on February 14, 2017 Design Stories

How to Conduct Field Work: A Guide for Design Researchers

A major shift is taking place all around us: if you want to win a consumer’s dollar, offering a great product is no longer enough. Consumers today seek an experience. The way your product immerses your consumer- what it makes them do, think, and feel- is often more important than the product itself.

If you’ve read our five simple tips to guide this new way of working, you know that getting out from behind your desk and immersing yourself in the consumer experience is paramount. Field work allows you to bring that consumer experience to life: exploring, observing, and collecting insights directly in-market.

Successful design research in the field follows a simple process:

  1. Frame the opportunity
  2. Plan your work
  3. Capture observations in market
  4. Synthesize into insights
  5. Present actionable next steps

1. FRAME THE OPPORTUNITY: The Research Brief

Proper planning can make or break your field work. Before you start to capture observations first-hand, get everyone aligned on a common understanding of the problem or opportunity space. A Research Brief doesn’t have to be complex, but it should answer the following questions:

  • Problem Background
    • Why is this research being conducted?
    • Outline the problem/challenge to be tackled
  • Product Focus
    • What is the product/area being researched? Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be a product, it could be a service, environment, or consumer experience.
    • Provide a detailed description of the features, benefits and uses
  • Market Focus
    • Who and where should we research?
    • Outline key demographics and geographies of focus
  • Key Objectives
    • What do we want to get out of the research?
    • Outline specific desires and formats
    • Example: "We need to identify pain points along a customer’s journey through our retail store. Please provide an experience map with rich support to illustrate consumer touchpoint."
  • Time, Resources, and Budget
    • What are our limitations?
    • Provide any necessary constraints for the research


2. PLAN YOUR WORK: The Batterii Room

Heading out into the field without a structure for capturing and storing observations is a guaranteed way to let insights slip through the cracks. Batterii was specifically designed to facilitate the capture process of doing research in-market. From any place in the world, your team can collect and send photos, notes, and videos, and collaborate in real time. Before you start to capture observations first-hand, kick off your time in the field with proper setup of the Batterii Desktop platform, using the following structure as a guide:

  • Planning
    • Utilize a planning wall to share and manage the logistics of your trip.
    • Place your Research Brief here for reference throughout your time in the field, and any important information about schedule, locations, and even contact information for team members.
  • Collection
    • Create a wall to house all of the observations you will be collecting in Step 3.
    • If your research is relatively straight forward, you may want to use just one collection wall. If you have a large team gathering observations or you will be visiting multiple sites, a wall for each team member or location can help keep your content organized.
  • Synthesis
    • You might not be synthesizing your observations just yet, but providing the framework up front can be beneficial to provide context for how your field work will be used.
    • Create a wall for each step you’ll use in your synthesis process, as outlined in Step 4 below.

In addition to preparing the walls in your Batterii Room, invite your team members to collaborate, and make it easy for your them to stay organized by setting suggested tags. Suggested tags not only make the process of tagging easier once you’re in the field, but ensure consistency in tagging when you’re back in the office and ready to synthesize what you’ve learned.

What might this process look like in practice? Let’s imagine that our team works at a home goods retailer. We want to understand how the “customization” trend plays a role in the physical shopping experience. To conduct our research, our team has selected a handful of NYC retailers that do a great job at delivering this customer experience, and we're going to visit them next week. We plan to visit Pirch, Converse, Levi’s Denim Studio, and Nike IDLab, and in those spaces we will engage consumers to hear directly from them. We’ve setup walls and tags to help us collect our observations.

