Research methods when you only have 2-3 hours or 2-3 days

8 Jul 2009 - 7:23am
5 years ago
17 replies
1136 reads
Todd Warfel
2003

So, yesterday I asked what your favorite methods for rapid research
were. Nobody responded. Does that mean that no one here is using
research to inform your designs? Are you guys all just winging it?

Do you just skip the research phase if your client tells you "we don't
have time."? I realize this group is geared more towards design or
organizing information, but how do you inform your decisions? Have we
gotten so complacent that we just go with our gut or based on our past
knowledge?

Come on people. If you only have a few hours or a few days to produce
some research, what method(s) do you use?

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
Principal Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

Comments

8 Jul 2009 - 8:04am
EugeniaOrtiz
2009

What kind of research?

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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8 Jul 2009 - 8:09am
Jesse Zolna
2008

Surely you have some suggestions, lets hear them. Here are a few off
the top of my head:

Competitive analysis, analytics, ask client for existing research
Find where users hang online and read what they are saying, search
twitter for references ...
Stakeholder interviews
Survey people in my database or with a pop-up on existing site
(survey can included visuals .. does not have to be all verbal)
Go to Starbucks and trade coffee for opinions or to observe as they
attempt a task (or man on the street interviews)
Post questions on related industry/product message board, or other
social media
Online card sort, 5 second test, amazon turk
Friends and family user testing

And the most useful method: Convince them to make time for testing
up front to save time and money in the long run!

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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8 Jul 2009 - 8:55am
Chrystel Black
2007

Hey Todd,
If I'm given a few hours (which probably I'll never accept, but for the sake of your question, let's play the game) I'll definitely count on my know-how and experience (16 years) to provide design recommendations. And express to my customer many disclaimers...
When given a few days (let's assume 10 days), we'll perform what we call rapid contextual analysis, which is a mashup of many information gathering techniques: litterature review, competitive analysis, traffic logs analysis, customer complaints on forums and Twits analysis, SME interviews, and so on. Anything that can give us knowledge on the users and their context of use when you cannot go on the field and observe. This will give us some understanding of what people are doing, but never on how, which we'll have to imagine.
Then, during the design phase, we'll literally confront our design hypothesis with real users, recruited down in the street, (I love Jesse's idea to recruit in Starbucks - why not ?) performing "on-the-spot" usability testing, let's say 10-20 minutes individual interviews with 3 recruits per user profile.

8 Jul 2009 - 8:04am
Todd Warfel
2003

So, you create a questionnaire and hit local venues.?

On Jul 8, 2009, at 8:54 AM, Fabian A wrote:

> Depending what is the product the client is trying to communicate...
> it could be getting information from a local retail store and just
> do a questionnaire about their customers and questions about the
> product. Questions can range from expectations what they see
> important on the website, or what would help them in getting their
> task done on a website. that would take about a few hours... that
> would build up at least persona(s) of their customers.
>
> thats one..
>
> Fabian

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
Principal Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

8 Jul 2009 - 9:13am
Kim McGalliard
2006

If I have limited time, or if I don't have budget or for political reasons we can't actually talk to people, I use community/social media sites like Facebook, Myspace and Ning to find communities of people that might be relevant. Facebook has a lot of very active special interest groups that are often open to anyone to read and participate. In the past I have gotten permission form my client to post questions on community groups and web forums to ask people specific questions.

I've also gotten clients to do more internal stakeholder type interviews with different groups of people who aren't directly involved in the project. These can be done over the phone and don't take much time. You do get a more internal point of view, but often it's better than nothing.

It really depends on what type of project/site you are working on and who your target audience is.

Kim

----- Original Message ----
From: Todd Zaki Warfel <lists at toddwarfel.com>
To: IXDA list <discuss at ixda.org>; IAI Members <iai-members at iainstitute.org>
Sent: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 8:23:28 AM
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Research methods when you only have 2-3 hours or 2-3 days

So, yesterday I asked what your favorite methods for rapid research were. Nobody responded. Does that mean that no one here is using research to inform your designs? Are you guys all just winging it?

