I’m happy to report that user experience is alive and well in Bulgaria. I just got back a week ago from attending and presenting at UXify 2015 in Sofia, Bulgaria. A very enthusiastic audience of over 300 people attended a day of presentations, followed by a day of in-depth workshops. UXify was the end of a month of user experience events – UX Month Sofia.
On Friday, June 19th, I presented User Research in the Wild, a presentation about visiting people in their natural environments to observe their tasks. In addition to being a how-to guide, I covered common problems you face in conducting field studies and how to solve them, and how to overcome obstacles to field research.
On Saturday, June 20th, I gave a workshop on Paper Prototyping to about 20 attendees. After an introduction to creating paper prototypes and how to test them, the participants divided into groups to create their own paper prototypes. We only had a limited time to create them (about 40 minutes), so I was very surprised by how detailed and creative their prototypes turned out in such a short period of time. Each group of two people then joined with another group to take turns conducting usability testing on their paper prototypes. Each group did four rounds of tests, switching roles, so that each person was able to experience the role of the facilitator, “the computer,” and the participant twice. The attendees really seemed to have a good time, with a lot of laughing and joking around.
In between my own presentations, I attended several interesting presentations about dashboard design, gamification, socially responsible design, and ecommerce user experience.
It was a fun trip, and it was nice to meet a lot of similar people, in another culture, who are similarly committed and enthusiastic about user experience.
I recently wrote an article in UXmatters about how the information displays in my Prius changed my driving behavior. Seeing the miles per gallon (MPG) I was getting in real time, acted like a feedback loop, causing me to make a connection between my driving actions and how they affected my gas mileage.
Something I didn’t write about, however, was another type of feedback that you get as a Prius driver – the drivers behind you. When someone drives up behind you and tailgates, that’s feedback to go faster or get out of the way. However, that feedback conflicts with the feedback from your Prius to drive economically.
To drive economically and get good gas mileage requires a steady pace and slow acceleration. That doesn’t necessarily mean slow driving. I drive 65 to 75 miles-per-hour to work, while getting about 60 miles per gallon. But it does mean that you need to avoid quickly accelerating. So being a Prius driver sometimes puts your gas-saving goals in conflict with the drive-fast goals of other drivers. There’s a reason some drivers get annoyed by Prius drivers.
Although I always drive in the right hand or middle lanes when I’m driving economically, I’ve found that the best way to drive economically is to ride along behind someone else. If there’s no one in front of you, and another driver comes up from behind, you feel pressure to go faster. If you have another driver in front of you, you have an excuse to drive economically. It’s that guy’s fault, you’re just driving behind him at a reasonable distance. So you don’t feel the pressure to speed up.
I’ve gotten my highest MPG records from driving (at a safe distance) behind a truck that was going a steady, reasonable speed (maybe 70 MPH). That allows you to ignore the feedback from drivers behind you and pay attention to the MPG display.
Sounds like I’ve put too much thought into this gas mileage thing with my Prius. Maybe, but I save money and it’s fun.
Ugh! It’s December, and I feel I have to write something. I haven’t published anything since November, and I feel like I should have at least one post a month. But it’s hard to write a blog. Finding the time to write something worthwhile is difficult. When you also publish elsewhere, as I do, it’s especially difficult. Your blog ends up as the recipient of whatever energy and ideas are left after publishing elsewhere.
Several recent developments have also made me realize how difficult it is to publish a Web magazine. These magazines are run by volunteers and are rarely money making ventures. They depend on volunteer writers and editors, who each have their own work and personal responsibilities competing with their side project – working on the Web magazine.
Last week, for example, Johnny Holland, one of the leading Web magazines focused on interaction design, announced that it was ending its run (at least for now). In November, Boxes and Arrows, perhaps the oldest UX Web magazine, announced that it was Not Dead Yet and asked for the next generation of volunteers to take over running the site.
There are still several great UX Web magazines out there. I highlight these in my latest article on UXmatters – Publishing and Presenting, Part 2: Publishing. If you’ve ever had an interest in writing or getting involved in publishing, I recommend reading my advice about the writing process and where and how to get published.
If you need motivation to start publishing or presenting, check out part one – Publishing and Presenting, Part 1: Yes, You Can! And look for part 3 coming out in the next few weeks, about presenting at conferences.
