In this monthly column, Ask UXmatters, our experts provide answers to our readers’ questions about a broad range of user experience matters. To get answers to your own questions about UX strategy, design, user research, or any other topic of interest to UX professionals in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your questions to: [email protected].
The following experts have contributed answers to this edition of Ask UXmatters:
- Carol Barnum—Director of User Research and Founding Partner at UX Firm; author of Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set … Test!
- Caroline Jarrett—Owner and Director at Effortmark Limited; UXmatters columnist
- Jordan Julien—Independent Experience Strategy Consultant
- Jim Ross—Senior UX Architect at Infragistics; UXmatters columnist
- Daniel Szuc—Principal and Cofounder of Apogee Usability Asia Ltd.
- Jo Wong—Principal and Cofounder of Apogee Usability Asia Ltd.
Learning About Your Users
Q: What are your favorite ways to learn about your users?—from a UXmatters reader
“I don’t think any particular method of user research is better or worse than another,” replies Jordan. “It often comes down to the evaluator over the technique. Someone really great at writing and analyzing surveys might have no clue about conducting a focus group or an ethnographic study.
“As UX professionals, it often falls to us to recommend when to involve users—and when not to. There are a lot of variables that influence a research recommendation, but usually we want to get to the truth about something. Our objective should be to recommend the best way of uncovering the most accurate truth about something users do or think. This usually involves an ongoing cycle of generating theories and testing them so we can refine our vision of users. Plus, users are constantly evolving, so we need to constantly be listening and evaluating their behavior.”
Go to Users’ Natural Environment
“There is nothing better than going out to visit people in their natural environment to talk with them and observe them performing their usual activities,” answers Jim. “That gives you the most accurate understanding of what they really do. It’s always fun and interesting to get out of the office—where you’re somewhat isolated and out of touch—and into the real world to find out what’s really going on.”
“Our favorite way to learn from our users is to go into their lives and listen to their stories,” reply Dan and Jo. “This can be either in their home, place of business, or another context and enables us to to gain perspectives beyond the limited scope of only the task or the functional lens. Doing this also provides a richer understanding of the people we design for, their personal ecosystems, and how our observations may connect together to give us clearer insights. It also lets us build a library of stories, so over time, we can identify usage patterns that may tell us what users might find valuable for future design iterations.”