Do you just skip the research phase if your client tells you "we don't have time."? I realize this group is geared more towards design or organizing information, but how do you inform your decisions? Have we gotten so complacent that we just go with our gut or based on our past knowledge?

Come on people. If you only have a few hours or a few days to produce some research, what method(s) do you use?

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
Principal Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
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8 Jul 2009 - 9:32am
jasonrobb
2009

Todd et al.,

Awesome! I'm so glad you asked this question...

The current state of my company culture allows me literally no time
for testing people outside of our organization. So when we want to
test some new idea, we usually try it on our own internal resources,
student advisers and the dev team.

Recruiting in a coffee shop is an awesome idea. I wonder if I could
get the gumption to try it. What does this process look like? "Hey
I'll buy your coffee if you try our site, it'll take 10
minutes"... a lot of people are going for coffee to break. How
successful has this method been for you, Jesse?

Cheers,

Jason R.

--
Jason Robb
Experience Design & Implementation

http://jasonrobb.com
http://uxboston.com
http://uiscraps.tumblr.com

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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8 Jul 2009 - 10:01am
Alla Zollers
2008

I personally feel really uncomfortable making any kind of design
decisions without a minimal effort at research, to me it just feels
like guessing. When I am not given enough time, I do much of what has
already been listed:
-competitive analysis
-get marketing data (better than nothing)
-talk to customer service reps, talk to sales people (aka the people
who actually interact with the customers daily)
-check out analytics/logs
-figure out who in my network fits the target audience and call them
up

Jason, regarding recruiting at Starbucks, just hop a squat a table
and put up a sign that says FREE coffee (in big letters) for 10
minutes of your time (or something similar). You might also want to
let the employees at Starbucks know what you are doing, don't want
to get thrown out for "soliciting" :) Good luck!

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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8 Jul 2009 - 10:19am
Phil Chung
2007

Todd,

We use structured interviews, focus groups, and visits with SMEs / end users -- questionnaires only if it's a repeated thing and they're already designed, otherwise free response generally yields richer data and are less tedious to design and analyze.

If reporting / analytics are available (historical data) of course we leverage that as well as conduct lit reviews of similar work; even do a web search for blogs / reviews about customer experiences with our products / services or competitors products / services.

A quick visit to the store / site / etc. (e.g. mystery shopping) also works too, if I need context to design.

If you mean testing, paper prototypes or roundtable / woz type testing with the design team (e.g. test verbiage). All or some part of these can be turned around in a 1-2 days or even a few hours!

phil

________________________________
From: Todd Zaki Warfel <lists at toddwarfel.com>
To: Fabian A <sprocklab at gmail.com>
Cc: IXDA list <discuss at ixda.org>
Sent: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 9:04:47 AM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Research methods when you only have 2-3 hours or 2-3 days

So, you create a questionnaire and hit local venues.?

On Jul 8, 2009, at 8:54 AM, Fabian A wrote:

> Depending what is the product the client is trying to communicate... it could be getting information from a local retail store and just do a questionnaire about their customers and questions about the product. Questions can range from expectations what they see important on the website, or what would help them in getting their task done on a website. that would take about a few hours... that would build up at least persona(s) of their customers.
>
> thats one..
>
> Fabian

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
Principal Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

8 Jul 2009 - 10:21am
Jesse Zolna
2008

The coffee shop is one version of the man on the street approach, which can be done on the subway, in the park etc. It does take some gumption, but more than that it takes the feeling that this HAS to be done. Once you convince yourself you have no other choice, you will get it done.

I will stake a place out for a bit and get comfortable (and caffeinated). When I decide it is time to perform, I choose a target mostly on gut (in addition to visible target user characteristics) and follow the three second rule: decide if they are a good candidate in 3 seconds or move on. If you observe carefully, you can tell if someone is more or less likely to be in a relaxed and flexible mood. Just straight to the point "Hi, my name is X, and I am designing X. I need feedback from everyday people like you to help make it better. If you'll go through it with me for ten minutes while you drink your coffee, I'll buy your coffee." If they say yes, bring them to your table. The approach is often awkward, and you will certainly hear a lot of 'no', but the outcome is rewarding. You can do a couple people here and there without much issue, but if you plan to spend hours there, you might talk to management.

