Research is not asking people what they like. Its time to get beneath the surface and find insights to why someone liked or hated something.

Gauging the users' response isn't a straightforward process. In-depth interviews with 5-6 people often lead to a mountain of observations, all of which need to be processed and converted into actionable insights, which further create future design directions. These future directions are the whole reason why such painstaking studies are carried out, which is why we recommend going through an elaborate process of synthesis, even if the insights seem to be jumping right at you from the interviews.

Be patient. Defer judgement. Follow the process. Here it is —

Step 1: Organize Information

The lack of structure and the sheer volume of data can make it easy to lose sight of critical insights.

To tackle this, we individually jot down our observations from user studies onto sticky notes. As we put up these notes onto the wall, we free up our mind to move from storing information to processing it. But before we analyze anything, to keep our biases at bay, we remove all insights and assumptions so that we’re only left with objective observations.

With this in place, we are ready to begin identifying patterns.

Step 2: Find Patterns

Now that we have clearly laid out our data, the next step is to extract the essence of it. To do this, we begin by clustering similar information together. While doing so, we regroup our sticky notes as we notice patterns from our observations.

Lastly, we tightly articulate these patterns into insights by asking ourselves how it relates to our project.

For example, if there is a pattern of users not understanding labels, the overarching insight is that the vocabulary used doesn’t fit their mental model.

Translating patterns into insights

While translating patterns to insights, we articulate the underlying reason for the behavior / need uncovered during research. We do this by asking 'Why?' at every step. Doing this helps the data take a leap from information to insight. For example, a behavioral pattern might be worded as -

Patients do not return to hospitals for follow up care. This worsens their health condition.

An insight derived from this pattern is:

Patients find it inconvenient and expensive to travel long distances to access care. These structural barriers act as hindrances in improving the patient's health.

Actionable insights help the team in making short-term and long-term decisions for the product.

Step 3: Surface Opportunities

A tight research study is marked by clear opportunities for future work. To do this, we mark our insights as critical and frequent. With our most important insights, we write How Might We questions that set the direction for our future design work.