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When You're Done Researching


We talk a lot about following research with more research in Revise Weekly, such as when you notice a drop in one step of your funnel in Google Analytics and you use heat maps or usability tests to confirm why.

But when do you know that you’re done researching a given idea? There are 4 different criteria you can use:

When you’ve definitively answered the question

This one is obvious. If you can confirm, with certainty, that something happened with your customers’ behavior such that you can take a specific action, then you’re done researching.

This tends to be the case most often with specific bugs, shifts in traffic, holidays, or other observable events. Competitors’ actions, the vagaries of Facebook ads, and acts of god are not good examples of definitive answers to a question.

When a specific design decision is obvious

If you have confidence that you should move forward with a given design decision to address a problem, then you’re done researching. Research exists to make confident design decisions.

That includes getting alignment across the team. If a team member thinks more research may be needed, it’s best to play things conservatively and do the research. It may be that the research is valuable in other ways, or provokes a perspective that the team hadn’t previously considered.

When it’s clear that no more research can be done

Did you hit a dead end in a way that clearly indicates that further research would be redundant? Then you need to stop researching and make a design decision.

At this point in the process, design decisions can still be guesses. But at least they’ll be informed by research! After all, research can show the team that something must be done, but it’s not fully clear what must be done. It’s up to you to come up with a clear direction.

When it’s clear that the initial idea should be abandoned

If your research ends up contradicting the original idea, you should probably stop researching it.

This can involve the idea being less of an issue than you thought (deprioritizing it), or it can involve the idea being a non-issue (eliminating it), or it can involve the idea being less important than another, deeper concept that warrants research on its own merits (replacing it).

In any of these cases, you should probably let go of your original idea and either follow the new thread, or move on with other research efforts.

If none of these are true, you need more research

It’s not easy to know what to research – and what to research next – when following a hunch. With this lesson, you should be able to understand when to keep researching – and when you’re done, too.

If you’re unsure of next steps, take your research to the rest of the team and ask them. They might come up with ideas that surprise you, and lead you along new directions.

It’s dangerous to simply give up on research because you don’t know what to do next. Only stop researching if the research tells you to stop.

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