Human-centered design research: Understanding insider context

In Human-Centered Design, we create experiences. These creations, however, do not just appear from magic drawings or a pad of post-its. They start with research. Without understanding what we are affecting, the solutions we devise will most certainly fail. In order to avoid this, we dive into user research. We can take patient experience as an example.

There are multiple kinds of research, including observation and interviewing. Both of these types of research heavily involve what we call insiders. If we are designing a patient experience, the insiders are the patients. Insiders are those people who are involved in the experience first-hand. We speak with them via stories. They share a variety of topics, thoughts and histories which involve the experience we are looking to affect.

From these users, we get narrative and contextual information, allowing us to understand the unique characteristics of an experience from the inside. What is it really like to be the patient?

Is speaking to insiders enough to act on?

No, actually we have to do preparatory research before working with insiders. This preparatory research allows us to understand what the theoretical experience is ideally supposed to be. For example, what has to go on to treat a patient?

To get this information, which is usually ideal process information, we speak with subject matter experts or SMEs throughout OSF HealthCare. SMEs are involved in the process second-hand. In our patient example, they may be doctors, nurses or other Mission Partners. In any of these cases, their second-hand involvement cannot give us the specific details of an insider’s perspective. Their information is still valuable, however, for orienting ourselves. After speaking with SMEs, we can then speak with insiders.

Researching in this order allows us to first gain a general understanding of an experience. Then, when speaking with insiders, we can note what differs from the ideal, why and how.

What do the Mission Partners tell us should be happening, and what do the patients really experience? This is critical because variations from the ideal, like workarounds, show a desire line or an unmet need in the real-world context. These desire lines are pieces human-centered designers record and address in the future experience. By comparing and contrasting these two perspectives, we gain a solid foundation on which to start to build solutions.

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