What is the difference between generative and evaluative UX research? | Den Creative
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10/01/2022

What is the difference between generative and evaluative UX research?

One of the most important parts of UX design is the research phase. If the research is done right, the rest of the project is likely to follow suit. There are many different types of research but in this short FAQ we look at two often used.

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3 mins

Research makes up a large part of the UX phase of a project and depending on the goal of the research, we adopt different methods. Two commonly used types of research are generative and evaluative. Let’s have a look at what they are, why they’re useful and when we use each.

Generative research

What is generative research?
Generative research seeks to understand users as humans, not simply as users of a product. It hopes to understand their daily experiences: their worries, habits, frustrations, opinions, what motivates them, what doesn’t etc; it ‘generates’ rich information about the humans using your product, unearthing the why behind their behaviours. Common generative research methods include interviews and focus groups. Generative research is also sometimes known as discovery, exploratory or foundational research.

Why is it useful?
Generative research is useful because by really understanding our users as people, we can identify true problems and pain points. From these, we can then find opportunities to innovate and improve.                                 

When do we use generative research?
Generative research is most useful early on in a project during the discovery phase when very little is yet known about the user.

Evaluative research

What is evaluative research?
Evaluative research is used to test an existing solution to see if it solves the problem and if it is easy and enjoyable to use. In short, it is used to assess how well something is working. Common evaluative research methods include surveys, guerrilla testing, usability testing and A/B testing.

Why is it useful?
Evaluative research is useful because it allows us to put solutions in front of those that will be using them, early on in the process. By doing this, we ensure the solution is designed and refined to truly meet the users’ needs and expectations.

When do we use evaluative research methods?
We begin introducing evaluative research methods once we have a solution (or sometimes a number of solutions) we think might work and want to begin iterating in order to refine and improve it. We continue carrying out evaluative research throughout the iteration phase and often do a few rounds of it.

In summary, both research methods are extremely valuable and we use both extensively in the majority of our projects. While the methods have different goals and should be used at different points in the design process, one thing is true for both: they allow us to create products and solutions that people need and enjoy using.

If you’d like to talk to us about our UX process or just more generally about how we design and build digital products, get in touch.

Nicki Empson

Nicki Empson

Creative Designer

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