The "magic place" between user research and design - tips & stories

2 Feb 2010 - 3:28am
4 years ago
16 replies
1919 reads
dszuc
2005

Hi:

There is a "magic place" that exists between user research
(speaking with your users & stakeholders), taking all that goodness
and designing the product with that in mind and speaking to it.

Often, user research can fall into a chasm because there is no up
front thought put into how it can translate into the design.

So what has worked well for you?

For example:
* How do you translate findings from user research into design?
* What do you plan for up front in your user research to help
communicate your design?
* What do you use to tell a story around and to the design?
* How do you help sell the design and also speak to the issues?

Note - I have deliberately left out speaking to a specific UX method,
rather looking for tips & stories.

Look forward to learning from you all.

rgds,
Dan

Comments

2 Feb 2010 - 6:47am
Dana Chisnell
2008

On Feb 2, 2010, at 12:28 AM, Daniel Szuc wrote:

> Hi:
>
> There is a "magic place" that exists between user research
> (speaking with your users & stakeholders), taking all that goodness
> and designing the product with that in mind and speaking to it.
>
> Often, user research can fall into a chasm because there is no up
> front thought put into how it can translate into the design.
>
> So what has worked well for you?
>
> For example:
> * How do you translate findings from user research into design?
> * What do you plan for up front in your user research to help
> communicate your design?
> * What do you use to tell a story around and to the design?
> * How do you help sell the design and also speak to the issues?
>
> Note - I have deliberately left out speaking to a specific UX method,
> rather looking for tips & stories.
>
> Look forward to learning from you all.
>
> rgds,
> Dan

Hi Dan,

I think there are two parts.

First, you do have to think ahead to design the research you're
doing to answer specific questions. What are the concerns about the
design? Where are there gaps in what the team knows? What are they
having difficulty making decisions about?

Second, the best teams I've met look at what they've heard and what
they've seen in the completed sessions with users through a meaningful
and thorough process, going from observations to inferences to
opinions to theories, which they then test. Going through each of
those steps is incredibly important for solving the *right* problems,
answering the questions the team went into a given study with. And
this is the step that I see most teams missing. Instead, they jump
from observing users to design direction, without the close
examination of what happened and why.

Great questions -

Dana

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
Dana Chisnell
415.519.1148

dana AT usabilityworks DOT net

www.usabilityworks.net
http://usabilitytestinghowto.blogspot.com/

2 Feb 2010 - 7:27am
dszuc
2005

Thanks Dana and v cool :)

Have seen teams lead with methods and not questions. For example and
simply - "what do you want find out?"

Interested to learn more about how one scopes the user research based
on what you want do with the findings as a bridge to the design.

How are the insights communicated? Welcome all examples.

All ears.

rgds,
Dan @ La Guardia

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2 Feb 2010 - 1:14pm
Paul Bryan
2008

Great topic. Success depends on "connecting the wires" between
research results and subsequent action. Our approach for connecting
the wires can be summed up in 3 points.

1) Begin with the end in mind
At the start of every research project, we identify the people who
are expected to take the results and turn them into a reality, and we
ask to meet with them so we can identify the design parameters we can
realistically impact. Ignoring them until it's time to socialize the
results is a big mistake, because at that point they may actively deep
six the results. The format of the results needs to be something they
are prepared to own and carry forward. For our projects, this often
involves conceptual wireframes with medium fidelity design
components.

2) Provide specific, unambiguous recommendations
Findings are great, but many clients don't know what to do with
findings. They need specific recommendations, whether text or
conceptual diagrams. One client actually forwarded me an internal
thread that said, "We're concerned that the experts are going to
leave us something that is brilliant but then we don't know what to
do with it. Can they sit down with us and discuss specific design
changes?" The answer was, of course, yes. If recommendations are
brilliant but non-directional, people not intimately acquainted with
the details will question the value of the exercise.

3) Give stakeholders a vivid picture of the issues
Whenever possible, we include a small video reel that highlights the
core issues. We often conduct in-depth interviews or ethnographic
research in homes, workplaces, retail outlets, etc., so it's
relatively easy to pull together video scenes that drive home the
findings and support the recommendations. I've found that the
busiest executive sponsor or design director will pay rapt attention
to 3 minutes of video, but may get glassy eyes or start texting with
the the same volume of presentation data. The details are only for
the people who want and need them. In one presentation for a media
company, the sponsors literally clapped after the personas
presentation.

