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Scary User Research!

The Scream by Edvard Munch

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.

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Some Really Bad Ideas for User Research

I’ve heard a lot of bad ideas for user research over the years. Most of these have come from people trying to get around the time, cost, and effort of user research. I write about these in my latest UXmatters article, The Worst Ideas I’ve Heard for User Research. I discuss:

  • Management trying to offshore UX work
  • Management thinking that anyone off the street could moderate a usability test
  • Using your own employees as research participants, because you can’t get the actual users
  • Clients wanting to conceal their identities to participants
  • Making research sessions too formal and uncomfortable by reading the opening instructions off a card
  • A field study participant deciding to move the session to a conference room
  • A participant changing an individual session into a group session with coworkers
  • Teams thinking that they can save time by skipping the research report

Luckily all these bad ideas failed, but we can learn from them. Check out more in the article at UXmatters.

“innovatiebroedplaats” by verbeeldingskr8 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

User Research When You’re Sick: The Show Must Go On

Various cold medicine bottles

It happens to every user researcher at some point. You’re supposed to conduct user research sessions, and you get sick. Sometimes you know in advance. Other times it happens during the sessions. Either way, it’s usually too late to do anything about it.

So much goes into planning, recruiting, and scheduling user research sessions that by the time they’re set, they must happen. And usually the only person who knows enough to conduct the research is the researcher him or herself. So, often there’s nothing else to do but suck it up and conduct the research while sick.

However, there are things that you can do to prepare for the chance that you’ll be sick, and there are ways to minimize the effects. In my latest UXmatters article, The Show Must Go On, I provide advice about how to prepare for the eventuality of being sick, to avoid getting sick, and how to conduct research when you are sick.

Read: The Show Must Go On

“Relief is on the way” by kylestern is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Catch 22: Scoping User Research

Architectural Plan

Scoping a project’s user-research phase is a classic Catch-22 situation. Before the project begins, you have to plan the user research activities and the time involved, but you rarely have enough information to make these decisions until after the project begins. In my latest article on UXmatters, I discuss some of the problems you may encounter when trying to scope user research, and I provide advice about how to make scoping more accurate.

Check it out: Scoping User Research

Better UX Recommendations

Findings and recommendations spreadsheet

As UX researchers, we tend to focus more time on explaining our findings than in providing our recommendations. Yet, however well we explain the findings and recommendations, there comes a time when we’re not present, and the people who have to implement the recommended changes have to rely on the written recommendations and what they remember from your explanation. So it’s very important to ensure that your UX recommendations are understandable, concise, specific, believable, authoritative, actionable, feasible, flexible, prioritized, and easy to review. I provide advice on how to provide better recommendations in my latest article on UXmatters:

Providing Better UX Recommendations

Is Any User Research Better Than None?

Donkey looking at camera

Any user research is better than doing no user research, right? If you can’t reach your target users, you can do research with your company’s employees, because they’re kind of similar right? If you can’t visit people in person to see them perform their tasks, maybe you can do phone interviews or send out a survey. That’s better than nothing, right?

The truth is that it’s sometimes better not to do any user research than to do half-assed user research. I’m not saying that you always have to the perfect user research conditions or its not worth doing. In reality, we rarely have all the time we need and the perfect circumstances to conduct extensive user research. So it’s understandable that we sometimes have to cut corners and make do with what we’re able to get. However, there’s a fine line between discount user research and half-assed user research.

The danger is when you always cut corners, you can become an enabler. Your shortcuts become the norm, allowing your company to check off the user research checkbox, allowing them to say, “Yes, we do user research.” If you can’t eventually convince them to devote more time and effort to user research, sometimes it’s better to practice tough love and let them fail by not doing any user research, rather than allowing them to rely on poor quality research.

In my latest UXmatters article, I provide advice about how to know when you’re practicing half-assed user research and how to improve. Check it out: Avoiding Half-Assed User Research

Image by Spider.Dog

Prototyping Mistakes

A prototyping tool

I just published a new article on UXmatters, Avoiding Common Prototyping Mistakes. This topic came from my repeated experience making these mistakes when prototyping. There are so many great, new prototyping tools out there. It seems new tools are popping up every week.

The great thing about these new prototyping tools is that they make it so easy to create realistic looking and interactive prototypes. However, the problem is that it’s very easy to get carried away by trying to show too much in the prototype. You think, “I’ll show how this works. Well then I guess I might as well show this too.” The next thing you know, you’ve spent hours creating something really impressive but really complicated.

In this article I discuss and provide solutions for these six prototyping problems:

  • Jumping too soon into prototyping
  • Failing to plan what to prototype
  • Prototyping at the wrong fidelity
  • Getting carried away by creating too much
  • Failure to explain types of prototypes
  • Not creating a guide for navigating the prototype

 

Check out Avoiding Common Prototyping Mistakes on UXmatters.