What is Design Research?

Illustration of Florence Nightingale holding a candle in a hospital with patients lying in beds.

When we rebranded in 2020 we chose the name Nightingale, in honour of the pioneer statistician, Florence Nightingale, to communicate our expertise in gathering the data and insight needed to make genuine improvements to products, services, businesses and systems.

We also changed our focus from user research to design research, reflecting the fact that our research goes beyond users to explore all the factors that influence the design process - the contexts and systems surrounding the product or service, the market, the structure of the business itself and the capabilities of the teams designing and maintaining those products and services.

User research - uses and limitations

User research is about understanding your users: their behaviours, their opinions, their needs, and motivations. It is used to learn how people interact with your product and evaluate whether the design meet their needs. It's a vital part of the design process, ensuring that you're developing something that your customers will want, need and love. 

But understanding your users isn't enough - when you're designing a product or service you also need to be aware of all the other factors that could affect its success, such as the context in which that product or service will be used, whether there's space in the market for it and whether your business can actually deliver what your users need, sustainably and at a profit. 

We have found that businesses that really get the bug of research start wanting to use it in every aspect of their business.

Design research - a powerful decision making tool

Design research isn’t just about users, it’s about shaping your entire design and business strategy. It combines practical insights about users with a deep understanding of your business and wider ecosystem to provide actionable design recommendations.

Design research supports decision making at every stage of design from generating new ideas, through product development and evolution, to attracting funding and growing the business itself.

Generating new ideas

Design research explores both your market and what your potential customers think, feel and do, allowing you to identify quickly and cheaply if your idea has genuine potential before any time and money is spent on developing it. It also uncovers new opportunities, giving you the chance to pivot early, before you get bogged down in pursuing an idea that has no future.

Product development

Design research allows you to identify and rectify design issues early, ensuring that you create a satisfying, enjoyable and effective user experience for your customers and reassuring your funders and investors that your product has strong potential.

Design research informs and supports every stage of the design process, from the development of a basic prototype or Minimum Viable Product, up to the launch and ongoing evolution of a live product or service.

Business growth

Design research gives you clarity around your business goals as well as an understanding of the wider market and ecosystem in which your business operates. It identifies opportunities to expand, reach new audiences, become more profitable, and attract new funding and investment.

What are the benefits of Design Research?

  • Design better products and services that fit user needs. 

  • Gain practical insights that are easy to implement and make a difference

  • Make sound decisions based on evidence rather than guesswork.

  • Avoid wasting money by identifying dead ends quickly.

To learn more about how design research can help your project, read about the services we offer or take look at our YouTube channel

Design research: The secret weapon in the fight for customers.