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
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
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
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.
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
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
In user research, we primarily do two things – observe people and ask questions. Ideally, we want to observe people’s natural behavior, without having our presence influence what they do.
Observation sounds deceptively simple. You sit and watch what people do. It seems like anyone can do that. But to get the most value out of observation, there’s more to it than passively looking and listening.
In my latest UXmatters article, I examine what observation involves, the different types of observation methods, and explore a more rarely used method in UX research – naturalistic observation. The Role of Observation in User Research
Image courtesy of: You Belong in Longmont