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction of the product itself for use by a specific user in a specific context. In other words, usability is about whether a product or service satisfies the user's purpose, and whether it is used effectively and efficiently. The Usability Test aims to test from the following 3 aspects, effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. This is a way to examine the performance of the product or service for the user. For example, in a shopping website, the usability can be defined as whether the user can find the desired product, or if the checkout process is simple and direct etc.

Competitor Study

Comprehensive competitor analysis is conducted in the early stages of the project. It includes the business model, market positioning, experience process, functional architecture, design style, etc. It seeks to solve user's problems by evaluating the competitiveness of products or services in the market, and learns from competing products in similar usage scenarios and solutions. A competitor study can not only help everyone understand the product more quickly in the process of project execution, it can also inspire comprehensive solutions for overcoming customer problems.

Concept Design

Concept design recreates and optimizes the design of products or services by finding the issues in a number of different research results. In the concept design stage, it allows stakeholders to reconfirm the goals and directions of design with the different results yielded from prioritizing the problems. It can be divided into user experience design (UX), which first analyzes user needs through research, and thinks about which layouts outline the framework. The other one is user interface design (UI), which specifically presents logic and content of UX expectations through visual arrangement and aesthetic design.


Cloud Interactive is a user-centered software design company. We advocate design thinking to provide every business solution. To do this, we utilize User Interviews, Concept Design, Competitor Analysis, and Usability Testing, etc. We build information architecture that is suitable for the target audience of those research studies. Furthermore, we believe that good product design comes from a human-centered focus and methodology. Likewise, we consider user needs, user behaviors and habits, technical feasibility and commercial purpose as the goal of our design. Want to know more about how design can affect business competitiveness? Contact us now!

About Cloud Interactive

Cloud Interactive is a design centric software development and managed services company founded in 2010.

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