Hi – it’s great to see you here in 2017! Join us as we prepare for a year of growth and change in our User Experience field.
In the December 2017 newsletter, we talked about how a well-designed usability study can tell you how users respond to your design and give you plenty of input on how to improve it. We also talked about the importance of planning the study and including your key stakeholders in that process, not just winging it on your own.
So now that you’ve identified the objectives of the study, your target participants, and what tasks you’ll give participants during the test, you’re ready to run the study!
Step 1: Greet participants
You’ll need 5 or 6 participants for your study. Schedule each person individually (focus groups are the F-word of user research) and arrange a quiet space where you can meet. Once you’re with the participant, don’t forget to be personable and put your participant at ease. Greet the person, thank them for coming in, and chat for a moment to help them relax. Introduce the study by saying “I’m going to show you our site and get your input. There are no wrong answers, and please be honest – you won’t hurt my feelings. I’d like you to narrate your thoughts out loud as you work through the site so I know what’s on your mind.”
Step 2: Run the study
There are two mistakes I see people commonly make when they first start running their own research: they talk too much and they ask leading questions. The problem with both is that you bias your results by planting ideas in the participant’s mind that they would not have come up with on their own. If you can conquer these (bad) habits your results will be infinitely more useful.
Instead of asking leading questions (“Do you like the red button more than the green one?”) ask open-ended questions (“Tell me more about your response to the red button.”). Instead of talking too much, just give the participant the task (“Find a recipe you want to make for dinner tonight”) then stay silent, watch what the person does with your site, and wait for the person to talk. Asking “tell me more” is a great way to bring out more feedback in a non-leading, non-threatening way.
Get one of your key stakeholders to take notes while you run the study, just ask them to remain silent just like you will be. At the end you can invite the notetaker to ask any questions of the participant. Don’t forget to tell the stakeholders about the non-leading question thing.
Most importantly, don’t forget to relax! Running the study is the most fun part of the process so allow yourself to enjoy it.
Step 3: Going from raw data to insights
I think about data at many levels: there’s the raw data (e.g., “participant A could not find the Join button”), the trends that come out of that (e.g., “most people couldn’t find the Join button”), and the insights that come from those trends (e.g., “the Join button needs to be more prominent”).
First, get your stakeholders in a room and determine what you saw. The easiest ways to organize insights is to look at each task separately. What did you learn from all 5 participants about how they found recipes? Then go onto the next task.
Once you’ve got the insights, I suggest you prioritize them into levels from severe (people could not complete the task, you really need to address this issue) to irritant (people were mildly annoyed), so you can easily identify the things that need to be fixed right now vs. later or not at all.
Then you’re ready to think about possible solutions to address the insights you identified. Caution: don’t confuse insights with solutions. An insight would be something like “The Join button needs to be more prominent” and a solution would be “Make the Join button red.”
And there you have it! You’ve just successfully run your first usability study. From here you can continue to deepen your usability testing skills.
Step 4: Hone your skills
Getting a quick intro is great to start but ongoing mentoring and feedback is key to really deepening your skills. There is SO much info available, from online courses to books to in-person courses. Here are some to get you started.
- Steve Krug’s books Don’t Make Me Think and Rocket Surgery Made Easy are classics for a reason. These are a great place to start.
- If you search “User Experience Research” on Medium you’ll find posts by awesome UX leaders around the globe.
- User Research for Everyone. Set of 8 talks by leaders in UX Research. Highly recommended!
- Observing the User Experience. The book of everything research, with detailed instructions on setting up and running usability studies and every other kind of study.
- If you really want to get serious about adding research to your skillset, I suggest you take a longer term course so you really get to practice. Santa Monica College, UCLA Extension, and CSU Fullerton all have courses in UX research that will give you an opportunity to learn and practice techniques with a mentor.
