I’m excited to run a workshop at this year’s UX London. The title for my session is Bridging the Gap Between Research and Design. My first step in creating the session is to find out if there really is a gap between the two disciplines. This means doing some research of my own…

Step 1 - Completing a research canvas

I began my research by filling in a research canvas. This is how we approach all research projects at Clearleft, and it helps give us a framework to ensure that we’re staying on target.

Clearleft research canvas

With the canvas complete, I could move on to the first research activity, desk research.

Step 2 - Doing desk research

I wanted to check what people had written about how designers and researchers work together to ensure that I wasn’t just covering old ground.

My starting point was a quick search for ‘bridging the gap between UX research and design’. This returned a handful of valuable results, including this excellent post by Jemma Frost.

I also used AI to pull out some key points around the subject. This blog post isn’t the time or place to discuss AI's role in research, but keep an eye out for that post, as it’s coming soon! In short, I sometimes use AI as an advanced search engine. I let the robots go out and find what they think is right, and then I sift through it to find the gold. I’ll always read the articles in more detail anyway, and I’d never just copy and paste from the AI results. It can, however, be a good starting point for desk research.

Desk research for gap workshop

I store my desk results as quotes and links in a Miro board. Although this is an ongoing activity, this initial research provided a good starting point for my thinking before I moved on to my primary research.

Step 3 - Running a survey

Surveys are a controversial research tool. But when used sparingly and correctly, they can be a great way to get a mix of high-level quantitative and qualitative insights that can shape follow-up research.

There’s a lot to consider when creating a survey. Asking the right questions is critical, as is getting the flow of the questions in order. The main challenge here is getting the right balance between asking enough to get detailed responses but not asking too much of respondents. The survey should only take a few minutes to complete but will give me a lot of insight into the current communication process, from research to design.

Research survey

As ever, it was key to check for any potential bias in how questions were asked. A quick hat tip here to fellow UX London speaker Serena Verdenicci, who pointed out that labelling the survey ‘Bridging the Gap Between Design and Research’ risked biassing responses by implying there is a gap. This was one of my pre-launch tweaks before releasing the survey to my network.

At the time of writing, the survey is live until March 31st 2024. If you work in design or research or with designers and researchers, I’d appreciate you taking a few minutes to complete the survey.

Step 4 - Interviewing researchers and designers

The next step after the survey is to undertake in-depth interviews with designers and researchers. These will expand on some of the themes I’ve started seeing from the survey responses.

I plan to talk to designers and researchers on a one-to-one basis, either remotely or over coffee here in Brighton. There’s no substitute for a two-way conversation to really get the details of the area that you’re researching. Not only do you get more of a sense of the emotion behind the words (what really frustrates people about their current process), but it gives you a chance to ask follow-up questions to understand current successes and challenges.

These interviews are where I’ll start to get answers that directly feed into my overall research objective of creating a practical and useful workshop.

Step 5 - Synthesising the research

Once the research is complete, I’ll start to synthesise the findings. The actual synthesis won’t start until the survey is closed but I’ll keep an eye on responses as they come in (I’ve already been peeking at some of the responses!). The synthesis of responses will allow me to analyse everything together and plan from there.

We use various tools for synthesising research findings. It might be as simple as using Post-it notes (real world or digital), or we may use a tool like Dovetail to tag up notes and transcripts. In this case there is going to be a lot of detail across different audiences, so it’ll be no small task to summarise the findings from all the excellent and detailed responses I’ve had so far.

Pulling all the findings together will give me themes and ideas, as well as useful evidence to back these up.

Step 6 - Designing the session

The final step before delivery is actually to design the session. Based on my synthesised findings, I should have a good understanding of:

  • If there is a gap between design and research.

  • What the gap looks like?

  • What pain points do people have during the process currently?

  • The techniques and processes that people have used to bridge this gap themselves.

These findings will have answered the questions from our original research canvas. I can then take these findings and start designing the session.

This will involve what I want to cover and in what order. Significantly, it will help me develop the hands-on elements that will change the session from a talk into an interactive workshop.

Workshop planning timeline

Once this step is completed I’ll have everything I need to be able to run the session. To finish off the process I’ll be running through things with the Clearleft team to get their feedback. I’ll then, hopefully, just need to make some final tweaks.

Step 7 - Delivery!

I’ll be delivering the session on the opening day of UX London, and again on the closing day. I hope to see some of you there.

Before you rush off and buy your ticket though, please make sure you complete my survey first.