Sometimes getting a pair of people is also fun.

It is easier with mobile apps.

Having a camera-person (in public spaces) to make it more like a news interview can help people 'get it'.

-Jesse
__________________
Jesse S. Zolna, Ph.D.

________________________________
From: Jason Robb <jason at jasonrobb.com>
To: discuss at ixda.org
Sent: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 10:32:24 AM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Research methods when you only have 2-3 hours or 2-3 days

Todd et al.,

Awesome! I'm so glad you asked this question...

The current state of my company culture allows me literally no time
for testing people outside of our organization. So when we want to
test some new idea, we usually try it on our own internal resources,
student advisers and the dev team.

Recruiting in a coffee shop is an awesome idea. I wonder if I could
get the gumption to try it. What does this process look like? "Hey
I'll buy your coffee if you try our site, it'll take 10
minutes"... a lot of people are going for coffee to break. How
successful has this method been for you, Jesse?

Cheers,

Jason R.

--
Jason Robb
Experience Design & Implementation

http://jasonrobb.com
http://uxboston.com
http://uiscraps.tumblr.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=43514

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

8 Jul 2009 - 11:29am
Marc Rettig
2004

Hello,
Will you hate me for starting my reply with "it depends?" You haven't
narrowed the question to a particular stage of the product cycle, for
example. So I'll assume in this group you're talking about detailed design
of a web site or piece of software (as opposed to opportunity discovery or
concept exploration on the front end, or evaluation on the back end).

If context of use is important:
Put the priority on getting out there. Use friends and family, pull strings,
whatever it takes to get first-hand exposure to the slice of life you're
about to affect with your choices. This is especially true if you're
designing for a particular activity or task. You HAVE to watch it being
done.

If variety of use is important:
Sometimes you're trying to address a bewildering or unknown variety of uses.
If I only had a few days, I would either get out on the street / into the
context and do intercept interviews, preferably with some prop or stimulus
to focus the conversation, or gather a couple of groups for a facilitated
session. Not a focus group, but group elicitation activities or even role
play.

There are certainly many other "if"s to consider, but maybe most important:
When time is really ridiculously short, then don't fool yourself that you'll
be able to get reliable, actionable data and translate it into useful
insights and frameworks. Your time is probably better spent building a
bridge between the team and the people whose lives they are about to affect.
A bridge of empathy and desire to please, built from personal knowledge and
experience. Take the 2-3 days or 2-3 hours and get everybody out of the
office, out into the world to meet people and talk to them. Or at the very
very least, shoot some video and show it to the team. Then facilitate them
toward a statement that describes the intention they all buy in to about the
difference their work will make for those people.

Or just say no:
To answer your last question, "Do you just skip the research phase if the
client says we don't have time?" I try to have a conversation. "Let's step
back for a second. Are you prepared to absorb the cost later of building and
shipping the wrong thing? Because that is the risk you are raising by
skipping the investment in research now." If that conversation fails to lead
anywhere, as a consultant I then have the option of turning down the
project. I say no. I won't design something without first understanding the
people, activities and contexts I am affecting. If I was on an internal
team,... well that's another thread. ;-)

- Marc

-----Todd Zaki Warfel wrote:
So, yesterday I asked what your favorite methods for rapid research were.
Nobody responded. Does that mean that no one here is using research to
inform your designs? Are you guys all just winging it?

Do you just skip the research phase if your client tells you "we don't have
time."? I realize this group is geared more towards design or organizing
information, but how do you inform your decisions? Have we gotten so
complacent that we just go with our gut or based on our past knowledge?

Come on people. If you only have a few hours or a few days to produce some
research, what method(s) do you use?

Cheers!

