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Incorporating better probing into user research

As researchers and designers, the big achievement of a research project is one where it challenges your assumptions, brings new understanding to your team, and even, get surprised a little (or a lot!)

We’re all familiar with times where we go through the motions of doing research.

Whether it’s getting stuck in the rut of using the same tired methods, or not really engaging with your research plan or research questions, you’ll likely end up only accessing surface level insights from your users. This wastes your time, and your organization’s investment in the research. Not good!

So, how can we…


An abstract glowing line pattern created by pipes and spokes
An abstract glowing line pattern created by pipes and spokes

People, and the frameworks we use for understanding people, are at the heart of effective strategy and design work.

We’ve previously explored how there is no average person, which makes it challenging to use personas and archetypes to qualify an audience or user.

Why is it so difficult to group people together?

Because driving our inherent complexity is the intersectionality and fluidity of who we are.

People are complex & fluid

Often when designers or strategists talk about people or users, there’s a tendency to assume that people fit into neat, one-size-fits-all boxes that describe behaviour and experiences universally within that group. …


A group of pedestrians cross the street in a European city
A group of pedestrians cross the street in a European city

The pros and cons of the persona

Getting through the user research phase of a design project can seem daunting, but in reality it’s just the beginning. When you and your team get to reviewing and synthesizing your research, you’re getting ever closer to bringing your concept to life. Usually, one of the first steps post-research is to create personas.

Personas give you and your team an overview of a user or a group of users. They also outline high-level assumptions about your user’s preferences and their behaviour patterns.

Kate Matesic

Interaction & service designer from Toronto. Designer @sayyeahto www.katematesic.com

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