“Supposing is good, but finding out is better.”
~ Mark Twain
What’s more important? Asking the right question or getting the right answer?
For an UX expert, there isn’t a right or wrong answer, just feedback.
More companies are exploring ways to tap into the mindsets of their customers in order to define the pain points of a product and make improvements. I recently met up with Ladies That UX-Boston for their User Research 101 workshop at the Startup Institute. Originally launched in the UK, LTUX is a monthly meet-up for women all over the globe interested in the user experience field.
Led by Boston chapter organizer Clara Kliman-Silver, the session explored the fundamentals of user experience research, including planning out the project timeline, establishing goals, and creating strong questionnaires. Here are some key takeaways:
There’re three main stages of UX research.
- The generative or discovery stage, focuses on learning about a particular product space. In order to solve usability issues, one has to put their detective hats on. Whether its creating surveys or conducting focus groups, contextual inquiries provide the groundwork for insights.
- The execution stage involves implementing a design direction through interactions and determining how strongly the concept holds up.
- The evaluation stage comes down to summarizing test results and applying those learnings towards future product development strategies.
The research process typically kicks off with a stakeholder meeting. Early on, UX staff work with head honchos on outlining the customer profile. Both typical users and outside audiences must be targeted in the discussion to diversify the appeal of the product. Once project goals and deadlines are established, it’s time to draft a research plan. At this point, think about the methods your team will use to gather data, specifically what will work within your budget. If funding is limited, try more cost-effective options like conducting online surveys or posting an ad through Craigslist.
Finding the right people for a survey doesn’t have to be impossible. Defining what you’re looking for helps narrow your target towards a strong pool of interview candidates. With the help of a screener, one can include details on project aim and key demographics such as age and professional background. Always plan to recruit more subjects to make up for scheduling conflicts or process of elimination. Lastly, avoid collaborating with friends to prevent bias in your work.
As a host, it’s important to get a feel for the environment in which you’re conducting interviews. While engaging customers, be positive and most importantly let them talk. If people are less receptive, count to 5 seconds silently and hopefully the awkward silence should prompt chatter to fill the void. Stay clear of yes or no questions because they often lead to dead-ends, and instead focus on the how or why. For example, if the respondents mention a mobile app driving them crazy, capitalize on that statement by asking why they felt that way or even what they were hoping it would accomplish. Record the sessions for post analysis, but make sure to sign off on approval from participants.
Following the user research breakdown, attendees split into groups of three for the activity portion of the night.
The challenge was to perform mock interviews about vacation planning. Members switched between the role of interviewer, interviewee, and note-taker. During the recap, each table went around voicing their struggles and triumphs. Many interviewers experienced road blocks in crafting enough questions that didn’t seem scripted or had the yes/no format. On the other end, interviewees felt it was easy to offer more information than asked of once they relaxed. Lastly, note-takers found it challenging not reacting to the interviewee’s remarks while focusing entirely on recording observations. Aside from designating positions accordingly, this exercise tapped into drawing out reactions that make UX research extremely valuable. By mapping out the user’s psychological journey, companies can harness those ties into their product strategies so that both functional and emotional expectations are delivered.
What’s your secret to good user experience research? Do you have a preferred method for gathering data?