Domain Insight Research Framework

How we research new domain and apply in our projects

As a designer working in the Digital Product industry, I'm pretty sure we all hear about UX Research once at least. In this field, we learn about the business's strategy, users' behaviors, needs, pain points, etc. to build a product that meets the business's goal and solves users' existing problems. There are multiple ways to do UX research; our team also has one. However, there is a higher level, which helps UX Researchers process their works much faster, empathize with target users much easier, and save more effort and time; it is called Domain Insight Research.

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What is Domain Insight Research (DIR)?

This Domain Insight Research Framework is a method for new approaches to understanding and getting insight into a new industry. This conceptual framework was designed to collect various types of information, including:

  • Definition
  • How the domain works
  • The technology methods being applied in the market.
  • Market insight
  • General personas, their behaviors & pain points
  • Potential solutions (technology, strategies,...) & revenue streams
  • Design principles in some specific industries

How we apply the DIR in our projects

Domain insight knowledge helps UX Researchers and Designers have an overview of a new industry; we can quickly analyze the market and business' chances to be a new entrant of the industry. Before and during the kick-off meeting with clients, this information helps:

  • Have some insight to talk to clients and explore more for a broader perspective
  • Validate clients' ideas immediately
  • Propose some solutions for clients based on real information
  • Suggest suitable technology method to optimize workflow and cost

Three Steps of Domain Insight Research

Understand the definition

1. Definition

When it comes to a new domain, finding out the definition is the first step we need to do to have a complete, accurate, and consistent look for that domain.

To learn a new domain, we have been doing in several ways:

  • Use search engines, keywords, read articles to understand the definition.
  • Explore related concepts for a broader perspective
  • Talking with various persons working on similar domains
  • While reading the articles, there will be many new jargon or terms used in a particular domain. Try to find out the definition of these terms and make a glossary for your own.

2. How the domain works

Finding out how that domain works and how technology can help optimize their process. Learn the operational process from resource input to the final product delivered to the end-user and the revenue stream from that product/service.

3. The technology methods being applied in the market

New technology trends are evolving and having a significant impact on business models; people are adopting technology in almost all industries. Responding to that development, besides understanding the workflow of any industry, we need to learn more about technology methods that the market is applying and consider the potential of other technologies, depending on whether that technology can solve the problems of a particular niche in the market.

4. Value proposition & Problem solving

Technology is increasingly developed and applied to solve the problems and difficulties that humans face in life. Each technology product is created with at least one value proposition. In this session, we find out the value that the domain brings to our lives. For example, the ebook was created to reduce publishing books' cost and their impact on the environment through paper production. Or micro-investment helps people with middle and low income have opportunities to invest and practice saving habits. Understanding the value and problems the industry is solving will help us make a more accurate assessment of the potential entrant of a new product.

The second and the most valuable step of this framework: Market Research

Market research is a set of techniques which is used to gather information about an industry; also help us to:

  • Improve user experiences
  • Design better products
  • Craft a marketing message that attracts quality leads or improves conversion rates

Our insight after applying DIR into our projects

There are many market research methods; you can try to find some on Google. However, the point is the knowledge we gain to accomplish our domain insight research goals.

There is no one-size-fits-all.

It is essential to choose the right methods, apply them flexibly to each industry or product to maximize the time and cost.

How we do Market research

1. Gather information

There are different ways to conduct market research and collect data. Still, we don’t limit ourselves to just one research method. This is one of our simple methods we applied to our previous projects:

Primary research

Primary research is any type of research that the researchers collect themselves. We conduct primary research by reading (books, journals, articles...). Sometimes, we also gather information directly from customers of the target market through surveys or interviews.

Secondary research

Secondary research is simply the act of seeking out existing research and data. It is sometimes called “desk research” because we can do it from our desks. Secondary data could be such as databases, survey reports, collected and published information,...

