Questioning User Research

12 Jul 2006 - 1:03pm
7 years ago
4 replies
315 reads
Steve Portigal
2004

Christopher Fahey wrote:
>about how
>common sense and individual expertise is too-often neglected in
favor of
>questionable research conclusions.

Thoughtful posts, worth checking out.

I have certainly seen the expectation that research will magically
produce the answers. I think the reliance on video edits (as
persuasive as they are) to support all the main insights is really
challenging, because sometimes the great stuff is never explicitly
said. I'm sure many of us have had the experience of telling and
retelling a story from the field and emphasizing some strong
reaction, only to find that it's not actually as clear as we thought
from the video....the person never really told the story directly,
they talked about the point you wanted, they didn't "fall out of
their chair" etc. But our memories, though inaccurate, are rich. If
it's not about truth or simply documenting reality, then it's okay.
If we want truth out of it, the more interpretive tools are probably
the wrong way to go.

In
http://www.designdirectory.com/blog/archives/design/an_introduction_to_ethnographic_research_3528.asp
I write:
1.We examine our users (be they consumers or other) in their own context
2.We develop a set of inferences (you might also call this
interpretation, or synthesis)
3.We apply our new insights to a business or design problem
otherwise, why are we doing the work?)

Point 2 - about inference - is really key for me, and I believe often
misunderstood. I think about the researcher as a piece of apparatus
that is placed into an experimental situation, and retrieved from
that environment containing a great deal of data. The person, that
is, not the tools of documentation.

Steve

Steve Portigal -- http://www.portigal.com
blog is now at http://www.portigal.com/blog

Comments

13 Jul 2006 - 10:51am
Steve Portigal
2004

>With respect to the discussion around common sense: I'm totally on
>board with the observation that common sense alone can guide us well.
>Even in a vacuum of customer insight, a skilled interaction designer
>should be able to come up with a fairly elegant, well-behaved
>product. But is it the right product? Does it behave in the best way
>for the target customers? Is it nuanced to a degree that people will
>not simply use it, they'll delight in using it?

Agreed - a designer can solve a task problem in an elegant way and
I'd say even in an elegant or beautiful way. But they don't
necessarily know what the solution means, and thus how to make the
richer design decisions. Does solving this problem or enabling this
new behavior offer the benefit of time-savings? Or better access to
my stuff? Or new connections with the world? Or legacy? What does
this thing really MEAN to people? What does the problem we are
solving MEAN? Getting to that other frame, where we'd still offer the
same functionality, but present it in a different way; that is the
tough stuff to do in our own vacuums.

Steve Portigal -- http://www.portigal.com
blog is now at http://www.portigal.com/blog

13 Jul 2006 - 10:54am
Steve Portigal
2004

>A terrific point, Sabine. I submit that up-front in-context
>"research" with customers is not in fact research at all -- it's
>simply part of the design process. It informs and inspires.

A BayCHI panel on user research led me to some of the same thoughts -
I heard the panelists talking about a design process, with research
as a stage in that process. Not all research fits this category, but
the way they were talking about it, it felt more like "design" to me.
But that notion was not very well accepted when I asked the panel
about it. I think politically they needed to have it as a different
entity with a different name (see User Research as Politics from
yesterday :)

http://www.portigal.com/blog/rambling-thoughts-on-user-research-strategies-what-works-what-does-not-work/

Steve Portigal -- http://www.portigal.com
blog is now at http://www.portigal.com/blog

13 Jul 2006 - 12:19pm
Sabine Junginger
2006

> Agreed - a designer can solve a task problem in an elegant way and I'd say
> even in an elegant or beautiful way. But they don't necessarily know what
> the solution means, and thus how to make the richer design decisions. Does
> solving this problem or enabling this new behavior offer the benefit of
> time-savings? Or better access to my stuff? Or new connections with the
> world? Or legacy? What does this thing really MEAN to people? What does
> the problem we are solving MEAN? Getting to that other frame, where we'd
> still offer the same functionality, but present it in a different way;
> that is the tough stuff to do in our own vacuums.
>
> Steve Portigal -- http://www.portigal.com blog is now at
> http://www.portigal.com/blog

I don't know if "Making Meaning-How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences" by S. Diller, N. Shedroff and D. Rhea has been mentioned on this list before. Especially Darrel, the principal and CEO of Cheskin, is emphasizing the value of design research in this effort. Keep in mind that Cheskin began as a traditional Market Research company. I recommend the book though I wish that New Riders would have done a better editing job.

Sabine
°·..·••

13 Jul 2006 - 12:21pm
Sabine Junginger
2006

> Agreed - a designer can solve a task problem in an elegant way and I'd say
> even in an elegant or beautiful way. But they don't necessarily know what
> the solution means, and thus how to make the richer design decisions. Does
> solving this problem or enabling this new behavior offer the benefit of
> time-savings? Or better access to my stuff? Or new connections with the
> world? Or legacy? What does this thing really MEAN to people? What does
> the problem we are solving MEAN? Getting to that other frame, where we'd
> still offer the same functionality, but present it in a different way;
> that is the tough stuff to do in our own vacuums.
>
> Steve Portigal -- http://www.portigal.com blog is now at
> http://www.portigal.com/blog

I don't know if "Making Meaning-How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences" by S. Diller, N. Shedroff and D. Rhea has been mentioned on this list before. Especially Darrel, the principal and CEO of Cheskin, is emphasizing the value of design research in this effort. Keep in mind that Cheskin began as a traditional Market Research company. I recommend the book though I wish that New Riders would have done a better editing job.

Sabine
°·..·••

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