When more information is needed to complete a design

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When more information is needed to complete a design, researchers return to the field for further study. As the researcher-designers gain a better un- derstanding of people s needs, they also refine the products created to serve those needs. What Is the Needfinding Process? These principles manifest themselves as an iterative, four-stage process for studying people. They deter- mine the approach used by researchers at every step of that process. The goals of each stage are described in general terms below, followed by descriptions of a few specific methods recommended to achieve them. FRAME & PREPARE At this stage, determine the research goals, the cus- tomer group being researched, and the specific sites to visit. These decisions focus the research and define a manageable scope for researchers to cover.
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necessarily limits the infor- mation gathered. To gain the full value of conducting re- search, Needfinding asks researchers to record and analyze issues that may seem far beyond the scope of the immediate project. Recogniz- ing and dissecting these deeper problems allows the company to plan for issues that should be fixed down the road, even when those prob- lems aren t currently solvable. A scooter manufacturer, for Researchers especially designers conducting research often don t see beyond problems that they can immediately solve instance, discovered that customers were annoyed by how dirty their clothes got as they rode to work. Although this couldn t be helped in their new scooter design, they still marked the problem as an issue that could provide opportunities for long-term innovation. LET THE CUSTOMER SET THE AGENDA. Although researchers may go to the customer s environment knowing what kind of information is desired, it s important to give the customer leeway to guide activities and discussions. In Needfinding research, customers control the proceedings at least to the extent that their activities and discus- sions relate to the research topic. This prevents researchers from prompting the customer on what to do next, and keeps the study open to serendipi- tous insights. DESIGN MANAGEMENT JOURNAL SPRING 1999 41 DESIGN MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR THE CUSTOMER ENCOUNTER NEEDFINDING: THE WHY AND HOW OF UNCOVERING PEOPLE S NEEDS Preparation before going to the customer s environ- ment helps researchers to know what questions to ask and what information to look for. Frame the research questions. Before begin- ning any research, explicitly decide on the goals of the study. Determine the three questions, for
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example, that the research should answer. These questions may concentrate on topics such as how objects are used in the environment, how envi- ronmental conditions affect people s behavior, how people within the environment interact with each other, or how different types of cus- tomers might be classified. The search for an- swers to these questions then guides the re- searchers in gathering data.
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