UsabilityWorks is Dana Chisnell
User experience research, workshops, and recruiting.
We all pretend that these bios are written by someone else. We write them in the third person, and everything. But we all know that the person who the bio is about writes the bio.So, here I am.
What’s important about user research is understanding how best to answer the question you have. Getting the question right is tricky. I’m not an academic purist – I like to play with methods and techniques. I’ve come up with some weird approaches to answering research questions. Sometimes they even work.
- I co-authored one of the seminal books about usability testing with Jeff Rubin, Handbook of Usability Testing Second Edition. It came out in 2008, and it’s still pretty relevant.
- I like teaching non-practitioners like designers, developers, and product managers how to do user research and usability testing because I believe that you can’t make a great design without experiencing what your user is experiencing.
- My first usability test was in 1983 (for IBM on the Professional Office System).
Maybe you just read Jared Spool’s article about deconstructing delight. And maybe you want to hear my take, since Jared did such a good job of shilling for my framework.
Here’s a talk I did a couple of years ago, but have been doing for a while. Have a listen. (The post below was originally published in May, 2012.)
Everybody’s talking about designing for delight. Even me! Well, it does get a bit sad when you spend too much time finding bad things in design. So, I went positive. I looked at positive psychology, and behavioral economics, and the science of play, and hedonics, and a whole bunch of other things, and came away from all that with a framework in mind for what I call “happy design.” It comes in three flavors: pleasure, flow, and meaning.
I used to think of the framework as being in layers or levels. But it’s not like that when you start looking at great digital designs and the great experiences they are part of. Pleasure, flow and meaning end up commingled.
So, I think we need to deconstruct what we mean by “delight.” I’ve tried to do that in a talk that I’ve been giving. Here are the slides:
You can listen to audio of the talk from the IA Summit here.
There’s a lot of crap going on in the world right now: terrorism, two major wars, and worldwide economic collapse. Let’s not forget the lack of movement on climate change and serious unrest in the Middle East and other places.
People trust governments less than ever — perhaps because of the transparency that ambient technology brings — leading to more regulation of privacy and security, but also to protests. Protests that started in Egypt have rippled around the world.
This wave started with a butterfly. Not the butterfly of chaos theory, but there is a metaphor here that should not be missed: when a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon rainforest, there are ripple effects that you might not realize. The butterfly I am talking about is the butterfly ballot used in Palm Beach County, Florida in the US 2000 presidential election.
|Palm Beach County, Florida November 2000 ballot
What if you had a near-perfect participant show rate for all your studies? The first time it happens, it’s surprising. The next few times, it’s refreshing — a relief. Teams that do great user research start with the recruiting process, and they come to expect near perfect attendance.
Secret 1: Participants are people, not data points
The people who opt in to a study have rich, complex lives that offer rich, complex experiences that a design may or may not fit into. People don’t always fit nicely into the boxes that screening questionnaires create.
Screeners can be constraining not in a good way. An agency that isn’t familiar with your design or your audience or both — and may not be experienced with user research — may eliminate people who could be great in user research or usability testing. Teams we work with find that participants who are selected through open-ended interviews conducted voice-to-voice become engaged and invested in the study. The conversation helps the participant know they’re interesting to you, and that makes them feel wanted. The team learns about variations in the user profile that they might want to design for. Continue reading.
One of the first things people say when they call up looking for help with recruiting is that they want to recruit “12 for 8” or “20 for 15”. They know what they want to end up with. They’ve got to get data. Managers are showing up to observe. They’ve gone through a lot to get a study to happen at all. They don’t want to risk putting a study together only to get less data than they need. So, compensating for a show rate of between 60% and 80% means over-recruiting.
Even though a recruiting agency probably won’t charge for no-shows, those no-shows can be costly in lots of ways. Continue reading.
There are lots of great sources of participants for usability studies and other user research. The key: know what behavioryou want to learn about. For example:
- Playing online games
- Planning for retirement
- Shopping for a new car
- Treating a chronic illness
Note that there’s nothing about demographics here.
After you identify the behaviors you want to learn about — preferably by observing people using a design rather than just asking them about it — brainstorming ideas for where to find them can be fun. There are loads of options. Continue reading.
For many of us, usability testing is a necessary evil. For others, it’s too much work, or it’s too disruptive to the development process. As you might expect, I have issues with all that. It’s unfortunate that some teams don’t see the value in observing people use their designs. Done well, it can be an amazing event in the life of a design. Even done very informally, it can still show up useful insights that can help a team make informed design decisions. But I probably don’t have to tell you that.
Usability testing can be enormously elevating for teams at all stages of UX maturity. In fact, there probably isn’t nearly enough of it being done. Even on enlightened teams that know about and do usability tests, they’re probably not doing it often enough. There seems to be a correlation between successful user experiences and how often and how much the designers and developers spend time observing users. (hat tip Jared Spool) Continue reading.
There are some brilliant questions on Quora. This morning, I was prompted to answer one about recruiting.
The question asker asked, How do I recruit prospective customers to shadow as a part of a user-centered design approach? The asker expanded, thusly:
I’m interested in shadowing prospective customers in order to better understand how my tool can fit into their life and complement, supplement, or replace the existing tools that they use. How do I find prospective customers? How do I convince them to let me shadow them?
Seemed like a very thoughtful question. I have some experience with recruiting for field studies and other user research, so I thought I might share my lessons learned. Here’s my answer. Would love to hear yours. Continue reading.
How many of you have run usability tests that look like this: Individual, one-hour sessions, in which the participant is performing one or more tasks from a scenario that you and your team have come up with, on a prototype, using bogus or imaginary data. It’s a hypothetical situation for the user, sometimes, they’re even role-playing.
Anyone? That’s what I thought. Me too. I just did it a couple of weeks ago.
But that model of usability testing is broken. Why? Because one of the first things we found out is that the task we were asking people to do – doing some basic financial estimates based on goals for retirement – involved more than the person in the room with me.
For the husbands, the task involved their wives because the guys didn’t actually know what the numbers were for the household expenses. For the women, it was their children, because they wanted to talk to them about medical expenses and plans for assisted living. For younger people it was their parents or grandparents, because they wanted to learn from them how they’d managed to save enough to help them through school and retire, too. Continue reading.