Paul Bryan
Usography ( http://www.usography.com ) %u2028
Blog: Virtual Floorspace ( http://www.virtualfloorspace.com )
Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/uxexperts

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2 Feb 2010 - 3:09pm
.pauric
2006

This is a little out of left-field, and sort of related to this
discussion on the resistance of the material:
http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=32320

I've found that by leveraging Hypnagogia (more commonly known as the
snooze button on your alarm clock) a heightened level of associative
thinking can be applied to particular problems.

Here's an excerpt from the wikipedia article on the subject
"Receptivity and suggestibility
Thought processes on the edge of sleep tend to differ radically from
those of ordinary wakefulness. Hypnagogia may involve a
%u201Cloosening of ego boundaries ... openness, sensitivity,
internalization-subjectification of the physical and mental
environment (empathy) and diffuse-absorbed attention, Hypnagogic
cognition, in comparison with that of normal, alert wakefulness, is
characterised by heightened suggestibility, illogic and a fluid
association of ideas."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypnagogia

I know it's a little cranola-crunchy.. but if I've been looking at
a problem for a week and feeling stuck in a rut I will make time on a
Saturday morning to ponder the options, more often than not I come
away with new avenues to explore.

food for thought - ymmv.
/pauric

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2 Feb 2010 - 4:24pm
Dan Saffer
2003

On Feb 2, 2010, at 12:28 AM, Daniel Szuc wrote:

> There is a "magic place" that exists between user research
> (speaking with your users & stakeholders), taking all that goodness
> and designing the product with that in mind and speaking to it.
>
> Often, user research can fall into a chasm because there is no up
> front thought put into how it can translate into the design.
>
> So what has worked well for you?

I address this a lot in Designing for Interaction 2 (mostly because it was a gross omission in the 1st edition).

The steps are pretty simple, although hard to execute well:

- Put research data on the walls (make it physical)
- Manipulate the now-physical data and make them into Conceptual Models (personas are one kind of perceptual model)
- Ideate based on the conceptual models, particularly around pain points and opportunities uncovered in research
- Create design principles based on what is known from research, plus the best ideas from concepting

Dan

Dan Saffer
Principal, Kicker Studio
http://www.odannyboy.com
@odannyboy on Twitter

2 Feb 2010 - 4:35pm
SemanticWill
2007

To add some resources -

That "magic space" is so huge you could drive a tractor trailer
through it. Start here:
Deconstructing Analysis Techniques - by @docbaty, provides a decent
overview
http://johnnyholland.org/2009/02/17/deconstructing-analysis-techniques/
There are an additional 4 or 5 articles.

Then move on over to Jon Kolko's "Exposing the Magic of DesignL A
Practitioner's Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis"
http://www.methodsofsynthesis.com/

And just for fun, read Michael Beurittes article in Design Observer
and read Michael Bierut's "This Is My Process"
http://observatory.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=4717

If you need complete books dedicated to the magic box - there are some
of those - though a bit more academic and written for the ID crowd,
but still good - one I personall love is
LeCompte's Analyzing and Interpreting Ethnographic Data

Cheers,

~ will

"Where you innovate, how you innovate,
and what you innovate are design problems"

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Will Evans | Director, Experience Design
tel: +1.617.281.1281 | will at semanticfoundry.com
http://blog.semanticfoundry.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/semanticwill
aim: semanticwill
gtalk: semanticwill
twitter: semanticwill
skype: semanticwill
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Feb 2, 2010, at 4:24 PM, Dan Saffer wrote:

> On Feb 2, 2010, at 12:28 AM, Daniel Szuc wrote:
>
>> There is a "magic place" that exists between user research
>> (speaking with your users & stakeholders), taking all that goodness
>> and designing the product with that in mind and speaking to it.
>>
>> Often, user research can fall into a chasm because there is no up
>> front thought put into how it can translate into the design.
>>
>> So what has worked well for you?
>
> I address this a lot in Designing for Interaction 2 (mostly because
> it was a gross omission in the 1st edition).
>
> The steps are pretty simple, although hard to execute well:
>
> - Put research data on the walls (make it physical)
> - Manipulate the now-physical data and make them into Conceptual
> Models (personas are one kind of perceptual model)
> - Ideate based on the conceptual models, particularly around pain
> points and opportunities uncovered in research
> - Create design principles based on what is known from research,
> plus the best ideas from concepting
>
>
> Dan
>
> Dan Saffer
> Principal, Kicker Studio
> http://www.odannyboy.com
> @odannyboy on Twitter
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
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> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

2 Feb 2010 - 5:44pm
dszuc
2005

Thanks Dan.

