We’ve all read monotonous reports and struggled to remain awake during boring presentations, but must all deliverables be interminably dull? Conveying user research findings so people can understand them, believe them, and know how to act on your recommendations can be challenging. And providing enough detail without boring your audience is a difficult balance. But there are some best practices in communicating user research findings that can make them more effective—and even entertaining. Read More
If you break user research down to its essential steps—watching people perform their tasks and interviewing them—it sounds deceptively easy. However, as anyone who has conducted user research knows, it involves much more than that, and it’s a lot harder than it looks. In this two-part column, I’ll discuss some of the biggest mistakes people make when planning and conducting user research and how to avoid them.
Conducting General User Research Without Any Focus
If you have all the time and money in the world, embarking on a user-research study with the vague goal of learning about a product’s users is a fine idea. However, in the real world, you’ll rarely have the luxury to pursue such broad, undefined user-research goals. So, unless you have a lot of time, money, and a limitless number of participants, doing general, unfocused research produces general, unfocused findings. Such research rarely elicits enough information to draw useful conclusions. Read More
User research consists of two core activities: observing and interviewing. Since we’re most interested in people’s behavior, observing is the most important of these activities because it provides the most accurate information about people, their tasks, and their needs.
While interviewing is also very important, the information people provide during interviews isn’t always accurate or reliable. Often, research participants don’t know why they do things, what they really need, what they might do in the future, or how a design could be improved. To really understand what people do, you can’t just ask them, you have to observe them.
But exactly what is observation, and what does it entail? Though we all know what the word observation means and everyone knows how to look and listen, there is more to it than just pointing your eyes in a particular direction, listening, and taking notes. By doing a little research, I found many books and articles about interviewing, but surprisingly few about how to observe research participants. So, in this column, I’ll first explore what observation is and the different types of observation methods, then focus on one particularly useful, yet underused UX research method: naturalistic observation. Read More