Skip to content

27 April 2022

Is the UX research cycle missing a stage?

Rachel Abbott

Recently, I’ve become more aware of how so many diagrams and visuals that show the UCD research cycle/UX research process are not actually a circle. And more significantly to me — the stages outlined in these processes are for the purpose and benefit of the design professionals operating in that space, not the user.

None of the steps focuses on what the participant wants or needs from the research experience. In my opinion, there is a gap that needs closing.

If we are to be truly user-centred, we need to consider how we close that loop with our users that have participated in our research.

Myself and my research colleague recently worked on an 8-week Discovery where we aimed to understand the experiences that end-users had when trying to interact with a government department. One of our key findings was that many of the people we spoke to felt that the ‘conversation was one-sided’. They felt that their feedback and experiences weren’t taken into account; that they were constantly being asked to provide information to the organisation without understanding what happened afterwards or knowing if they had been heard.

The finding from our research showed us that a feedback loop was very important to end-users — but currently, it wasn’t a circle — it was a line. Or a sort of ‘U’ shape.

On discovering this insight, we decided that we wanted to lead by example and share the findings and recommendations from our 8 weeks of research back with the participants who had so kindly given up their time to tell us about their lives and experiences. A summary was drawn up, agreed with the stakeholders, and then sent to the participants via e-mail a couple of weeks after the end of our discovery.

Why do I think this is important?

  • It shows gratitude and recognition — It helps people understand how their feedback was valuable and how it will be used to improve a service or product — this again reinforces user research as a valuable and meaningful activity for citizens to be involved in
  • Improves experience of participation — It makes them an active participant in the design process, rather than a passive single-use ‘commodity’ that is simply used as a means to a project team’s end
  • We are practising what we preach — If we are to be truly user-centred, we need to consider how we close that loop with our users that have participated in our research

Tips for sharing your research findings with participants

  • Speak with your stakeholders beforehand — they may be comfortable with some things being shared and a bit more sensitive about others. We found that once we explained the rationale behind our thinking, they were very supportive of our aim, and we jointly agreed on the content that would be shared with users in advance.
  • Focus on the high level — Users don’t need a lot of minute detail to get satisfaction from this. We included: Overview of what research we’d done in total, what our high-level findings were, what our high-level recommendations were, and what the client’s next [broad] steps were going to be off the back of this.

So back to my original question — “Is the UX research cycle missing a stage?”

Answer: In my opinion, yes.

And this stage is: Share

a circle showcasing 6 stages of user research