Let's take a look at what that Batterii room setup might look like:Batterii Room Set up for Design Research Field Work

3. CAPTURE IN MARKET: Field Work Methods

This stage of the project takes place during your time in the field. Using your Research Brief as a guide, leverage the Batterii Mobile App for iOS/Android to capture photos, videos, and notes directly from the field. There are a number of research methods that you may want to use in your research:

  • Interviewing
    • Through in-person dialogues, customer intercepts allow consumers to reveal their desires and motivations in context. Understanding the needs of your customers provides a view into the future, granting your company with a head start in developing innovations.
  • Coolhunting
    • Commonly referred to as trend spotting, Coolhunting captures noteworthy observations from the market for strategic inspiration. When shared across business teams, inputs collected through Coolhunting inspire new perspectives and collective creativity.
  • Shadowing
    • Shadowing is a form of research that helps you to understand a consumer’s life—in the very environment in which they live, work and play.What products do they like? What communication behavior do they exhibit or desire from their favorite brands?
  • Store Visits
    • Gather first-hand research and inspiration by going on location. Store Visits can be an efficient and effective way to improve the “at shelf” experience that drives consumer choice and, ultimately, revenue.
  • Intercepts
    • Interact and observe with people first-hand in a given environment. Seeing and talking to someone where they work or live is an immersive way to get your team outside of their preconceived notions of what customers need. Intercepts put you in the middle of the action making them most effective when you’re looking to hear how people speak or share their opinions, on a given subject.
  • Day-In-The-Life
    • Conducting a 'Day-in-the-Life' provides first-hand access to how a new product or service supports or fits in with your consumers’ daily routines. By discovering the “what,” “why,” and “how” behind behaviors, you can better identify patterns and latent needs or opportunities for innovation.

Batterii Field Work for Design Research

4. SYNTHESIZE: Make sense of what you observed

All of the photos, videos, and notes gathered in Step 3 are your “dots.” Synthesis is the process of connecting them. Once your Batterii room has been filled with meaningful observations from the field, it’s time to take the right steps towards making sense of it all. Synthesis methods push our exploration into the realm of tangible learnings. Follow this process in order to connect your dots:

  • Create Structure
    • If you haven’t already done so, create a wall for each major theme observed during your time in the field.
  • Copy, Move, and Cluster Content
    • You have dozens, if not hundreds, of photos, videos, and notes captured. Begin to organize these by moving or copying them directly onto your newly created theme walls. You’ll begin to see new connections emerge as you cluster relevant content together in new ways.
  • Curate and Theme
    • Batterii’s Movable Wall is designed to allow you to see your content
    • There are endless synthesis methods available to you as you curate your content. Batterii comes already equipped to help guide you through methods like Empathy Mapping, Experience Mapping, Affinity Mapping, and Insights Generation.


5. PRESENT: Share your insights

Insights generated from time spent in the field are only as good as the hands they end up in. Batterii makes it easy to share summaries of your work. Once you feel comfortable with the amount of learnings you have generated in Step 4, create a specific presentation Wall to present to your team. Use the Moveable Wall mode to cluster final insights, takeaways, and learnings, and then invite relevant stakeholders into the room. Not only will those stakeholders be able to see the final output, but they can follow the entire journey you took to arrive there.

Team members can comment, like, and subscribe to relevant Insights. As an added benefit, the Batterii platform is designed to allow you and your team to “send” insights you’ve created in this project room directly into other rooms, where your work can be directly leveraged to drive new insights and value. This creates a virtuous loop of observation collection, insight gathering, and leveraging learnings to design better experiences for your consumers.


Leading companies across the world are using Batterii to better understand their consumer by collecting observations directly in the field. This practice leads to improved understanding of the true consumer experience with their brand.

As Gabe Heller, Director of Innovation at adidas Basketball, puts it:

"We are continually looking for ways to connect with the consumer and get a deeper understanding of their wants and needs. Our challenge is to take these insights, connect the dots, and turn these insights into actions. In doing this, we create products and experiences that resonate beyond the aesthetics."

To learn more about Batterii and how to leverage the platform for your own Field Work, contact us at support@batterii.com or sign up for a Free Trial today.

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Jessie Salzbrun

Director of Growth + Analytics at Batterii. Lives in the sweet spot between data and design.