SDNN Work Out Recap

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Last week we hosted the seventh edition of the Service Design Work Out about ‘New research methods for service design’. It was an interesting and inspiring evening where over 50 service designers and/or researchers joined us in the discussion on the added value of new technologies in design research. The host of the night was Remko van der Lugt (Hogeschool Utrecht).

7daysinmylife by Froukje
Our first speaker, Froukje Sleeswijk Visser (Delft University of Technology/Zilver), presented the online research tool ‘7 days in my life’, which is developed in cooperation with Zilver Innovation. Through an online diary on their website, respondents can keep track of what they do, think, and dream of or which role a product, service or brand plays in their daily lifes. They can enrich their digital diary with post-its, photos and icons in order to give it a more personal touch. 7days is an online – though not a mobile – tool. Therefore, people take the time to sit down and fill out the questions. Other benefits of an online research tool in general are the wide reach, and the ease with which a research can be set up. The biggest disadvantage of software lies in reliability: only one bug is enough to lose a respondent.

In 7days’ online environment, researchers can react on respondents’ input. Through this interaction, researchers and respondents develop a personal connection. 7days is used as a tool for sensitising respondents, and always requires a sequent stage (such as an interview or focus group). The usage of the tool requires a deep understanding of the Contextmapping method. User insights are always gained with a design goal in mind. Consequently, 7days is never licensed as a separate tool.

Contextmapp by Robbert-Jan
Contextmapp, on the other hand, is developed in a way that researchers can use the tool independently, and thus can be licensed as a separate tool. The mobile app enables respondents to map out their personal context, through which a researcher gains insight into his or her daily life. The biggest advantage of a mobile app lies in capturing experiences when and where they happen. By using GPS, for instance, rich data can be combined with meta data.

The Contextmapp dashboard offers a visualising module through which data can be presented visually in just one mouse click. Visual data can be analysed easily and finds application in, amongst others, creating customer journey maps. Contextmapp can be used as a tool on its own, but is frequently used as a sensitising tool for follow-up research such as interviews or focus groups. It also allows for monitoring events, where it functions as a barometer.

Somehow by Marco
Somehow is a digital design and strategy agency, which focuses on the development of digital strategy, concepts and products that respond to the opportunities of new technologies. Contrary to what one would expect of a digital agency, Somehow executes most of its hands-on research off-line. They do collect a lot of data through their apps, though haven’t found real applications for the data yet. So far there actually seems to be lacking demand. Marco sees a lot of opportunities in upcoming technologies for user research, such as Narrative and Google glass.

Discussion
Another important advantage of online research tools seems to be the trackability of respondents’ progress. Researchers can redirect respondents if necessary. It is important to let respondents know that their input is very valuable – everyone is the expert of his own experiences after all. As a researcher you and the respondent are building a relationship. A researcher can give feedback on a respondent’s results in order to emphasise that they are doing a project¬†together. It also helps to introduce oneself as a researcher and emphasise on what the collected data will be used for. In order to involve a respondent even more, gamification elements can be added.

After this Work Out it became even more clear to us that many opportunities lie in new technologies for research in service design. How to implement upcoming technologies such as Google glass, however, remains an important question. Do respondents want to be followed by a researcher any time and anywhere?

Pieter-Jan Stappers, professor of the Delft University of Technology and co-founder of the contextmapping method, concluded the discussion with the following words: Research should remain a means to an end. It is great to have beautiful methods, but the goal and the story that you have in mind should always be leading. Research is a complex field with a lot of different methods differing from quantitative to qualitative and participatory research.

Enough food for thought we’d say!
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