There’s nothing like direct exposure to customers to convince the most hard-boiled developers and tight-fisted executives to change their stance.
3 minute read
Rudyard Kipling wrote “I Keep Six Honest Serving Men”.
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
When we’re faced with new, daunting beginnings, it’s often a good idea to start with a framework to help us structure our approach. Kipling gives us one. Let’s see how we can use it to start scratching the surface of the vast terrain of UX research.
What and why
This is about the subject and goal of our research. Why are we doing it? Are we improving an existing product or service? Are we trying to understand what we don’t know before building something new? The methods you use depend on the goal of your research. The most common purpose of user research is to validate a hypothesis. This can be done in many ways, with or without the help of quantitative data. Let’s dive into that with Kipling’s help (again).
How and when
“I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.”
Research methods are a dime a dozen. How do you know which method to start with? A quick Google search reveals words like qualitative vs quantitative research, attitudinal vs. behavioural research, generative vs evaluative research, etc. How do you begin to make sense of it? Here’s a quick cheat sheet from the Nielsen-Norman group to get you started depending on the stage of the design process you’re following.
As you can see from the above list, research is possible at every stage of the design process. Start with where you are, because the sooner you start, the sooner your learnings can have an impact on your project. If you have the opportunity, putting in the most amount of effort early is better than doing it later because it’s easier to have an impact at the start of your project. Once people start working on something, it’s harder to change course.
A major question that user researchers face while presenting their work is the validity of the research due to the context in which the research was carried out.
Natural use: The product or service is used in its natural context without any or minimal external influence. This usually leads to a variety of learnings which may or may not be relevant to your immediate research needs.
Scripted use: A moderator leads participants through a specific part of the flow to get insights relevant to your research goals.
Another challenge in UX research is to find the right audience, especially if you’re at a startup or an establishment that doesn’t have many research resources.
This is heavily dependent on your context and who your users are.
If your users aren’t easily accessible, use a test audience that is similar in terms of the goals they want to attain. While using a demographically-similar audience also works, it’s key that they have similar goals to your actual users.
If your users are accessible, recruit your users to participate in your research. This can sometimes be done through incentives related to the use of your product or service. Other times, you can get them interested by showing them how their input matters.
I once had a Facebook group of participants contributing valuable feedback on an ongoing basis because they felt they were contributing to the product development process and they liked that.
The field of UX research is vast and incredibly detailed. Its importance cannot be overstated. Teams that do their research are much closer to finding success. There’s nothing like direct exposure to customers to convince the most hard-boiled developers and tight-fisted executives to change their stance.
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