In which we go on safari, stop at a red light, meet a zoologist, and discover four classic questions that can help us design better user research.
Fundamentally, all user research answers one of two questions: (a) Who are our users and what are they trying to do? (b) Can people use the thing we've designed to solve their problem? You answer the first question with a field visit and you answer the second question with a usability test.
Gaining informed consent is a cornerstone of the social sciences. But it is sometimes poorly practiced by user researchers. They fail to explain consent properly. They mix up the consent form with a non-disclosure agreement. And they mix up the consent form with the incentive. Improving the way you get consent will also improve the data you collect because participants can be more open and because it makes user researchers more empathic.
Contextual research is the gold standard in user research. But sometimes the user researcher is called upon to run an interview out of context. How can you structure a face-to-face interview to best help users tell their stories?
One of the most important questions faced by start-ups and established companies alike isn't, "Is my system usable?" or "Is this a great user experience?", but "Do people actually need this thing?" This article presents a structured interview technique for checking if you have identified a user need.
When I run training courses in user research, I get a host of questions that span the range from "What's the difference between a field visit and a usability test?" through to "How do you analyse the data?" Here are my answers to the 7 most common questions that I'm asked.
Most companies would claim to design products and services that are simple to use. But when you ask customers to actually use these products and services, they often find them far from simple. Why is there a disconnect between what organisations think of as "simple" and what users actually experience?
The great promise of user experience research is to go beyond asking people what they want and instead to discover what they need. But goal-based interviewing is difficult because it requires a very different approach to user interviews than simply running through a list of prepared questions. Two approaches that offer some promise are story elicitation and 'jobs to be done’.
People in small companies or people who work as a UX team of one often find it hard to gain commitment to do field research because it’s perceived as too expensive or too time consuming. What quick and low-cost alternatives are available?
The new year is as good a time as any to review and improve the way you work. With a good user experience now widely seen as the key attribute of many high-tech products, it makes sense to review your own products to see how you can give them that user experience edge. Here are 20 quick, simple and virtually free ideas you can apply in 2012.
You may not get many chances to visit and observe your customers at their place of work, so you want to make the most of the opportunity. But what’s the best way to run a site visit? Highly effective ethnographers show 5 specific behaviours. They create a focus question, audio record the sessions, take photographs of the environment, take notes and write up a short summary of the observation immediately.
Does your organisation use personas to describe users' characteristics, goals, needs and behaviours? Although they are a popular tool for communicating knowledge about users, many personas are little more than anecdote, hearsay and rumour. These kind of fake personas rapidly fall into disuse. Make sure your own personas get used by validating them against this 7-item checklist.
Site visits are the best method we have of gaining real insight into the way customers work — to understand what customers do, rather than what they say they do. But to get the most from a site visit you need to polish your interviewing skills. Great interviewers show 5 characteristics from which we can learn.
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