About Carol Rossi
As a UX conference designer, I follow trends in the field, and create themes for my conferences that reflect the most buzzed about topics. One of the recurring themes in 2016 was “empowerment”, which will be the theme for my upcoming UX Copenhagen conference in March: “Empowering the End User With User Experience Design.” The conference will focus on how successful user experience (UX) design empowers people, and how good experience design must center around giving humans a sense of self-efficacy, while at the same time focusing on how a product makes them feel. As for 2017, I see three important directions for UX:
1. I see behavioral design trending in UX, and I believe that it will become imperative for UX professionals to have a much deeper understanding of this field. The return of human-centered design is a direction that I have been advocating for, and that I am happy to see it re-emerging. We will need to know more about human behavior to study not only how our product makes our customers feel, but also to learn specifically about customers’ expectations, and how this aligns with the actual experience.
2. I see UX’ers becoming strategic business partners. After working in the field of UX for almost two decades, and spending most of that time fighting for the importance of UX, I finally see UX design becoming a significant factor in strategic business planning in upper-level management. More UX professionals are being hired to infuse UX/design thinking methods into the company’s DNA, and I see businesses profiting from this change.
3. I think that there will be an increased focus on information ethics in UX. In a world where AI data processing is omnipresent and unavoidable, interfaces are changing, and even becoming invisible. We need to be sure that information is being used ethically, and that people understand how their data, and data about them, is being used, especially as interfaces disappear. Looking ahead, I am super excited to be in the field as it broadens and develops. Here’s to a great new year in UX!
Helle Martens is an experienced UX freelancer. Her main focus is creating user-friendly solutions to technically complicated digital systems. For the past three years, she has convened several successful UX and behavioral design conferences. Learn more at hellemartens.com, and on LinkedIn.
1. Get your research out of the echo chamber. We do too much of our research with the people who are easy to find and easy for us to interact with…people too much like ourselves. Expand your recruiting to people who might be less digitally literate, interact in different ways, come from a different culture. You’ll have to make an effort to make these people part of your research: Recruit through community organizations, schedule sessions when they are available, and go to them instead of making them come to you. It’s worth the effort. I can guarantee is that they will give you new perspectives to bring to your work.
2. Design for extremes. Get out of the habit for designing for that ideal situation in the center of the curve and think about the edges. This includes extreme users – very low and very high abilities; and extreme contexts – when things go wrong or assumptions break. Is your product a good experience in the audio? Can someone use it in a bouncy vehicle or if they don’t have much dexterity? Does it translate well across languages and literacy gaps? We know how to be responsive to different devices – now add being responsive to different people.
3. Design with and not for. This is a mantra of civic design and civic tech. It’s a reminder to think about the people who will use what we create as partners, not ‘research subjects.’ Find ways to make them your partners in exploring the context of use or reacting to prototypes. Let them teach you about their lives and tell you their stories. They may not be skilled UXers, but through you they can have a voice in creating the things (you hope) they will use.
At the Center for Civic Design, Whitney Quesenbery brings her UX skills and passion for understanding the story behind the data to making every interaction with government easy, effective and even delightful. Because democracy is a design problem. Follow her at @whitneyq and @civicdesign
1. Go Rogue. Make a habit of testing your designs in very early stages. It took me an hour to create the sketch below, phrase a task (“Book a flight to Punta Cana”), and launch a first-click test. Results helped me design a much better next iteration. You can do it too. Within the hour.
2. Go Deep. When you face a design challenge, first fall in love with the problem rather than jump to solving it. Falling in love with a problem means you make an effort to learn what is the problem, why it happens, who has it, how much they care about it, how do they solve it today, are they happy with how they solve it, why or why not, etc. It’s much more important to deeply fall in love with real problems real people really care about first, rather than developing the coolest app ever.
3. Just Go! Stop talking about how user research is important and actually get up from your seat, take action, and do it. It’ll make you more honest about what you do, and so much more confident about your design. A small tip within a tip: research is most beneficial when you validate assumptions about which you are mostly confident. You’d be surprised!
