Harnessing Generative Research to Build Great Software

projekt202 hosts Seattle panel on the methodology of research-driven UX solutions The power of observation can truly energize a company’s revenue and brand awareness.

Based on user observations, generative research plays a key role in improving companies’ software products and services. By observing people using software to accomplish tasks at home, at work or on mobile devices, companies discover their users’ wants, needs and emotional connection points. Organizations can then leverage these findings to design and build software that works well and is a pleasure to use.

However, the importance of generative research often can be misunderstood or overlooked in the rush to market. Forward-thinking companies that recognize its value are embraced by their stakeholders and rewarded in the marketplace.

To examine the methodology behind the research, projekt202 hosted “Designing Software for People,” a discussion with Seattle’s technology and business thought leaders.

projekt202's Seattle General Manager Polly Hopkins welcomes "Designing Software for People" panelists Liz Sanocki, Susan Motte, Rob Pierry, Tira Schwartz and Donna Andrews.
projekt202's Seattle General Manager Polly Hopkins welcomes "Designing Software for People" panelists Liz Sanocki, Susan Motte, Rob Pierry, Tira Schwartz and Donna Andrews.

Panelists were Donna Andrews, Senior UX Designer at Honeywell Scanning & Mobility; Susan Motte, Principal UX Researcher at Expedia and Principal at Breeze Design Research; Rob Pierry, Chief Technology Officer at projekt202; Liz Sanocki, Director and Senior Lecturer in Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE) at the University of Washington; and Tira Schwartz, Principal User Experience Researcher at Redfin.

Jennifer Carlson, Executive Director of the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) Workforce Institute and an Adjunct Professor at Seattle University, served as moderator.

The experts agreed that this method for gaining customer insights is revolutionary.

“Generative research is literally changing the way engineering teams think about the problems that they’re solving,” Andrews said. “Generative research is bringing a bigger approach to seeing the whole context of a person’s work.”

Motte said, “As researchers, we’re really interested in understanding the actual information so we know that the ‘why’ we’re explaining is true. Generative research is really where the rubber meets the road in understanding the difference between perceived information and actual information.”

“There’s a science – a process – that you can go through instead of just guessing at what people might like.”

This clarity helps software designers and developers refine the focus of their projects.

Pierry said that observations of the users’ experiences can validate – and, if necessary, shift – the direction of a client’s initial request.

“If you start off in the completely wrong direction, it’s going to take you a really long time to get back to something that’s actually relevant to your customers,” he said. “Generative research helps educate our customers about what their customers are really doing, and what they’re concerned about and need.”

“If you can put yourself in the users’ shoes, in your customers’ shoes, you’re going to be making much better decisions about how you’re going to redesign your product,” Sanocki said.

Moderator Jennifer Carlson guides questions from the audience.
Moderator Jennifer Carlson guides questions from the audience.

“A great user experience is going to solve the most important problems for your users, and it’s going to do it effectively, efficiently and engagingly."

The panelists pointed out that software is destined to fail if the right questions are not asked upfront. They said that in-depth research establishes the solid foundation to support building a successful project.

“There’s a science – a process – that you can go through instead of just guessing at what people might like,” Pierry said.

“It’s based on doing your research and understanding who your users are,” Sanocki said. “You talk to the users because the users are there to talk for themselves.”

Motte also noted that deep generative research is a strategic investment that pays off for companies.

“It can be with you for years,” she said. “Keep expanding it and making that picture more complete and more current. Having models and ways of communicating what you found helps that research live on through time.”

In today’s highly-competitive environment, the experts said, companies must fully understand, appreciate and anticipate their customers’ ever-evolving tastes, habits and needs.

Seattle's Columbia Center, the tallest skyscraper in Washington state and site of the projekt202 "Designing Software for People" event
Seattle's Columbia Center, the tallest skyscraper in Washington state and site of the projekt202 "Designing Software for People" event

“A great user experience is going to solve the most important problems for your users, and it’s going to do it effectively, efficiently and engagingly,” Schwartz said.

The panelists concluded that generative research is the key that unlocks a wealth of business opportunities. Software that has been designed based on insightful, generative research can be the deciding factor in opening new sources of revenue, as well as creating customers and employees who are loyal brand advocates.

After panelists shared their views on generative research, attendees share a bird's-eye view from the Columbia Tower Club, 75 floors above Seattle.
After panelists shared their views on generative research, attendees share a bird's-eye view from the Columbia Tower Club, 75 floors above Seattle.
Like this view, our media partners are impressive, too. projekt202 sincerely thanks Code Fellows, Creative Mornings Seattle, Ladies that UX Seattle, Puget Sound SIGCHI and the Washington Technology Industry Association for their support of the "Designing Software for People" event.
Like this view, our media partners are impressive, too. projekt202 sincerely thanks Code Fellows, Creative Mornings Seattle, Ladies that UX Seattle, Puget Sound SIGCHI and the Washington Technology Industry Association for their support of the "Designing Software for People" event.

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