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What is Generative Research & When to Use it
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What is Generative Research & When to Use it

What is Generative Research & When to Use it

Saviour Egbe
August 15, 2023

User experience (UX) is the overall experience a user has when interacting with a product or service. It includes everything from the look and feel of the product, to the ease of use. 

Generative research is a UX research method that helps you understand users' needs. It is often used at the beginning of a project to define the problem that needs attention. 

Through generative research UX, you can:

  • identify new opportunities
  • test hypotheses
  • gather feedback on prototypes.

In this article, we'll consider generative research methodology and help you understand when and how to apply these methods in your UX research.

What is Generative Research?

Generative research is a process of discovery, where the researcher is trying to learn as much as possible about the users' needs, motivations, and behaviors.

Generative research methods are often used in the early stages of product development, to understand the problem to be solved. When you understand your users, you can design for their needs, not your own assumptions.

Generative Research Vs Evaluative Research

Generative research and evaluative research both fall under the umbrella of UX research methods. While generative research is used to gain a deeper understanding of users, evaluative research is used to evaluate the usability of a product or service.

Researchers often debate the merits of generative research vs evaluative research methods — one is about creative exploration, while the other obtains precise validation and refinement.

Similarities between generative and evaluative research methods

  • Both can be used to inform product development, and help with decisions on design, features, and functionality.

  • Both can be used to identify problems. Generative research UX helps identify issues that users have with existing products, while evaluative research is for new or redesigned products.

Generative Research vs Evaluative Research

How generative research and evaluative research differs

Choosing the right UX method for your project requires understanding the distinctions between generative research vs evaluative research methods. It also depends on the availability of resources and the product development lifecycle stage you’re at.

Feature Generative Research Evaluative Research
Purpose Gain a deeper understanding of users Evaluate the usability of a product or service
Data Typically collects qualitative data Typically collects quantitative data
Timing Conducted in the early stages of product development Conducted in the later stages of product development
Methods User interviews, ethnographic research, diary studies, card sorting, tree testing Virtual only

Is your hair on fire? Find out how to discover crucial user problems during your generative research here.

Common Generative Research Methods

Some of the common methods used in generative research include:

  • User interviews: User interviews are a great way to get to know your users on a personal level. You can ask them about their needs, motivations, and behaviors. Here’s a helpful article on it.

  • Ethnographic research: Ethnographic research involves observing users in their natural environment. This can give you a deeper understanding of how they interact in real time with products and services.

  • Diary studies: Diary studies involve asking users to keep a journal of their thoughts and experiences. This can give you a glimpse into their daily lives and how they use products and services.

  • Card sorting: Card sorting is a method for understanding how users organize information. You can ask users to sort cards into categories that make sense to them.

  • Tree testing: Tree testing is a method for understanding how users navigate through a website or app. You can ask users to find specific information on a website or app.

Confused about which UX research method is the best fit for your project? Check out our detailed guide on it, with a handy flowchart to help.

The gist of it

Generative research can help you understand your users and build better products. It is best used at the beginning of the UX design process. This is when you need to gain a deep understanding of your users and their needs. Generative research methods can help you do this by:

  • Observing users in their natural environment
  • Conducting interviews and surveys
  • Running card sorting

Remember, your users are the experts on their own experiences. It’s only by getting to know them, that you can build products and services that truly resonate with them.

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