Tomer Sharon is VP, Head of UX at WeWork in New York City leading a team that designs work and living spaces, communities, and services around the world. Formerly a senior user experience researcher at Google Search, Tomer is the author of the book, Validating Product Ideas through Lean User Research (2016) and author of, It’s Our Research: Getting stakeholder buy-in for user experience research projects (2012). He founded and led The Israeli Chapter of the User Experience Professionals’ Association and has been preaching and teaching UX at Google’s LaunchPad program, a bootcamp for early-stage startups around the world, in conferences, and at Treehouse. Tomer holds a master’s degree in Human Factors in Information Design from Bentley University in Waltham, MA. He is @tsharon on Twitter and Instagram.
Tomer’s Book Discount
Get a 20% discount on Tomer’s recent book, Validating Product Ideas Through Lean User Research, when you purchase it directly from Rosenfeld Media using the code tomernews with free shipping in the US.
1. Pay attention: Information Architecture, user experience and content strategy will become popular in seemingly unrelated disciplines. The online behavior world has changed beyond our current horizons. Tools that users deploy to find our experiences have become “smarter” through machine learning algorithms that use heuristics designed by computer engineers. Scared yet? You should be. All is not lost though. This appropriately named artificial intelligence is limited while our ability to creatively reverse engineer is not. Pay attention to the SEO and data science communities read as much as you can until your brain hurts. Like marathon training, eventually you’ll find yourself understanding more and your brain hurting less. I’ve given you a “starter kit” below.
2. Be Astonished: 2017 will be a year of cross-channel collaboration like we’ve never known before. Have you noticed that we’re always talking about the same things? Service design. Storytelling, personas, taxonomy. We focus on our standard core areas at the exclusion of the world that surrounds them. I see 2017 as the emergence of true cross-channel collaboration and not just within our UX/IA/CS mini-greek systems. Last year, Giles Colborne spoke at the IA Summit on algorithms. I have been a constant irritant about user experience and information architecture at SEO, Marketing and business conferences. Others within our ranks have peaked over the walls of Castle Black and found an illuminating landscape that is hungry for what we have. We should do the same. Break out of your routine. Find webinars and meetups outside of your discipline and support them.
3. Tell (and do something) About It: 2017 becomes a year where we broaden the audience and participants in conversations focused on what constitutes intelligence and experience. Have you looked around at our conferences? Pretty monochromatic when it comes to diversity. We talk a lot about it. The conferences all have impactful statements about their commitment to it. Yet, I look around the room and see lots of white, upper middle class individuals. On stage and behind the podium, we find the usual suspects. 2017 will be the year that our communities take diversity head on; starting with the 18th IA Summit, March 22-26, Vancouver, Canada. Co-chair Dave Cooksey has done a brilliant job of bringing action to the words with submission mentoring along with planned on-site activities.Let us build on his good work. Reach back as well as forward. Find a way to encourage individuals of diverse race, gender-identification, belief-systems, all types, abilities and interests. to consider a career in computer human interaction, information architecture, user experience and content strategy. Volunteer to be part of career days at local high schools. Make diversity a focus for your work (accessibility anyone?). Shows like “Halt and Catch Fire” made nerdy computer engineers interesting and sexy. Let’s do the same for our fields.
Marianne Sweeny is the co-chair of IA Summit 2017, an information architect, a SEO renegade, and a user experience advocate that believes cross-discipline is where we beat the bots. She is also a lecturer and a speaker based in Seattle. Be sure to say hello to her at the IA Summit 2017 in Vancouver from March 22 to 26.
1. Get yourself ready to design for new technologies — I know there are plenty of apps, software and websites that still need to be designed and re-designed, but if you are in the field of UX for more than the next 1-2 years then you need to get up to speed on designing the user experience of what is to come, including:
a) the UX of virtual reality,
b) the UX of voice-only virtual assistants (Echo, Siri and so on),
c) the UX of augmented reality,
d) the UX of social robots, and more.