I just got back from the IA Summit 2012 in New Orleans, where I presented User Research is Unnatural (But That’s Okay). Yes, that may seem like a strange topic for a user researcher to present, but I think it’s very important to remember how strange and unnatural user research can seem for participants. The point of my presentation is that by remaining aware of the awkward and uncomfortable aspects of user research, we can take steps to minimize or eliminate those problems to get better research results.
See my slides on Slideshare: User Research is Unnatural (But That’s Okay)
This was my first time attending the IA Summit, and it was a great conference with some excellent speakers and intriguing topics. As a user researcher who more often attends UPA and CHI conferences, it was interesting to attend a more design-oriented conference. I’m already looking forward to next year’s IA Summit, which will be in Baltimore.
My latest article for UXmatters is about Communicating User Research Findings.
I’ve created a variety of different types of deliverables over the years, to communicate my findings and recommendations from user research. It can be difficult because you often have a variety of different people in the audience, from management, product owners, designers, and developers. Each brings a different level of interest in the findings.
This article discusses the considerations of choosing a deliverable format, types of deliverables, and elements of effective deliverables.
Read the entire article at UXmatters: Communicating User Research Findings.
I just published a new article in my Practical Usability column in UXmatters: Career Advice for User Researchers.
As I approached the ten year anniversary of my first job in usability, I started to reflect on all the things I’ve learned over the years. Originally, I was going to distill the main lessons I’d learned over those years into an article tentatively titled, “Ten things in Ten Years.” Well, I never got around to completing that article, and the ten year anniversary passed. Eventually, the idea evolved into career advice for people new to user research, and I finally got around to publishing it around my 11th anniversary in user research.
The article covers a lot of practical advice for people considering a career in user research, including the following topics:
- Do you want to be a User Researcher, a Designer, or both?
- Who do you want to work for?
- What type of employee do you want to be?
- Why type of projects do you want to work on?
- What value does the company you’re considering place on user research?
- Where does the company you’re considering draw the line between research and design?
- What is the prestige and reputation of the company you’re considering?
- Does the job title matter?
- Where do you want to work?
- How do you break into the field?
- Do you need a portfolio?
- How to cultivate your online presence.
- What to do once you have a job.
Read the entire article at UXmatters: Career Advice for User Researchers.
As a consultant, I work with many different clients from a variety of industries. My company, Electronic Ink, focuses on designing business systems, which means our projects are usually much more complex than the typical website.
My job as a design researcher is to uncover and understand the business needs and user needs. But even before beginning stakeholder interviews and user research sessions, I have to know something about the subject matter to ask the right questions and to understand what I’m hearing and observing. There is usually very little time at the beginning of a project to get up to speed on the subject matter. When the subject matter is very complex, I find that to be the most difficult part of the project.
I recently wrote an article for Johnny Holland (the interaction design blog) about this issue. Read the entire article: Learning the Subject Matter.
Image by Sam Breach via Flickr
What do ghost hunting and user research have in common? That’s the question I try to answer in my latest article on UXmatters: The Ghost Hunter’s Guide to User Research.
As a fan of the SyFy Network series, Ghost Hunters, I began to see parallels between the work the TAPS team did and user research. It sounds like a stretch, but there are some interesting similarities.
At first, I was a little hesitant about publishing this story and sat on it for over a year. I worried that it might be too frivolous. But as I explored the topic further, I realized this was a humorous and interesting way to look at user research, and it seemed a perfect article to publish around Halloween.
The reaction has been very positive. I expected my article to be read by the user experience community, but I was surprised to see the attention it has received from the paranormal/ghost hunting world as well.
Read the entire article at UXmatters: The Ghost Hunter’s Guide to User Research.
As a design researcher, I’ve heard a lot of reactions from clients about the user research findings, both positive and negative. Fortunately, they’ve been mostly positive, but the negative reactions make for the best stories. I’ve written about those in my latest article in UXmatters: Client Reactions to User Research Findings. It includes the following reactions:
- “Ho hum. Where are the designs?”
- “We already knew that.”
- “You’re wrong!”
- “You talked with only 12 people.”
- “Why didn’t you mention this problem?”
- “The recommendations aren’t specific enough.”
- “We could have done that ourselves.”
Read the entire article at UXmatters: Client Reactions to User Research Findings.