8 Jul 2009 - 5:40pm
fritzism
2009

I'm with Marc, we work introduce clients to the process and the
benefits therein and if we disagree too deeply we walk
away---Otherwise you're being setup for failure (even clients are
ignorant that they're causing this) at least for large, complex
projects (

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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8 Jul 2009 - 6:14pm
Chauncey Wilson
2007

Here are a few methods;

The bridge method
Futures workshops
Claims analysis
Q-sorting
Reality mapping/CUTA/CARD
Predictive task analysis/supergoaling
Free listing

Chauncey

On Wed, Jul 8, 2009 at 8:23 AM, Todd Zaki Warfel<lists at toddwarfel.com> wrote:
> So, yesterday I asked what your favorite methods for rapid research were.
> Nobody responded. Does that mean that no one here is using research to
> inform your designs? Are you guys all just winging it?
>
> Do you just skip the research phase if your client tells you "we don't have
> time."? I realize this group is geared more towards design or organizing
> information, but how do you inform your decisions? Have we gotten so
> complacent that we just go with our gut or based on our past knowledge?
>
> Come on people. If you only have a few hours or a few days to produce some
> research, what method(s) do you use?
>
> Cheers!
>
> Todd Zaki Warfel
> Principal Design Researcher
> Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
> ----------------------------------
> Contact Info
> Voice:  (215) 825-7423
> Email:  todd at messagefirst.com
> AIM:    twarfel at mac.com
> Blog:   http://toddwarfel.com
> Twitter:        zakiwarfel
> ----------------------------------
> In theory, theory and practice are the same.
> In practice, they are not.
>
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

8 Jul 2009 - 9:20am
brendon.cornwel...
2009

I've recently used user shadowing as a technique to quickly capture
user pain points and interaction with the current system.

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8 Jul 2009 - 8:57am
Jason Richardson
2007

I grab some time with the stakeholder at the beginning to get a sense
of the context of the goal. Who the users might be, what they need
to accomplish, what they don%u2019t need to do, etc. are the main
points to get down. They may not have all the answers but it%u2019s
a start.

I also turn to resources already in hand. I may have past
work/research lying around, personas, mental models that I can turn
to internally for reference. Next step is to scour the web for other
data points (Safari, UX related sites and yes Twitter.) If time
permits, I also quickly browse through my local city and university
libraries (very lucky to have two high quality libraries) and my own
collection of books. I mine out the data and research that are
appropriate for the work at hand.

After all that is done, slam it into a presentation, maybe do some
initial sketches and recap with the team and stakeholders.

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8 Jul 2009 - 8:43am
Kevin M. Hoffman
2009

Good morning Todd.

We've been to adding mini-research projects to kickoff meetings.
When you are on a budget, a kickoff meeting is a good opportunity to
explore stakeholder expectations of user needs. Not an alternative to
real user research, but certainly can help clarify what direction the
user research should focus on, and in the case where user research is
out of scope or timeline, well, at least its something.

Some of the activities we're doing lately include:

Modified prototyping exercise (modified for time, thanks for sharing
those templates again)

Group card sorting for prioritization purposes

5 Second Test with scoring for initial mood-board creation &
evaluation of fit for "look & feel"

Open discussion of past project failures, primarily with client side
veterans. This is a fun one.

Looking forward to your talk next week at UPenn.

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8 Jul 2009 - 9:16am
Anonymous

See what Forrester and other Industry Analysts and News sources have
available as well as conduct competitive research.

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22 Jul 2009 - 5:56pm
Josephine M. Giaimo
2009

I appreciate the question and the answers already provided.
I would find a champion within the organization. A design is being
created towards the reaching of a goal, e.g., increased market share,
repeat customers, sales, shareholder value, or decreased costs. There
is a historic reason that the design is being created or changed that
prompts the project. Follow the money.

All other things being equal (they never are), I would do some user
testing of a prototype with 2-4 representative users. Then I would
use the results of that testing to argue for using 10% of the total
budget for more research and testing. I would also point out that
small changes can yield big results in the metrics listed above.

Josephine M. Giaimo, MS
User Experience Research Consultant
JG Interactive Designs

Voice: (732) 448-0021

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