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Ben Holliday is an experienced design leader, writer and speaker. This is his blog (started in 2005). If you’re new to this site, Ben has published a playbook for design linking together many of his blog posts from the past 5 years. You can book him to speak at an event, get in touch or follow him on Twitter.

All blog posts in research

Hypotheses in user research and discovery

Back in 2015 I wrote ‘Everything is hypothesis-driven design’. It remains one of my most (and still frequently) read blog posts.

Something I’ve been thinking about more recently is how this translates to user research and ‘discovery’. 

A discovery should be focussed on research and learning. Continue reading…


The problem with over testing, experience, and intuition

Designing something is about making a choice. Right or wrong.

There’s a common situation where teams become afraid to make decisions and they become paralysed by over-testing.

Barry Briggs shared his thoughts with me about this on Twitter earlier this year:

[I’ve] seen design teams paralysed by over-testing.

Continue reading…

Thinking about how we use evidence in user-centred design

Working in a large government department like the Department for Work and Pensions has created a few challenges about how to bring together traditional types of evidence-driven decision making and a new focus on delivering digital by default services. Continue reading…

The weight of starting

Why you don’t need more evidence or certainty

Seal of the City of Cincinnati

Image – elycefeliz

I sometimes think there’s a problem of digital teams taking too much time to do things. They just don’t get started soon enough.

Getting started is about being willing to go out and test your biggest assumptions. Continue reading…

We only notice what we notice

It’s May bank holiday in the United Kingdom. If you believe your television, everyone is decorating.

How things unfold

Once you paint one room, you recognise a greater need to paint the rest. You see all the imperfections in the next room. You obsess about things you hadn’t even noticed before. Continue reading…

What people want and what people need

I’m reading the book Why We Build by Rowan Moore at the moment.

This story jumped out as a great example of understanding what people need, not what people want.

An architect used to tell a story.

Invited by a couple to design an extension to their house, he dined with them, listened to their needs and desires, heard his and her versions of what they wanted.

Continue reading…

The death and resurrection of the user persona, proto-persona, and more


Image – Neighbours

A conversation last week got me thinking again about personas. Then I shared this:

“we have personas” is normally the start of a difficult conversation that involves the question “have you spoken to any real users?”

The thing that always prompts these conversations? Continue reading…

A question about user needs: Understanding the job

I was asked an interesting question this week about user needs. I answered by talking about ‘understanding the job’.

The question

How did Apple know that people needed an iPad? Could they see a latent need/problem or was it a response to a known need/problem? Continue reading…

Making user research deliberate

To be deliberate. Something that’s done consciously and intentionally.

Being deliberate is thinking about who the users of your service are, taking the time you need to understand what their needs are.

Being deliberate is having a plan about what you need to learn. Continue reading…

Discovery. We’re not scared

We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day! We’re not scared.

We're going on a bear hunt

As children we have a great sense of adventure.

Pick up almost any children’s story book and you’ll find characters setting off on exciting adventures. I’ve read ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ many times with my young kids. Continue reading…