With 22 years in the field of User Experience, I felt it was about time to provide more career advice for UX researchers; this time for researchers in the middle of their careers.
In 2011, I published Career Advice for User Researchers, aimed at people trying to get into the field and with a few years of experience.
In 2022, I just published Updating My Career Advice for User Researchers, aimed at researchers in the middle of their careers.
I seem to do this every 11 years, so look for a part 3 in 2033. Maybe that one will be advice for researchers thinking about retirement?
Image by Víctor Villamarín under Creative Commons License
September 20, 2021
Four years ago, in 2017, I published an article in UXmatters giving advice about how to handle ten types of difficult usability testing participants, Wrangling Difficult Usability Testing Participants. The ten types of difficult participants were:
- Bad Fits to the User Profile
- Untalkative Participants
- Overly Talkative Participants
- Participants Who Ramble Off Topic
- Inarticulate Participants
- Participants Who Struggle to Think Aloud
- Participants Who Have No Opinions
- Uncritical Participants
- Participants Who Blame Themselves
- Uncooperative Participants
Four years later, I felt I had encountered enough new types of participants to write a part two, Wrangling Difficult Usability Testing Participants, Part 2. These include:
- Happy Clickers
- Talkers, Not Doers
- Givers of Facts, Not Opinions
- Representatives of the Business
- Participants Who Take Prototypes Too Literally
- Professional Research Participants
- Uncomfortable, Nervous Participants
- Participants Who Are Too Relaxed
Of course, most participants are just regular people who are trying to do their best in the unusual situation of participating in a usability test. It’s up to you as the researcher to help them understand what you need them to do.
Image by Rinaldo Wurglitsch under Creative Commons License
When you’ve been regularly writing online articles for 13 years, with an average of six articles per year, eventually you find that you occasionally come up with a great idea for an article, but later you realize that you’ve already written an article on that topic. That’s happened to me a few times, most recently with an idea to write an article about getting up to speed on the subject matter involved in a project. I realized that I wrote an article almost ten years ago. October 6, 2011, I published an article “Learning the Subject Matter” on Johnny Holland, a UX magazine that stopped publishing new articles a few years later.
I thought about writing an updated version with what I’ve learned in the last ten years, but it didn’t make sense with that original article still being online. However, I recently took a look at that article, and found to my distress that JohnnyHolland.com is no longer online. Sometime within the last year it went offline.
It seemed to be a sign that it was time to finally write that update. Luckily I was able to find my Johnny Holland articles on the Internet Wayback Machine, and I downloaded the text. My original Word documents of those articles had disappeared from a few computers ago. So I recycled the original article and wrote an updated version, revising the original article significantly and adding and removing pieces based on my experiences from the last ten years.
On June 21, 2021, almost 10 years later, I published the updated version on UXmatters, Learning Complex Subject Matter.
Image reduce-reuse-recycle-repeat by Phil Gibbs is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Having conducted several international UX research studies over the past few years, I decided to write a series of articles providing advice on how to conduct international UX research. The basics are the same as conducting research in your own country, but the international aspect presents some challenges.
In Part One, I discuss how to determine whether you should conduct the sessions yourself or whether you should hire a local moderator. That decision comes down to whether you speak the participants’ language, whether you’ll have participants in the session who speak more than one language, whether the country’s culture is very different from yours, your research goals, and your budget. I also provide advice on how to determine whether to conduct the research in-person or remotely. Finally, I give tips on hiring a local moderator and translator.
Check it out on UXmatters: Advice for Conducting International UX Research, Part 1.
In Part Two, I discuss recruiting participants for international UX research, how you can prepare your local moderators to conduct the research, what your local moderators should do to prepare for the research sessions, how to oversee and observe the sessions, and what information your local moderators should provide once the sessions are complete.
Check it out on UXmatters: Advice for Conducting International UX Research, Part 2.
“Language Variety” by nofrills is licensed under CC BY 2.0
In my latest UXmatters article, I provide some advice about setting you your home workspace to conduct remote UX research. Whether you have a home office, or you’re making do while you have to work from home during the pandemic, it’s important to have the right setup for long days of remote research sessions.
