UI/UX Tip 18: Research for Inspiration

27 Apr. 22

Although user research, testing, and analysis are essential ingredients for great UX, we often forget to look elsewhere for inspiration.

Researching industry leaders and award-winning experiences can provide inspiration. You can find inspiration in many forms, and not only incremental improvements, but also new paradigms.

Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy, great artist steal.” Picasso was inspired by everything around him and created amazing art. The process of getting inspired led to new artistic paradigms including Picasso’s famous surrealistic style.

Henry Ford declared that he would build a motor vehicle for the “great multitude” in an age where only the wealthy could afford them. The efficient meat packing process inspired Ford to create an automobile assembly line. Ford took inspiration from another industry and was able reduce the time required to make a car. This resulted in a new industrial paradigm which has been adopted by thousands of businesses.

UX design is primarily about the end user. However, too often we think only within that box. What are our users expecting? What have we done to meet those expectations in the past? Henry Ford believed that people still desired faster horses.

Instead of asking for examples, ask questions while you analyze and research competitors and industry leaders.

  • Were there any other people stronger than we?
  • What is best in class?
  • How do they impact their marketing efforts?
  • Which process is more efficient than ours?
  • What’s on the cutting edge?
  • What is going to be obsolete?

It is important to pay attention to the experiences being offered by your customers, as well as your industry and competitors. You might be able to find inspiration by looking up at the people around you.


Find Competitive Trends

Research can be used to generate ideas by gathering information about competitive products and design trends. What is done well? What is the flow of things? What could be done to improve it?

You are basically researching the UX of your competition. One interesting example is the shift from skeuomorphic to flat design to material design.

Skeuomorphic design looks hyper-realistic. However, many people feel that it is too deep. It is too obvious that icons are designed with excessive glossy-ness. They can be blended into the experience more naturally.

Flat design took a different approach, drastically reducing the hyper-realism in favor of a simpler aesthetic. Many users feel that flat design is too realistic and therefore less engaging.

Material design acts as a happy medium between both (shown below). Google focused on adding depth to flat design while not being too realistic.

All of these design paradigms borrowed inspiration from their predecessors. We believe that it was Microsoft’s minimalistic Metro Design, with concepts like “Content over Chrome”, that inspired Google’s Material Design as well as Apple’s Flatter design. They were not created in a vacuum, but rather were aware of the latest design trends. What’s the next step? Material design won’t be the only design trend. Future trends will most likely be inspired by what has gone before.

When researching the competition, you should also consider key elements from other websites and applications like:

  • Navigation and Information Hierarchy
  • Style and color scheme
  • Functionality and process flows
  • The pros and cons of the product. Also, what to avoid!

You might just discover the next design paradigm for your product that is innovative by doing some research.


Research Industry Trends


Research shows that UX patterns do not need to be reinvented. It can also lead to new ideas.

Think of your industry as one piece of a larger puzzle. What are the current trends in your industry? Who is at the cutting edge of your industry?

Henry Ford recognized that assembly line production was cutting-edge. He made the conscious decision to use this technique when he created his cars. He proved that the only people who could afford cars were the wealthy.

Mobile payments are a new concept in the digital world. Although your users may not jump on this bandwagon immediately, it could be necessary to make your product relevant and user-friendly over the long term. This is just one example of how industry trends can be used to inspire your product’s improvement.

Seth Godin wrote “Innovation can often be the act of taking something from another place and applying it to your own situation.” [ . . . ] Whatever your problem may be, there is a solution out there. Your organization is likely stuck because they don’t know what to do and, more importantly, don’t have the courage to do it.


Research Award Winning Trends


When researching the competitive landscape, take a look at the winning experiences. It is vital to conduct user research. However, once you have a clear understanding of your users and their needs, what inspirations could you use to create a world-class user experience that exceeds your users’ expectations?

Awwwards can be a great resource for inspiration. This company chooses websites that stand out from the crowd in web design. A jury of UX directors and creative entrepreneurs from the industry evaluates websites in four categories: design and usability, creativity and content.

You can get the inspiration to make your own great experience by looking at award-winning websites. Awwward has analysed the ” Diadora Brilliant Delivery” website.

Awwward’s analyzes Diadora’s campaign website in four key categories. The website receives an average of 8.1% out of 10. Although there are many areas for improvement, it is an inspiration source for adding more story and journey to everyday products. Inspiration can be found on hundreds of websites.




Although your company and end product may look different from others, it is worth researching industry leaders, competitors, and other leaders to get more inspiration for your design process. While copying isn’t always a good strategy for your business, it is a great way to get inspiration. Once you have gotten those inspirations, you can begin creating something truly special.


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