I’ve been thinking for a while now that user research for some services should be complemented and/or supported by social or behavioural science research (Please note: this does not apply to services we already know and have evidence that need improvement, for example, registration services that are bygone and we know or have evidence are difficult to use).
For example, I once observed a digital assessment of a service that made people do X online. The premise was “Lets do X, to reduce Y” (The policy was asking for Y to be reduced). The service was created using the digital services standard and a considerable amount of user research had been conducted.
But my question was, what evidence do you have that getting people to do X, will actually reduce Y?
And this is where behavioural/social sciences research comes in. Before you even start developing a service and start a discovery, if this type of research has been done (you have solid evidence to prove doing X will reduce Y in this example), then you are starting to explore a service based on evidence. Thereafter, when you go into discovery, you can explore with participants (with the smaller number of samples that we use in user research) for example how X can be implemented in the best and easiest way for users, taking into consideration their pain points, experience, frustrations etc.
It seems we sometimes miss a step in this crucial evidence gathering step, or we use service discoveries to explore a multitude of things, sometimes using approaches and methods that are not appropriate for the fundamental question/s, which does require behavioral/social science research.
I very loosely envision this as follows and I’m sure it is already happening in some departments already, therefore I would love to hear your thoughts please (please leave comments or tweet me @DrSalmaPatel):