Working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, and having to conduct all research remotely, I’ve discovered (sometimes the hard way) some useful tips for conducting remote UX research from home. In my latest article, “Conducting Remote UX Research from Home,” I provide some useful tips, including:
- Setting up the right home environment, including investing in the right desk and chair
- Ensuring that your background (physical or virtual) looks professional
- Wearing the right attire so you don’t appear over or under-dressed
- Eliminating distractions at home from other people and pets
- Setting up your technology for your own comfort and ease of use
- Reminding participants to be in the right environment for their sessions
- Planning your session schedule carefully
- Keeping your project team and clients up to date
So check it out on UXmatters: Conducting Remote UX Research from Home
“Home” by Mr B’s Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0
With COVID, we’ve all had to move all of our UX research to remote UX research. Remote UX research methods have improved greatly over the past ten years to the point where they have many advantages over in-person research. However, there are still some disadvantages of remote UX research.
In the past, we had the luxury of choosing to do in-person research when it made the most sense or remote research when that made the most sense. Since we no longer have a choice, we’ve had to be creative in overcoming the limitations of remote UX research.
In my latest two-part article on UX matters, I discuss the many advantages of remote UX research and how to best overcome the disadvantages of remote UX research. Check these out on UXmatters:
Remote UX Research: Advantages and Disadvantages, Part 1
Remote UX Research: Advantages and Disadvantages, Part 2
“Houston, we have a problem – Fishing boat; Marsaxlokk Harbour” by foxypar4 is licensed under CC BY 2.0
With everything going on now with COVID-19, remote user research is the only type of research we’ll be able to safely do for the near future. In-person research, in which you need to sit close enough to interview a participant and observe what they’re doing, doesn’t really work with social distancing. At the same time, some people have questioned whether it makes sense to continue performing user research during such unusual times. Aren’t participants going to act differently, won’t that affect the results, and should we ask them to participate in user research at a time like this?
In my latest article on UXmatters, Remote User Research: The Time is Now, I discuss how to adapt to conducting all of your user research remotely and discuss whether it makes sense to continue conducting user research during this unusual time in our history.
“Coronavirus (COVID-19) Sheffield, UK” by Tim Dennell is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
I love conducting user research. I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years now. However, I admit there are times when it can try your patience. As a researcher you often conduct the same sessions, asking the same questions, observing the same tasks, and often hearing similar answers – over and over and over again. So it’s inevitable that at times in your career you can suffer from user research fatigue.
In my latest UXmatters article, Retaining Your Sanity as a User Researcher, I provide tips for avoiding user research fatigue and maintaining your sanity, including:
- Don’t schedule more participants than you need
- Don’t schedule too many sessions per day
- Take breaks between sessions
- Get away from the research at the end of each day
- Break up large-scale research
- If you don’t have enough time, adjust your effort
- Ensure your job provides enough variety
- Continue to learn
- Indulge your outside interests
- Remember you’re making the world a better place
So check out the article, Retaining Your Sanity as a User Researcher, or to read more about user research fatigue, check out my article, Overcoming That Dreaded Malady: User Research Fatigue.
“Generic Sign Project – Fatigue” by Kevin H. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
For some projects, your clients can be the best source of user research participants. When you’re looking for their employees, their members, or their customers, your clients are the best source for lists of potential participants. Also they often have a relationship with these potential participants. They may know them personally, or at the very least they are associated with a company with which the potential participants have a relationship. When people get a request to participate in a user research study, they are more likely to pay attention to it, and seriously consider it, if it comes from someone they know or at least if it comes from a person in a company they do business with.
However, there are some perils of asking your clients recruit participants, including:
- They may not have the time or organizational skills it takes to recruit and schedule participants.
- They probably won’t describe the research correctly.
- They probably won’t know the right types of people to recruit.
- They may not schedule the sessions logically and effectively.
- They may give participants the wrong ideas about what they’ll be participating in.
In my latest UXmatters article, I describe these perils and provide tips to avoid them: The Perils of Client Recruiting.
Image credit: George Hodan
What’s so scary about user research? A lot, if you’re a semi-neurotic researcher. Since it’s the Halloween season, in my latest UXmatters article, I delve into some of the scariest aspects of user research, including:
- What if I fail?
- Can I learn something new?
- What if we recruit really bad participants?
- What if the research plan doesn’t work?
- What if there’s not enough time to get through everything?
- What if something goes wrong?
- What if we don’t discover anything important?
- How am I going to analyze all this data?
- How can I present all of this?
But never fear! I also provide advice about how to overcome these fears. Check it out: Fears About User Research.