Desirability Study

There are a few research activities that don’t require a lot of overhead or preparation but still allow designers & product managers to collect valuable feedback from their customers and use that data to improve the UX of their products. If you need to validate either the information architect, call to action or overall appeal of your design, three lean UX research activities you can use are the 5 Second Test, 1 Click Test and the Desirability Study respectively. A toolkit for each of the methods is included in the Creativity Different Validation Pack and an overview of each is described below from least overhead and setup required to most.

One of the lean UX Research methods in our Validation Toolkit is the Desirability Study. It is sometimes referred to as the Microsoft Reaction Card Method or the Microsoft Desirability Toolkit, because it was developed by Microsoft Usability Engineers and leverages the Microsoft Product Reaction Words. With a Desirability study, you can validate that the design of your product is aesthetically appealing to your customers. Typical UX research questions answered with a Desirability Study include:

  • does the design of the product elicit a intended emotional response from the customer?
  • does the design of the product visually appeal to the customer?

These types of questions are important to answer for a product because website credibility is 75% based on the aesthetics and first impressions are 94% based on the design of products.

The Desirability study is particularly useful because it provides a methodical way of measuring particularly subjective qualities of product through the use of Microsoft Reaction Cards. The Reaction Cards introduce a controlled vocabulary of positive, neutral and negative words that your participants use to describe characteristics of the product. While the complete set of reaction cards included 118 descriptors, there are techniques for using a subset of the cards to speed up research time. Another advantage of the Desirability study is that, just like the other lean UX research methods, participants don’t need to interact with the product to complete the study. This means you can give your participants an image of the the product and get feedback as valuable as if they were inspecting the product in person.

The Desirability study requires the most overhead of all the Lean UX Research methods. To complete a study you need a design, a participant and some way to record their feedback. Additionally, you need to print, separate and shuffle the Reaction Cards for each participant. And finally, for your analysis phase, you should identify the Reaction Cards you want your research participants to choose.

Upon completing the desirability study, the type of feedback you can expect to receive from your participants include what is their emotional responses to the aesthetic quality of your product as well as what is their explanation for why the product elicits those emotional responses.

A Desirability Study is just one way User Research can play a role in creating better UX. If you want to learn more about how to Improve your Product with UX Research, you can get a copy of my Guide to Understand User Experience Research when you subscribe to my newsletter.