We’ve been thinking a lot about research lately, and how important it is to underpinning the decisions we make about our design and development and how it impacts users. To help us get our feet wet, UX Researcher Annie Lin visits the show to talk about the principles of UX research, and why they are so integral to producing the right solutions to the right problems in your products and websites.
- A Day in the Life of a Design Researcher
- RITE usability method
- A Simple Introduction to Lean UX
- The State of UX Research in 2019
The following is a machine-generated transcript of this episode. It will contain errors until it has been reviewed and edited, and we apologize for the difficulty that may cause for screen readers. Do you want to help us speed up our transcribing process? Consider sponsoring an episode.
Hello, everybody, you’re listening to the drunken UX Podcast. I am your host, Michael Fienen.
I’m your other other hosts Aaron Hill. Hi, Michael,
who’s the other host. If you’re the other, you’re the host. I’m but I, but I already said I was the host. So we’ve had this conversation you’re making that you’re, you’re going to deep man
and the other other hosts,
folks, this is episode number 56. We’re going to be talking about user research, UX research and how you can start folding it into some of your stuff, even if you’re not a UX professional. because believe it or not, even if you’re just a developer, even if you’re just a designer, hey, we build things that people have to use and caring about how you know we impact those users and how we can make their experiences better does Fact matter. So we’ll be talking about that here today. To start off with though, I would like to encourage everybody to go check us out on Twitter or Facebook, you can find us there at slash drunken UX. If you’re on Instagram slash drunken UX podcast, if you ever want to chat with us, or throw a show idea of our way or anything like that, you can find us on slack at drunken ux.com slash slack that’ll give you a quick invite right into our channel.
So the other thing that happened
was, I know vaguely, I’ve been sort of on the run the last few days. So I’m, I know there was a thing that happened.
You know, elections work when you have polls. And you know, we have ways of tracking stuff and everything. So imagine if there was a conversation where someone said, you know, what we need, we need a technical solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Oh, yeah, yeah. Actually, I believe we’re going to introduce you in a moment. But our guests here any you have thoughts about the Iowa caucus thing, don’t you?
Oh, boy do Hi everybody. Yeah, it seems uh, you know, sometimes when you’re working with certain production timelines, you know you, it is quite the effort to get things out. But if you don’t build into that time to actually test your product sounds like there was like a relatively simple solution to maybe putting that into your timeline to make sure that you actually had a functioning product before you went to launch, which I understand deadlines don’t always allow for that. But I think you could, you know, this company shadow could have avoided a lot of bad press by building that into their timeframe. You know, it sounds to me there’s like two major issues one being they should have had testing and then the other issue being did this really Need to get made? Because there’s some comparisons. It could have just all been recorded on a Google Doc, why did we need to have an app? You know, it sounds like they might have needed a strategist at the beginning to say like, Hey, are you sure this is the best solution? So
I feel like it’s last episode when I was doing my little rant against chat bots. Yes. And how chat bots don’t really solve any problem that anybody has, except taking money from companies willing to write a check.
Right? doesn’t even want like talking to a chat bot. I’m just know. Unknown Speaker Exactly.
Any. So you lived in Africa for a while? Yep, that’s correct. Can you can you tell our listeners a little bit about what you do and who you are?
Sure. I was. I’m an American, born and raised, grew up in upstate New York. And then about five years ago after I went to undergrad in Boston and grad school and got you Chicago and then I moved back to Africa, and more As a policy researcher at Cornell University, in areas of disability, employment and accessibility, after a few years, I had some, you know, major life changes going on and ended up moving to New York City where I tried to reestablish my career in tech, where I found that there’s probably some opportunities for me working in the field of UX. And so I did an immersive and eventually, you know, started gaining traction, working as a freelance UX researcher for the last five years.
So you didn’t start out in UX research then.
Right. So I did basically I you know, I have some design skills. But I started off in in, in like, more academic research realms. Okay, right.
Right. What What is keen to find out UX research is like we talked about UX a lot on the show and Like for me, when I think of UX research, I think of, I want to go research some UX ideas for this app we’re working on or something. But I think you’re talking about something different, right?
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s like a pretty broad term. I would say UX research encompasses, you know, anything involving understanding the user, their needs, their pain points, their overall values and ways they like to interact with a particular product. So UX research can stretch anywhere from that early exploratory research, where you’re really understanding how like the user, how they interact with technology, down to actually the execution of certain actions. within the app, it’s within an app or a product itself, where, you know, you’re basically making a product worked better at what it’s been tasked to do.
So you know, talking about strictly like websites. things you’re talking about more like, like Donald Norman talks about UX as kind of an all encompassing everything like everything from doors to Windows, yeah,
from the door. So like, one common thing that we do in UX research is we create, like an experience map from that includes almost every touch point of which a user will interact with your brand or your product. So that can be anything from like, I you know, I think the classic examples are like Starbucks, you know, it’s from the moment you you know, like, think about getting coffee, you would want to include like to drive through the line experience what the internal atmosphere at a Starbucks looks like, down to, if you’re going to order something on their app, and how that would be executed as well. So I, I think, I would say I’m kind of like a corporate anthropologist. Like I, I go in and I kinda like, try to understand and record and document all the different processes that people are using within their workflow or, you know, however they’re conducting their day, and then try to see how the product would, you know, benefit their lives or solve a problem in some way.
