In IA Practice
Summary: We do user research in order to understand what meanings things have for people, within business and technology contexts.

Great question! So glad you asked.

Putting on my anthropologist hat for a second, I would say that we do research in order to understand what meanings things (whether they are products, experiences, services, and so on) have for people.

Now, if I borrow an Information Architect’s hat, I would add the following: We then hold up the findings against what we know about business and technology contexts in order to be able to make smart and relevant decisions about what to do (whether it’s about designing or improving products, experiences, services, and so on).

User research is the opportunity to collect data about customers and users, about their behaviors, preferences, and unmet needs. There are many methods in the user research toolkit, ranging from testing to usability to generative research. For each project, we choose the most appropriate methods. Then the data are analyzed and synthesized into user models that describe how the world currently is, and how it could be.

User models produced as outputs of research are ways of visualizing the current state of the world. These models give our clients a picture of the world as it is experienced by their customers or users. The models help our clients talk about and inform their decisions about where they want to go with their products or services, or want to be as a business or experience provider. User models must be updated over time with new inputs, as assumptions about the world are tested and new information is gathered. Developing a regular cadence of research directs and develops strategy through a virtuous feedback cycle akin to how any organism updates its understanding of the world and future plans as a result of sensory input and evaluation.

User models, in conjunction with business and technical models, help express our clients’ worlds as systems of interconnected parts. The models help visualize the tensions and tradeoffs that are the connective tissues between disparate parts of the business. Providing these tangible models based on real-world data is one of TUG’s key value propositions.

Learn more at our User Research workshop

Want to know more about user research, modeling, and information architecture? Choose one —or all—of our workshops this July, in beautiful Grand Rapids, Michigan:

  • Designing user research
  • Understanding information architecture
  • Modeling for clarity
  • Aligning stakeholders

Register for all 4 and save $400. Students may register at a 75% discount. To learn more about these workshops—and a free architecture walk on the evening of July 17—visit:

These workshops are appropriate for anybody who works on digital products and services, and they presume no prior expertise in the topics covered. There’s plenty of free parking behind the office, located at 822 Cherry SE.

Full-day sessions include lunch catered by world-famous Zingerman’s Deli. Instruction is provided by members of TUG’s delivery team, including TUG co-founder Dan Klyn, business anthropologist Amy Goldmacher, and information architects Kaarin Hoff and Joe Elmendorf.

All TUG workshops are backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

As a special treat for Summer Workshop Series attendees, but free and open to all: join TUG co-founder Dan Klyn for a guided tour of the built environment in and around 10 blocks of the Cherry Hill Historic District. Begins at 5pm on July 17, and ends at 6:30pm, covering a distance of just over 1 mile. The pace will be slow and contemplative, and photography and other kinds of recording are encouraged.

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