Set a 2017 resolution to become familiar with the UX of at least one of these products that you haven’t designed for yet.
2. Get ready to design for younger generations — If you are between the ages of 20 and 80, realize that a new generation of users is coming up that has different expectations than you have for technology. People who are 35 and up are used to designing for people in a different generation, but if you are younger than 35, especially if you are in your 20’s be aware that you (like everyone else!) have generational biases and expectations that are different from the teens of today and younger. Spend some time watching people who are 10-20 use technology so you can start to understand their mental models.
3. Read at least 3 new books in 2017. There are so many great books that have direct applicability to UX out now. It can be hard to make time to read a book, but it’s worth it. Make a list of the top 3 you want to read and then set aside some time every week to make progress.
Susan Weinschenk has a Ph.D. in Psychology, is Chief Behavioral Scientist and CEO at The Team W, Inc, and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Wisconsin. She consults with Fortune 1000 companies, start-ups, governments and non-profits. Dr. Weinschenk is the author of several books, including 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People, and How To Get People To Do Stuff. Clients include Medtronic, Walmart, Disney, Amazon, and the European Union Commission.
Interaction Design Foundation (IDF) teams up with The Los Angeles User Experience Meetup
IDF’s Los Angeles Chapter and LA UX Meetup are joining forces in an effort to bring high quality UX learning opportunities and career advancing activities to Los Angeles UX professionals. The Interaction Design Foundation offers Ivy-League UX certificate courses to its members and the local chapter provides in-person opportunities to connect with UX professionals in the Los Angeles area.
Membership Benefits | Join IDF now – 3 months free!
- Comprehensive, instructor-led and instructor-graded online courses – beginner, intermediate and advanced levels
- Ivy League-level education in UX, Product Design and Human-Computer Interaction
- All courses are free to members with no additional costs and no extra fees. No limits either.
- Course materials are developed by leading practitioners as well as by academics from top-tier universities like Stanford University, MIT.
- Course certificates issued by the Interaction Design Foundation are recognized by industry-leading corporations.
- Membership provides in person opportunities to get to know local UX peers and pros and visiting UX thought leaders, speakers and authors. Be sure to form lasting relationships with members in our local UX community. It’s a part of managing your career.
The Foundation’s Executive Board and top leadership ensure the courses are of the highest caliber.
Join the Interaction Design Foundation and make a difference in your career trajectory! It’s your responsibility to keep those UX skills sharp and not fall behind in this fast paced and ever changing field. Can you afford not to?
Rosenfeld Media – 20% off of Tomer Sharon’s latest book – Validating Product Ideas Through Lean User Research, when you purchase it directly from Rosenfeld Media using the code tomernews with free shipping in the US. Get 20% off your copy of Tomer Sharon’s latest book.
Interaction Design Foundation – 3 Months free – Get your very generous 3 months free when you purchase an annual IDF membership. Interaction Design Foundation is an online community offering affordable Ivy league-level design education. As a member, you can take as many classes as you prefer without any limits or extra fees and receive course certification. All courses are led and graded by instructors and as a member, you will have access to an online community where you can turn to for help, make connections and receive career advice! Sign up for Interaction Design Foundation membership now!
Rosenfeld Media – 20% off of Steve Portigal’s new book – “Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries — User Research War Stories” by Steve Portigal is available from Rosenfeld Media. To get the discount, be sure to purchase your book from Rosenfeld Media, not Amazon. Discount code: la-meetups. Get 20% off your copy of Steve Portigal’s new book.
UX Kits – 35% off anything digital from UXKits
Look professional fast with these portfolio-friendly, beautiful and functional UX deliverable templates. Offer is good from Jan. 25 – Feb. 8 (2 weeks), Discount code: laux2017. Get 35% off your professional-looking UX templates.
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The holiday season is here! We hope that you are connecting with friends and family and planning ahead for a great 2017. This issue is packed with forward-thinking UX ideas, including essential UX wisdom from Carol Rossi. Dig in!