We are highly recommended secondary research because:

  • It is often free and can be done relatively quickly.
  • Finding existing data that can be applied to your specific project immediately.

In some specific cases, we couldn't find the secondary data suitable for our researched domain; therefore, we needed to conduct our primary one.

2. Market share

Market share is the percentage of a market accounted for by a specific entity. It helps us to:

  • Know the position an individual company holds in the industry
  • Measure the consumers' preference for a product over other similar products.
  • Have a general idea of the size of a company to its market and its competitors
  • Make competitive decisions about strategic directions and when jockeying for position among its competitors.

We can collect information from many sources, newspapers, trade publications, industry associations, or even personal blogs. However, before using this information, we need to check out their accuracy and research more to ensure the data, report, or info is mentioned elsewhere. Be wary of numbers without a credible source.

3. Competitor analysis

Competitor analysis is a way to collect and compare data about existing products (and companies) in the industry. By learning insight from competitors, we can figure out the opportunities and avoid threats to bring the market's unique value.

A typical competitor analysis that we have done often includes:

  • An overview of the product landscape (solution, products, companies, prices, market share, etc.)
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the competitors in the industry
  • List of product features
  • How they earn money
  • Evaluation of visual design language

The purpose of the competitor analysis is:

  • Learn the process of building a product and marketing strategy
  • Understand the general landscape of the market
  • Compare existing products’ unique qualities to users' needs.
  • Identify possible user types.
  • Compare visual and language styles.

4. Personas

Personas is a familiar term that we all know about its utility and importance in building a product. The purpose of working with personas is to offer solutions, products, and services based on the needs and goals of a specific set of users. In the DIR, we build personas and analyze them to:

  • Get to know the users and how they feel — their demographics, needs, and current pain-points.
  • Get customer insights: behaviors, incentives, decision-making points, and attitudes/emotions. Find out their perceptions of the value propositions, their expectations.
  • Time-saving — In most projects, clients often choose to build the first MVP for testing to save costs for product development. Therefore, we need to focus on which features are the most priority to solve users' crucial problems.
  • Consistency — Since every user has been classified, we can have a consistent understanding of the users. It helps analyze users' data and conclude it to make a better product.

5. Solutions & Features

With the information gathered above, we already have an overview of what people are doing out there. Next, we use it to validate clients' ideas and easily propose solutions for them, based on:

  • Their business value
  • Their resources
  • Our capabilities.

We can create products that the market does not yet meet. Or we should continue to build a product that is similar to the ones already on the market, but with better problem-solving capabilities, which focus correctly on the user's needs. Or we can come up with solutions for the hidden problems that not even users realize. Our suggestions have become more trustworthy since they are all based on our research and knowledge of the market.

6. Revenue opportunity

We all aim to earn money by bringing the values and benefits for users. Therefore, after having a sufficient amount of information, we can decide the revenue stream by providing better solutions within our capabilities. What we consult our clients

  • Identify available growth opportunities and determine the most attractive one.
  • Find the right balance between short-term and long-term growth opportunities.

7. Suitable technology

Despite there are many new and rapidly evolving technologies, not all technology trends can be used to optimize a product. We need to consider costs and resources carefully before suggesting a technology to build the product.

Design principles in some specific industries

In some specific industries, design principles are also factors that bring the product to the right market. By learning design from our competitors and understanding users, we can build a set of design principles to comply. For example, the money-or-asset-related-domains require trustworthy design, or products for older users need to be easy to reach and accomplish tasks...

The design principles are defined depending on the domain but usually will be included:

  • General characteristics of users
  • General elements (color, typo, style)
  • Context
  • Accessibility
  • Usability


Product knowledge is so valuable. It increases our confidence as a problem-solver and clients’ trust that we are the right person to serve their needs. Clients today come armed with their level of product knowledge. The internet and competition have created a more educated consumer base. That is all the more reason we need to know more than our customers do about the things we're going to help them do.

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