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Empathize: Using research to understand users

Growth Post It

Identify your customers’ pain points

Innovation Post It

Get out on the field, observe and interview your customers

Agility Post It
Follow Up

Turn pain points into prioritized list of goals


Patient Feedback Image

It all starts with in-person research to find out where your customers’ issues lie. In simple terms, this is the going out on the field phase through which you get to interact and interview people. This phase is important since customers hold the key to your successful design. This is where they can demonstrate and articulate to you the problems they have, whether influenced by environmental factors or process. Recognizing and solving these pain points will be greaty appreciated by your customers and also translates into business value for you and your design.

During this phase Empathy is key and core to your approach… You are not your users, but you will need to walk in their shoes to understand the world around them from their perspective. Observing your customers performing their tasks in real-time, then talking with them about their experiences, gives you insights you can’t get from sitting around a conference room table making assumptions or looking at a set of statistics or questionare results, which tell you what is going on, but not why. Once you have insights from your customer observations, you can turn these pain points into a prioritized list of goals for what your new product should achieve.

Even at this early stage, you can set some metrics so you know when you meet those goals. Many development projects just aren’t measured or we know they’re failing, but we release them anyway. Setting measurable goals helps you ensure that you really are delivering business benefit. You can measure early and often as you go through the iterative design thinking process.

3 types of Research Approaches:

Ethnographic Post It
Ethnographic Research

Study of people in their own environment through the use of methods such as participant observation and face-to-face interviewing.


Pros icon Provides in-depth findings about human behavior
Pros icon Can unveil to new data through observation that leads to new lines of inquiry


Con icon Can involve a long
timeframe, lots of coordination and high costs
Con icon Not everyone is comfortable with showing their true behavior to outsiders
Interview Post It
In-depth Interviews

In-depth interviews are usually conducted one by one for 30 minutes to an hour in-person. In-person is best, as it allows us to see the customer’s reaction, body language, and hear their tone of voice, their excitement and their frustration.


Pros icon Provides deeper understanding of respondents
Pros icon Can provide rich data with enhanced insight and more details


Con icon Trained interviewer is required with knowledge in interviewing techniques
Con icon Since in-depth interviews can take up a significant amount of time, a minimal number of interviews are achieved for a fixed period of time
Guerrilla Testing Post It
Guerilla Research

More informal than the other methods. For some projects it can provide sufficient enough insights to make informed strategic decisions. Often times at KP we are faced with deadline driven projects that can leave little room for bigger research that requires more cost and legwork.


Pros icon Can be very informative and cost effective
Pros icon Can be squeezed into nearly every timetable and can be done with large groups


Con icon Can be risky as one may miss the right questions or fail to pick up on responses in informal environments
Con icon Can be shallow and unreliable as respondents may not represent user personas well

Continue to the Define section to learn more about the Design Thinking process.