Why there's no time for research ⏰ðŸĪš

publishedover 1 year ago
3 min read

Dear Reader,

Today, I want to talk about the biggest barrier to research: time ⏰

If you're a designer that researches, you will always be fighting the clock.

Today, I want to talk about why research takes so much time.

Q: Why is there never enough time to do research?

Answer #1: True insight takes time

Have you ever been struck by a brilliant idea in the shower?

For me, the shower is where all my great ideas happen. The whole point of research is to have these insights or Eureka Moments where everything clicks into place.

It's hard to plan an epiphany in your calendar because it's non-linear.

But when we teach people to do research, we act like it's a linear process that can be planned.

Silly humans...we love to think our minds work linearly.

How the "pros" describe the research process:

But one day into the project, it feels like this:

If you think the process is linear, it's understandable. Schools hammer linear thinking into your head from a very young age.

At university, they teach you to do research like this:

In all those steps, when do you actually talk to people? Academic research processes are great for writing papers, but designers need real-world ways of working.

In real life, we have continuous problems that need continuous tinkering. In real life, there is no final exam.

The exam happens everyday when your boss asks you why you made a design decision.

When you start learning about UX research, you'll see processes like this:

Just like the academic style of research, these models don't describe the reality of research.

When will inspiration strike you? Which day will you get the most insights? Which part of the process will reveal the most epiphanies?

If you could answer that, research would be easy to plan.

But insights have a way of striking you when you least expect. They strike you when you're having a walk or after you've had a good night's sleep.

You never know when an insight will strike, but without that lightning jolt of inspiration, your research findings will be flat.

You have to wait for inspiration to strike.

That takes time... ⏰ðŸĪš

Answer #2: Getting distracted takes time

Have you ever opened your phone to do one thing then ten minutes later, you've completely forgotten why you started?

This happens to me all the time. I usually don't remember why I opened my phone until I shut it off. It's at that moment that I realize I went completely off track.

This happens all the time in research projects. You go down what I call "research wormholes."

Me discovering yet ANOTHER cognitive bias during a research project:

It's hard to say no to things that are interesting.

It's good to be curious, but that can work against you when you have limited time.

Writing down your research aspirations beforehand can help you stay on course (try our UX Research Canvas).

Research is a distracting job.

Every time you go down a useless path, the clock is ticking.

That takes time... ⏰ðŸĪš

Answer #3: Sharing research takes time

Have you ever tried to explain your job to your mom?

I've tried everything with my mom. I've shown her my designs, and I've told her about client projects. She has no context for the work that goes into making good software.

I really thought she had it at one point then I heard her describing me as a "graphic designer" to her friends. Her mind already has a mental model for design, and it will take a lot of effort to change it.

To truly make people understand, you have to put in the effort to change their mental model.

Imagine your team is your mom, and you're trying to explain something you discovered about users.

Even if you write the perfect research report, they may not read it. Here's your team reading that 72-page research report:

(Learn how to move beyond research reports in this talk by a UX research lead).

You have to do the work to share your research because if you don't, the learning will stay locked in your head.

All that effort to catch your team up to your learning takes time... ⏰ðŸĪš

To recap, here are my top 3 time killers:

  1. True insight takes time
  2. Getting distracted takes time
  3. Sharing research takes time

There are ways to combat these time killers.

Imagine a world where research is something you have time to enjoy...

It's possible. You can find time to do user research and design.

You'll find the answers in this UX Research Email Course, and it's completely free.

You'll get 7 days of the most up-to-date methods and trends for product designers that wants to get better at research. I hope you're ready.

Some recent feedback:

"I just think it's more than a 'Mini course'. A lot of invaluable information is in each email that blows my mind. I'm sharing it with my team to subscribe."


Until next week!

Jeff Humble
Designer & Co-Founder
The Fountain Institute


P.S. There are still a few spots left for our July 20th meetup where Lizzie Hamblin will teach us how to do eco-friendly UX/UI design. RSVP here.


The Fountain Institute

The Fountain Institute is an independent online school that teaches advanced UX & product skills.

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