Blog 12

The Creative Experience Research Toolkit

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The second phase of the Creative Experience Research (CER) process focuses on planning the research study. At this point, the team should already be aligned on their goals from each aspect of the user experience: engaging, believing, knowing, feeling, and doing (see part one for more).

This planning phase begins by selecting the research methods that allow us to explore the foundational questions of what the design makes people think, what emotions it evokes, whether people can fulfill their goals (and satisfy their curiosity), and ultimately provide the team with tangible insights that empower and guide their design work.

The following is a list of research methods we commonly use to investigate and support each aspect of creative experience design. This is an ever-evolving list as new methods are developed all the time. Ultimately, method selection is about assembling the “best tools for the job” and your team’s comfort level.

We’ve categorized methods by aspects of the creative experience:


We want to ensure the experience is accessible and resonates with a diverse audience, considering aspects like context and technology use.

Ethnographic Research
Often referred to as “fly on the wall” observation, researchers immerse in the users’ natural environment to understand their behaviors, interactions, and the context in which they engage in an experience.

Contextual Inquiry
Researchers are actively observing and interviewing users in their natural environment to understand how they interact with a design across different contexts and technologies.

User Surveys
Collecting user feedback on their engagement with the design regarding accessibility, device compatibility, and contextual relevance through crafted surveys.

Accessibility Audits
Designers are evaluating existing designs against accessibility standards and guidelines to ensure they are accessible to a diverse audience, including those with disabilities.


Delving into the attitudes or beliefs users may form or have reinforced through the experience, spotlighting the intersection of brand messaging and user perception.

Direct conversations with participants to understand their beliefs and attitude shifts during or after an experience.

Focus Groups
Collective discussions with groups of participants to gauge their attitudes and beliefs collaboratively.

Semantic Differential Scales
Surveys utilizing bipolar adjective scales to measure user attitudes and beliefs regarding different aspects of the experience.

Experience Sampling Method (ESM)
Capturing in-the-moment data regarding users’ beliefs and attitudes as they interact with the design.


Identifying the key information or messages users should understand from the experience, encompassing facets like clarity, findability, and recognition.

Usability Testing
Focusing on the performance of designs. Evaluating how easily users can complete tasks and find information, providing insights into the clarity and findability of key messages.

Attention Tracking
Identifying where users are looking and clicking on-screen interfaces to assess what information is capturing their attention and whether key messages are being noticed.

Card Sorting
Understanding how users categorize and organize information, which can inform the structure and labeling of information to ensure key messages are clear and findable.

Tree Testing
Evaluating the findability of content within an information architecture to ensure users’ mental models align with the overall structure.


Exploring the emotional impact and connections the experience aims to create, aligning with desirability and appeal to users.

Attention and Emotion Analysis
Focused on the physical reactions designs elicit. Utilizing eye-tracking, facial expression analysis, and other techniques to understand where users are focusing and how they are emotionally reacting to the experience.

Desirability Testing
A structured method using predefined adjective lists for participants to select words (positive, neutral, and negative) that describe their perception of the design.

Emotion Mapping
An exploratory method to capture the evolution of emotional responses over time or across different points of interaction with the design.

Diary Study
Participants document their emotional experiences over a set period of time while interacting with the design through multiple sessions, providing a longitudinal perspective on emotional impact.


Defining the actions or behaviors the experience aims to encourage or facilitate, tying back to usability and user actions.

Usability Testing
Task-based sessions where we understand how designs perform. We analyze how easily users can complete desired actions and identify any opportunities to remove barriers and points of friction.

Navigational Analysis
Understanding and visualizing the paths users take through a design, using data-driven analysis of actual user interactions to create visual maps of the user’s journey.

A data view of where users are focusing their attention in the design through visual representations of interactions like clicks, taps, and scrolling behavior.

A/B (multivariate) Testing
Evaluating different design variations to determine which performs best in terms of predefined behavioral goals.

Choosing the right research methods for Creative Experience Research is more about making smart selections and adjusting each one rather than gathering a big collection of methods regardless of their overlap. Look at the unique aspects of your project, as well as the timing and budgetary constraints. Prioritize the questions you need to have answered and that will give you a good lens through which you can perform the necessary research quickly and efficiently. The goal is to set the stage for meaningful insights that gain the confidence of your design team and spark inspiration.

Embarking on a creative research journey is both an art and a science, and getting it right can be a game-changer for your project. If you have a creative venture in mind and seek a blend of insightful creativity and solid usability understanding, reach out to Agency UX. We thrive on unveiling the magic where creativity meets usability, offering a unique lens to navigate through your project’s potential. Your next creative breakthrough is just a conversation away. Reach out, and let’s craft the insightful narrative your project deserves.