This is particularly interesting - "Create design principles based
on what is known from research, plus the best ideas from concepting"

I see this helping get more people aligned around a product framework
that may map to the UX Vision and/or how products fit together
strategically & potentially to business goals.

Have seen many, many instances, unfortunately, where Product/Design
Teams work in isolation of each other and dont have anything to link
them together resulting in a broken UX.

Be pleased to hear more about how you document and communicate design
principles.

rgds,
Dan

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2 Feb 2010 - 9:33pm
Victor Lombardi
2003

Hi Dan,

To learn what the product development field knows here, a good entry
phrase is "fuzzy front end." Though I like your term "magic
place" better.

http://www.google.com/search?q=fuzzy front end

Victor

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3 Feb 2010 - 4:01am
dszuc
2005

Thanks ALL for the advice so far.

As you are "connecting the wires" (thanks Paul), are there
questions/process you apply to determine when to involve users.

For example: Have seen research where questions are asked of the
product and its users, where best practice, usability principles or
better design would have helped in the first place i.e. it was not
the right time to involve users.

So there is an important "value" in involving users and a "value"
placed on the questions you ask towards clear recommendations.

So question: what cues do you look for to determine when to involve
users as part of your user research planning?

Does this form part of the magic?

rgds,
Dan

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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3 Feb 2010 - 4:19am
Anonymous

Often, user research can fall into a chasm because there is no up
front thought put into how it can translate into the design.

As others have said, the chasm can be avoided by thinking about what
questions the research should be answering. So as a designer, ask
yourself "What do I need to know?" followed by "Of that, what
don't I know?" and then see if research can answer those questions.

That way the research will be focussed and far more efficient. Not
just research for the sake of creating a report that will sit unread
on a shelf somewhere. Of course some people make a living doing
that... ;-)

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3 Feb 2010 - 5:52am
dszuc
2005

Thanks Richard and yes.

Think you need to be upfront and clear with the people who are
receiving and using the research that it will be delivered as
something that can be communicated clearly and is a design piece in
itself.

Think there is lots to be said for pairing a User Researcher and
Designer roles as they are complimentary skill sets.

Some people are lucky to have both and perhaps thats another question
all together.

rgds,
Dan

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3 Feb 2010 - 10:43am
Paul Sherman
2006

Interesting discussion you've kicked off, Dan.

One thing you said ("Think there is lots to be said for pairing a User Researcher and Designer roles as they are complimentary skill sets") triggered some thoughts. Read on...

At one of my former companies I built a process for conducting cross-disciplinary, team-based contextual design research in a time-boxed, moderated format.

As part of the process I made it a requirement that the research team contain a designer, a product stakeholder (typically a product manager), and a technologist. I also specified that the research team be facilitated. The team facilitator was intended to be someone who had deep experience in user/design research, team/interpersonal dynamics, and (ideally) some basic ability to manage projects.

I also made it a requirement that the team members - the designer, product manager, and engineer - be excused from their "day jobs" for 3-4 weeks so they could focus exclusively on spotting opportunities in the field, working together to flesh out, prototype, and validate an offering to address the opportunity, and then building a rudimentary business case for the offering.

I time-boxed the activity to three weeks - one for observing and spotting the opportunities; one week for working through the data and transforming it into design concepts and guidelines; and one week for building out a rough prototype, validating the design with more user input, documenting the personas, and doing a bit of due diligence on the business case (i.e., defining the addressable market, the competition, etc).

We only ran a few pilots of the process at that company. The output was decent, but of course the leaders spiked the opportunities we identified...none of the leadership wanted to commit budget to building a new product line; not when they had numbers they had to hit that quarter. Typical story.

