In his book, About Face, Alan Cooper uses term research-design gap when he speaks about the gap between user research and designing phases of user centered design or to be more specific goal directed design.

I recently used this term casually with a university teacher who didn't have a clue what I'm talking about and afterwards I had to google the term to see if that is something that exists.

It turned out that they use similar term, research-practice gap in healthcare but couldn't find much more.

So my question is.. Is research-design gap a thing that really is present in UCD/HCD work and does anyone happen to know research articles or literature that would handle this particular probably-existing problem.

4 Answers 4


From my experience, the research-design gap is really present in some of the UX teams, especially the ones where research and design are treated as separate roles, with very different workflow. I'd say it somewhat less present in empowered teams, as described by Marty Cagan, especially when the designer either do the research themselves, or very closely cooperate with a single researcher.

There's a nice talk on how they did recognise a research-design gap at Kiwi, and how they worked on closing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIkIGqEwul8

  • I'll have to review that video later, but you are at least partially correct in this. Cooper et al write in their book About Face that designers should play a part in research teams and collaborate so that researchers provide useful data for designers. But the definition of the problem is actually very loose/wide because according to About Face The research - Design gap is simply problems that arise from a design process that fails to connect the dots between user and end product. I'm currently writing my thesis about rookie designers facing RDG in one practical UNI course.
    – Dosentti
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 11:55

To understand the gap we need to explore innovation and brand management, which has a focus on the consumer rather than on the design of the product. They still discuss the relationship between product design and the consumer, but they seem to emphasize how the consumer behaves. Based on this perspective, there are significant differences between the design of a product and the behavior of the consumer

Visit: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256022410_An_Exploratory_Review_of_the_Design_Literature_Gaps_and_Avenues_for_Future_Research https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/caim.12393


Research Gap is a common concept in research methodology, and there are countless articles, books, and papers on it, some specific for different disciplines (as you mention: design, healthcare, whatever). Thus, it's discipline agnostic and it's used in all fields of research.

The above being said, there are actually 2 answers to your question: the one specific to your question, which is more general in nature (you can read about general research gap here and how to identify research gaps here). Simply put, it is as follows:

A research gap is a question or a problem that has not been answered by any of the existing studies or research within your field. Sometimes, a research gap exists when there is a concept or new idea that hasn't been studied at all. Sometimes you'll find a research gap if all the existing research is outdated and in need of new/updated research (studies on Internet use in 2001, for example).

And now for the other answer to your question, which is related to your first paragraph: For this, I'll assume you mean the About Face chapter "Bridging the Research-Design Gap 101". In this case, while it is relatively similar, it identifies the gaps and inconsistencies between the research (the what, the why, the how) and the design or prototype and suggests some concepts to bridge those gaps. In other words: it's not talking about research gap, but the gap between ideas and building those ideas

  • Yes. Research gap is completely different thing. And yes I'm talking about the gap between research and design phases. In agile environment they aren't always thought as phases but, we are talking about the same thing. I think, in his book Cooper also refers to a gap that's between researcher and designer. It happens when you handover products (may the format be whatever) that you get from the research to the designer. Not everything you need in design phase is researched in user research. And not all the results you get from the research are handed over to the designer.
    – Dosentti
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 11:03

I wouldn't say it's a research-design gap, it is a gap between what you feel and what you explain. Feel vs words. Not only in research, this gap exist everywhere.
Even in our life, many times it happens that we tell something to the user but he gets it differently. A teacher tries to explain a concept to students and employs different methods to put that concept into words.

What actually happens is, you experience something and you are trying to put that into words, to tell other people. Now your limit of experience is vast, you may experience something instantly because of the sophistication of human body, but explaining that experience to other is a process and it takes time.
Storytelling is a tool which is better used by people in day to day life to communicate things effectively. It helps people communicate things one-by-one, starting with first essentials to last, to form the complete picture in the mind of front person of what he have. The better you know your experience, the better you will explain things to others.

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