Goal Directed Design (GDD) Process for Digital Products is made up of two major parts:

user experience and observation    •    prototype design and testing

Goal-Directed Design Research

What is the main objective of this post?

Goal-Directed Design (GDD) is a comprehensive, One on one interview, user research and observation process used to create a solid foundation for the best possible customer/user experience for digital products. Many of these products are the business tools that you use now. Of course, other digital products are interactive devices, apps, software, kiosks, etc. Both types of digital products benefit from a foundation of research like Goal-Directed Design, for user observation, prototype development, then more research and observation, before the major monetary investment of new design. 

Digital transformation is a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with trial and error. (Credit: The Enterprise Project). Here is are examples:

internet radio • internet television • streaming media; fonts, logos, photos and graphics •  digital subscriptions • online ads (as purchased by the advertiser) • internet coupons • electronic tickets • electronically traded financial instruments • downloadable software (digital distribution) and mobile apps; cloud-based applications workbooks; worksheets; • planners • e-learning (online courses) • webinars • video tutorials • blog posts • cards • patterns • website themes • templates. (Credit: “Digital Goods” Webopedia)

Goal-Directed Design is Qualitative

Goal-Directed Design research itself is overwhelmingly qualitative as the quantitative version can be manipulated just as easily as textual data. For example, understanding if young men 22 to 35 are the biggest purchasers of a digital device #1, yet that fact doesn't tell us how they use the mobile device. The possibility of a competitor outselling #1 device sales is very probable, if the #1 device performs poorly with the second needed task.

Who might be the facilitators, differs from one company or project to another.

Here is the sequence of tasks:

1. Kickoff meeting

• Product description?
• Who needs it/uses it?
• What does the customer/user need the most?
• What common complaint might exist about this type of product?
• Which market segment is the most important to the product company?
• Challenges for the product company, start to finish?
• Challenges for the designer, start to finish?

2. Literature Review

• Existing data and documents
• SME reports
• Industry reports
• consumer reports
• Web searches

3. Competitive Audits

• what info is currently available of the market

4. Product/Prototype Audits

• examine the existing prototype of the product
• examine the existing prototype of competitors product if available 

5. Subject Matter Expert (SME) interviews

These persons are key members of the business commissioning the design work and can include similar people from other sources
SME Topics to include:

a. Preliminary product vision
b. Budget and schedule
c. Technical constraints and opportunities’
d. Business drivers SME’s assumptions about their customers/users
e. User and Customer interviews Core facilitators:

What are the SME insights and assumptions regarding their current and potential users?

• How does the product fit into the users’ life?
• What skills or knowledge is necessary to do their job?
• What product user tasks are currently available and unavailable?
• What are the goals and motivations of the product?
• What are the expectations of the product?
• What are the problems and frustration?

User Observation/Ethnographic Field Studies
You can talk to users about how they think or behave, or you can observe their behavior first-hand. The latter route provides superior results*. (credit: About Face, Alan cooper)

 Here an example: Let’s take this home security system I redesigned to provide for user observation. During the first level of research is the user is observed talking through how they assume the device works, while they also share comments and suggestions.

Any audio or video recorders used during these sessions should not be obtrusive, and sometimes these devices case participants to behave differently. 

The placement, position, button labels, and color are important parts of the observation. The big question from the participants, testing individually, is whether the functionality is easy to grasp. Can the user switch from one screen to another and back again, and can the user accomplish what they set out to do. That security system needs to be uncomplicated for real home emergency situations!

Initially, hand-drawn or digitally drawn diagrams call Low-fidelity (low-fi) wireframes that can reveal a lot of user insights. This initial process step works for dashboards, mobile apps, security cameras, smartwatches, websites, and mobiles, etc.

Identifying User Participants

Known as personas for observational research, The persona hypothesis should be based on likely behavior patterns and the factors that differentiate these patterns, not purely demographics. These are the key questions to determine the persona hypothesis:

• What different sorts of people might use this product?
• How might their needs and behaviors vary?
• What ranges of behavior and types of environments need to be explored

Putting Together the Plan

Six, or more user interviewee participants for each presumed behavioral pattern. Consumer products typically have much more variation in behavior, so more interviews typically are required to really delineate the differences. (8 to 12 for each user type)

The moderator drives the interview and takes light notes and the facilitator takes detailed notes and looks for any holes in the questions. Both moderators and facilitators should listen as though they are apprentices and the user is the expert.

Schedule for each individual user interviewee separately and where they actually use the products.

The client stakeholders, marketing, or usability research firms are the most likely source for access to users.

Two designers per interview are best to compare notes,

Part 2 is Other types of Qualitative Research for Goal-Directed Design

Ethnography Interviews

These interviews are simple and low-tech, and qualitative. It has the same general guideline as described earlier, plus a few more:

• Focus on goal first, then tasks
• Don't talk about design of the digital product
• Don't talk about technology
• Encourage storytelling, i.e. concerning digital product usage
• Observe a show and tell by the participant
• Do not ask leading questions, assuming the response

• Early interviews - where the focus is broader
• Middle Interviews - where patterns of use become more apparent and domain-specific
• Late interviews - confirm the previously observed pattern, resulting in finer assumptions about digital product tasks and informational needs.