Looking back, I realized that I vastly underspecified the "magic place" activities. So I'm very grateful to the the thread contributors for their suggestions, particularly Dan S (whose book is on my guilt pile of unread books), Dana C, and the others.

If I spin up the process at a future company, I'll have good input for the "magic place" activities.

Also, I need to write this process up and present it somewhere. Right now it's just taking up space on my hard drive.

-Paul

- - - - - - -
Paul Sherman, Principal, ShermanUX
User Experience Research | Design | Strategy
paul at ShermanUX.com
www.ShermanUX.com
+1.512.917.1942
- - - - - - -

3 Feb 2010 - 10:49am
Paul Sherman
2006

Also I meant to name-check Will Evans for the excellent references he provided on this thread.

(And for producing what is arguably the most @ss-kicking wireframing video on Youtube.)

-Paul

On Feb 3, 2010, at 9:43 AM, Paul Sherman wrote:

Interesting discussion you've kicked off, Dan.

One thing you said ("Think there is lots to be said for pairing a User Researcher and Designer roles as they are complimentary skill sets") triggered some thoughts. Read on...

At one of my former companies I built a process for conducting cross-disciplinary, team-based contextual design research in a time-boxed, moderated format.

As part of the process I made it a requirement that the research team contain a designer, a product stakeholder (typically a product manager), and a technologist. I also specified that the research team be facilitated. The team facilitator was intended to be someone who had deep experience in user/design research, team/interpersonal dynamics, and (ideally) some basic ability to manage projects.

I also made it a requirement that the team members - the designer, product manager, and engineer - be excused from their "day jobs" for 3-4 weeks so they could focus exclusively on spotting opportunities in the field, working together to flesh out, prototype, and validate an offering to address the opportunity, and then building a rudimentary business case for the offering.

I time-boxed the activity to three weeks - one for observing and spotting the opportunities; one week for working through the data and transforming it into design concepts and guidelines; and one week for building out a rough prototype, validating the design with more user input, documenting the personas, and doing a bit of due diligence on the business case (i.e., defining the addressable market, the competition, etc).

We only ran a few pilots of the process at that company. The output was decent, but of course the leaders spiked the opportunities we identified...none of the leadership wanted to commit budget to building a new product line; not when they had numbers they had to hit that quarter. Typical story.

Looking back, I realized that I vastly underspecified the "magic place" activities. So I'm very grateful to the the thread contributors for their suggestions, particularly Dan S (whose book is on my guilt pile of unread books), Dana C, and the others.

If I spin up the process at a future company, I'll have good input for the "magic place" activities.

Also, I need to write this process up and present it somewhere. Right now it's just taking up space on my hard drive.

-Paul

- - - - - - -
Paul Sherman, Principal, ShermanUX
User Experience Research | Design | Strategy
paul at ShermanUX.com
www.ShermanUX.com
+1.512.917.1942
- - - - - - -

3 Feb 2010 - 1:46pm
Dan Saffer
2003

For a limited time, in honor of this topic and of the start of Interaction10, I'm offering a free pdf download of Chapter 5 of Designing for Interaction on Structured Findings that is on this topic. It was was one of the new chapters in the second edition. Happy reading!

<http://www.designingforinteraction.com/D4I_ch5.pdf>

Dan

Dan Saffer
Principal, Kicker Studio
@odannyboy on Twitter

3 Feb 2010 - 5:30pm
dszuc
2005

Thanks Dan.

rgds,
Dan

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3 Feb 2010 - 6:16pm
Paul Bryan
2008

When the reward justifies the effort, another aspect of connecting the
wires between research and design involves an attempt at
quantification. How prevalent is that persona attribute or behavior
in our audience? How did that design component we came up with in the
concepting session for the last release fare in terms of conversion?
Do we have any evidence to support the notion that an augmented
reality tennis shoe viewer will move the needle? Perhaps not during
the magic moments, so that creativity can tap out, but shortly
afterward. The qualitative data that many design research projects
generate is very helpful for understanding patterns and sequences,
but not at all useful for understanding prevalence, and therefore
relative priority, except to define the key concepts that need to be
operationalized and then measured.

Paul Bryan

Usography ( http://www.usography.com )
Blog: Virtual Floorspace ( http://www.virtualfloorspace.com ) Linked
In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/uxexperts

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