Or, more accurately, stopping it being weird. This refers to the problem that most psychology research is conducted on people that are western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic.
Tim Kadlec considers the implication this has on our understanding of how people use the web.
We’ve known for a while that the worldwide web was becoming increasingly that: worldwide. As we try to reach people in different parts of the globe with very different daily realities, we have to be willing to rethink our assumptions. We have to be willing to revisit our research and findings with fresh eyes so that we can see what holds true, what doesn’t, and where.
Jared Spool tells the story of a bookkeeper who became frustrated using Google Sheets because it didn’t have a double underline function.
To keep [usability] testing simple and under control, we often define the outcomes we want. For example, in testing Google Spreadsheet, we might have a profit and loss statement we’d want participants to make. To make it clear what we were expecting, we might show the final report we’d like them to make.
Since we never thought about the importance of double underlines, our sample final report wouldn’t have them. Our participant, wanting to do what we’ve asked of her, would unlikely add double underlines in. Our bias is reflected in the test results and we won’t uncover the missing expectation.
He suggests interview-based task design as a way of finding these missing expectations. Start a session with an interview to discover these expectations. Then construct a usability test task based on that.
I recently ran hybrid interviews and usability tests. That was for expediency. I didn’t base tasks on what I’d found in the interview. But it’s good to know I wasn’t completely barking up the wrong tree. I plan to use this approach in future.
How do you stop yourself, as a user researcher, biasing the results? An important topic for user researchers to consider. (It’s also an excellent excuse to re-tell the story about Clever Hans, the horse who everyone thought could count, until they realised he was simply reacting to subtle, unintentional cues from his trainer.)
I recently undertook some usability testing, where I was asking people to complete tasks that I didn’t know how to complete myself. This meant I was less likely to bias the participant. But it was a strange experience for me, and it made me less certain about how to conduct the test.
The University of Edinburgh Website and Communications team has recently been heavily involved in a pilot project to improve the journey of prospective online learning students, from investigation to offer. Read about our user research approach and how we ensured project outputs met the needs of users.
Chris How’s tips on doing better interviews. This is essentially a text version of his session at UX Scotland, which I wrote about on the University of Edinburgh Website Programme blog.
This is the final blog post in my short series about the user research I led on for the API Service at the University of Edinburgh.
This post covers the second half of the research, where we brought focus to the detailed picture developed in the first phase, and began to prioritise the issues to help the API Service team direct their ongoing work.
This article is a bit of a sales pitch, but I enjoyed this research into how intuitive the Dewey Decimal Classification is.
An exploration of the risks surrounding undertaking user-centred design. For me, the lesson is to put the same sort of effort into designing your research and your interactions with your users as you would into the product your research is for.
I have been leading some user research for a project at the University of Edinburgh to develop API Service. This post on the University Website Programme blog outlines the steps we went through in the first phase of the research. This included interviewing developers, running workshops, and developing personas and journey maps.
This has been a successful and rewarding project. It has been particularly interesting for me to do some UX work that wasn’t necessarily to do with a website. There will be a couple more blog posts about it to come.
A belter of an article on why it is difficult to persuade people to undertake user research:
Research is simply asking questions about how the world works. And asking questions about how the world works threatens established authority.
I especially love the section “Bad research is good theatre”:
Focus groups look like how people imagine research looks. In a special room, controlled. But just because you have a 2-way mirror doesn’t make it anything more than a tea party. Actual ethnographic research happens where the people you’re studying do the thing you want to learn about. It’s often unsatisfyingly messy and low tech.
Fake research makes people money, and it makes people in charge feel good, but it’s useless and potentially dangerous to a design project.
So how do you get decision-makers to see the light? Understand them as people, like a good UXer should!
One of the hardest things about design or user research is convincing people that it actually needs to take place. That is especially maddening when working for an research organisation.
(Researchers themselves are sometimes the most reluctant to undertake user research before spending serious amounts of money on ineffective websites.)
So this snippet, among a series of useful rules of thumb, made me cheer. 🙌
If you’ve ever worked with a leader who was resistant to doing qualitative research as part of a million dollar project, ask yourself whether they would skip doing their own research before buying a $50,000 car.
How following Louis Theroux’s techniques can improve your interviews as a UX researcher.
An entertaining post with some good advice as well.