What is Design Research?

Learn how design research helps us create digital experiences that meet audience needs.


Charlotte Davies
'An anthropological guide to Design Research' film made by Belafonte. Narrated by Prof. Robert Winston

Design Research puts our audience at the heart of what we do when creating the websites and apps you know and love. A key part of this is our fascination with people, what they need, how they think and behave. Building empathy for our users helps us make better decisions and develop services of real value. What we learn about people helps fuel the design process and inspires our everyday work. Here we share how we go about understanding our users in order to provide great online experiences.

We explore

Learning as much as we can about our audience is both essential and incredibly valuable. We often do this by going out into the world and actually meeting them. We might ask users to keep a diary of their day-to-day lives, or get someone to test drive our designs. And sometimes we simply have a chat about their views and values.

We observe

As well as listening to our users it’s equally important we observe their behaviour in a natural environment. We learn a lot from simply watching people going about their normal routines, interacting with products or completing specific tasks.

We stay curious

The world moves at a fast pace, with society and technology evolving every day. Design Research is all about staying curious, continuously learning, and challenging assumptions. This iterative process of testing and learning enables us to adapt to users ever changing needs.  

How does this fit into a huge organisation?

Research is essential to what we all do. It’s embedded in the product cycle as we work to reduce the gap between those making, and those using, the BBC. The aim is to uncover insights we can do something with, to empower decision-making and create products that our audience love to use.

Learning from our audience is a shared enthusiasm within our design team. A mixed range of skills and specialisms allow us to adapt to unique challenges and craft the best approach. We work hand-in-hand with our Marketing & Audiences and Data Analyst colleagues to build a complete picture of our users’ needs. Design Research is just one part of the puzzle.