The re search is guided by the information necessary for product development

The re search is guided by the information necessary

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transition between research and design. The re- search is guided by the information necessary for product development, and the design work is con- ducted with a tacit understanding that could only be acquired by carrying out the research. Translation between the research and design stages of a project is greatly reduced, and both phases of the project are more effective, knowing the requirements of the other phase. 1. Rolf Faste, Perceiving Needs, a paper for the Society of Automotive Engineers, 1988. GO TO THE CUSTOMER S ENVIRONMENT. Researchers obtain the richest information on people s needs by observing and interviewing cus- tomers first-hand. The researchers can then directly see many small but important details about the customer s activities and the context in which they occur details that wouldn t be available outside that context. By directly observing customers activities, Needfinding avoids reliance on customers memory, descriptive ability, or awareness of a need. In addi- tion, the customer s environment facilitates commu- nication between the researcher and the customer by allowing them both to refer to and use objects in the environment during the discussion. LOOK BEYOND THE IMMEDIATELY SOLVABLE PROBLEM. Researchers especially designers conducting research often don t see beyond problems that they can immediately solve. This impediment un- COLLECT ECLECTIC FORMS OF DATA. Information about people comes in many forms. A
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facial expression might express a person s emotions better than her words. Keepsakes found in an office might reveal information about a person s relation- ship with his work. Needfinding researchers record all these forms of data for later study away from the site, as analyzing data in the customer s environ- ment distracts the researcher from collecting it. Researchers often pay special attention to contradic- tions between different sources of data, as these contradictions often mark unrecognized or unarticulated needs. MAKE FINDINGS TANGIBLE AND PRESCRIPTIVE. Written descriptions alone often don t make the customer s needs real to those who haven t been involved in the research. To make decisions based on the research, the findings must be presented in a vivid and actionable form. The needs are better understood when supplemented with drawings, photos, audio recordings, and/or video. Because Needfinding leads to design, researchers also rec- ommend what might be done to satisfy the customer s requirements. Providing the results in a prescriptive, tangible form allows for a smoother transition between studying people s needs and creating new ways to meet them. ITERATE TO REFINE THE FINDINGS. Needfinding uses many quick passes to study people, rather than one long research effort. This approach allows design work to proceed in parallel with the research. After each pass, the researchers offer a draft of the findings, outlining their current understanding of customers needs and contexts. Preliminary design work can then begin, based on this early hypothesis.
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