User Research Feb 12, 2018

What is an Insight

What is an Insight
User Research Feb 12, 2018

‘Insight’ is used by Vendors and clients in their own understanding and it can cause serious expectation mismatch in business dealings. Here, I attempt to clarify the meaning of ‘Insight’ in a UX Research perspective and the way we use it in our communication with UXArmy existing and potential Clients.

Let me first describe my little journey in pursuit of clarity on the word ‘Insight’. I had tried to Google the definition of ‘Insight’, I first hit Wikipedia. From a definition perspective, it seems to have no clear, factual mistake:

“Insight is the understanding of a specific cause and effect in a specific context.”

— Wikipedia

However, it is the ‘related meanings’ of the definitions that are more commonly put to convenient misinterpretations.

I encounter a lot of vague and sometime clear sounding definitions. For example, ‘Good Insights must be compelling, without being preachy. They must be truthful, without being too obvious. They must be empathetic, without being presumptuous.’ If some of these definitions do not convince you how bad Insight definitions can get, here are some that actually come closer in meaning and credibility:

“A big discovery that changes market conversation.”

— John Griffiths

“An Insight is something you didn’t know before. Something that may change the way you think about a problem”

— DaveTrott

Here is an example by Kevin Drew Davis, Chief Creative Officer, DDB San Francisco.

FACT: People tend to feed their pets twice a day.

OBSERVATION: They tend to feed them at breakfast and dinner time.

INSIGHT: People feel guilty eating in front of their pets.

Not confused yet? Hence, every time you hear someone using the word ‘Insight’ in a pitch to entice you, take a step back, think and clarify what does he/she is actually referring to.

In reference to Qualitative and Quantitative UX Research, here is some useful information about Insights.

1. Quantitative — Insights, and Data and Information

Insights are often confused with Data and Information. Data is the raw and unprocessed numbers and text collected from quantitative research. Information is the processed version of the data that is often presented in a form where viewers can understand from it for instance Heatmaps, Mouse Movement paths, Navigation journeys, etc. Insights are derived from analysing the information and data.

One good example is how a fitness-tracking tool provides data and information, and how the users can carry out the action with the Insight derived from the information.

2. Qualitative — Insight and Finding

Another common confusion is between Insight and Findings. Finding tells us what people say and why they do it. In a Qualitative research context, get them to do what they said and observe for the truth about what they said. Add to it the imaginary real context or the situation in which those people would do certain things, you are moving towards an Insight.

The difference between Data, Observations and Insights is also illustrated through several video in the article “The insight: the most important part of the brief”. An actionable Insight helps you learn something about people’s behaviour and able to do something about people’s problem.

The most easily and often forgotten part of an Insight is the Context. Our response and behaviour varies between one situation and another. For instance, while using a printer at home I do not bother to collect the printouts until I need them but at work I collect them as soon as they are printed. That presents an opportunity for a Printer manufacturing business to avoid printed papers from falling on the floor and getting lost. Therefore, our User Research team suggests to our clients that Ethnographic Research is the most appropriate when it comes to building strategies or finding new opportunities. It could reveal people’s problems about which stakeholders haven’t thought about earlier.

In conclusion, it does not matter what is the correct definition of ‘Insight’ is. For our clients, we always differentiate between UX Research Findings and Insights. While Findings from a Research can be several, Insights tend to be few. These are the hidden opportunities which bring in fresh perspectives. Insights must be thoroughly validated and detailed before setting sail to build expensive software. Implementing a Lean prototype of the Insight to further learn and validate the Insight can save a lot of time and budget. The end goal is that if realistic, an Insight must add significant value to the business and its’ end Consumers.


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