Conducting evaluative research

At Sourcegraph, we practice both generative and evaluative research, depending on the questions we need answers to and where we are in the design process. The end result of these methods is a high degree of confidence that results in a better overall user experience.

Here at Sourcegraph, product designers are DRI (directly responsible individuals) for evaluative research.

What is evaluative research?

After identifying and understanding a problem, its context, and the people around it, the next step is to learn which solutions will work and which ones do not. Evaluative research critically assesses if the product/feature/design has indeed solved the problem that was initially intended to be solved.

When to use evaluative research?

Evaluative research happens later on in the product life cycle when we want to get feedback on potential solutions or solutions made available to users.

Evaluative research is conducted after we have a working design or prototype that was created to solve the problem(s) discovered in generative research. It is not necessary for the design or prototype to be high fidelity, it only needs to be able to support the task(s) it was designed for.

You can and should conduct evaluative research when confidence in the proposed solution isn’t high, as it can help identify issues that may have been missed during other stages of the project. A great way to increase the confidence in your solution is to base design decisions on prior user research.

What questions can evaluative research answer?

  • How do participants leverage the new product/feature/design to achieve a task?
  • What pain points exist?
  • What other information should be made available to ensure task success?
  • Does the product/design/feature meet the user’s expectations?
  • Which design allows the best task completion?
  • How does the new product/design/feature impact user’s existing workflows?

Choosing an evaluative research method

To choose the right evaluative research method, you need to first identify your research goals. Always ask yourself “What information do I need to learn to increase my confidence in the design?” Use this information to define your research goal and write 2 - 3 high level questions you would like answered as part of this research. Limiting yourself to a specific goal and focusing on 2 - 3 questions at a time helps you focus your research plan and avoids long tests and bloated scope. If you are still unsure about how to define your research goal and questions and which evaluative research method is right for you, please reach out in #discuss-ux-research.

Research purposeResearch method(s)
  • Evaluate a change to a feature and/or process
  • Evaluate how well a current design supports user’s goals
  • Understand how the current information architecture performs
  • Learn if the current labels make sense to users
  • Learn if users can find the information they need easily and quickly
  • Card sorting
  • Tree testing
  • Verify that the first click a user makes on an interface is the intended starting point for a given workflow or a navigation element
  • First click testing