So you’re kind of like creating, you’re doing like primary research done, right? Like where you create, you’re creating the stuff that people like me would go and later on read and white papers and things about like, like, Oh, we should use this pattern for this application, because that’s what this document says.
Yeah, it kind of it’s a really broad catch all phrase to include something like that, which is much more exploratory and kind of determining whether or not there’s like a market need or fit. Usually it also involves some kind of competitive research to understand what the market looks like and then so when you’re kind of creating their your idea putting on different features, you’d be making sure that it fits within the overall product strategy, and then And then figuring out a process for which test whether or not that features meeting that user need. So that’s, it’s like that whole umbrella.
One area that I like to encourage people towards, that I find really interesting is, because why would I think about UX research, obviously, in our field, we refer to it a lot in this context of web interactions. But obviously, like you were saying, you know, when you read Don Norman, and you start learning this stuff, the user experience has existed rages outside in the analog world. And the the field HCI is, is the one I tell people about human computer interaction. And that sort of where you really get that fine grained. Let’s talk about the interface. Let’s talk about the machine and all of that, as opposed to all of that, you know, analog experience outside because good user experience research, especially in terms of web is going to extend beyond just a transactional thing on a website, it’s going to get into things like how, you know, how’s your customer service doing on Twitter, you know, because that’s part of the user journey. That’s part of their experience with your product or your brand. How do you silo maybe little bits and pieces of this so that you can tackle it, especially if you’re not a user researcher, but you want to get good useful data? Because it’s one thing to say, Oh, yeah, we’ve got you know, we literally have a UX team or we’ve hired this consultancy agency to come in and tell us all this. They’re going to throw a bunch of people at it and the budget time and all this. Sometimes we need to figure out how to figure out where to narrow down the nugget, kind of, you know, kind of thing.
But what are some areas that you’ve worked in any liquid over there? You’ve done research UX?
Sure. So I used to, I’ve worked in innovation labs in areas of fintax. I used to be a research coordinator at the city group, innovate consumer Innovation Lab
Yeah, and finance. So basically working on financial products like between five to seven years in the, in the future, you know, like kind of scoping out sort of early concepts of like how a bank would include Bitcoin, for instance, I’m hoping I’m not breaking my NDA, it’s been five years since being there. But I’ve also worked in areas of like health care. I think one example of you know, that kind of inclusive experience would be a particular medication that has like a special patch that would measure whether or not you’ve consumed it, and then it would go to an app and then have like communication flows between you and your healthcare provider. So I worked with, you know, people who were patients and interviewed them about their daily lives and you know, how they take their medication and keep track of it to, you know, the healthcare professionals and understanding how they interact with each other, as well as with the patient and their concerns.
Okay, so I have a hypothetical for you. This is going to kind of go back briefly to our what we mentioned earlier with the iOS stuff. We don’t know what kind of preliminary things they did back there. But like, if someone if this company came to you, or the Iowa Democratic Caucus, if they came to you, and they said, We want to do this thing we want to make this product has not yet been made. What kinds of questions would you ask? How would you approach it? I’m just curious about like, what the process is of like, a UX researcher who’s doing this?
Yeah, sure. So in terms of scoping projects, you know, one of the key things that we have to do is under as researchers, we have to understand where the product exists within the product cycle, as in how mature is the product, like, with something like an MVP, you know, you have like some, some basic core features. Typically, you’d want to make sure that like, the MVP is doing what it’s intended to do. So in the case of this, you know, last app where there is it’s like, does it allow two parties to communicate with each other effectively? You know, are you sharing the right kinds of information you would be? So to kind of scope something like that? Typically, you would, you’d want to do some user interviews. And, you know, one of the quick things that we found was just how mechanics like to communicate with maintenance control. And that, you know, they’re not typically sitting there staring at an app or a, you know, or waiting to hear from them. They’re kind of constantly in flux, and actually, for a mechanic to take off their glove and, you know, interact with a touch interface was a lot and in fact, some of these, you know, manuals and different kinds of documents that they needed, couldn’t be seen on a cell phone, it would have to be on something larger, like a desktop or, you know, an iPad, and so That’s that’s like a product shifts that we would have that we recommended was, you know, we want something that’s on a larger experience so that they can see mechanics can see like a, you know, the air an electrical schematic for an airplane, because you can’t really like zoom in on it on a cell phone really well.
So do you ever do research on like products that are like past MVP? Like maybe like even during the end of it, like I feel like there I forget which author it would have been but I think it was Krug or he’s like, if you’re bringing if you’re doing UX usability stuff, like at the end of the product, like that’s the wrong time.
Right right. Actually. So one key way of you know, so if you think about like a product cycle being, you know, testing proof of concept, before you get to that evaluative kind of process, because it once it goes into at, you know the Agile like production cycle you you need to kind of put prove that it works first. And that that’s sort of like a key space where, you know, you’ve come up with an idea, you have an MVP, and you just want to get out there and start testing it because you that’s sort of one of the least expensive ways of avoiding big picture problems down the line. So if there’s already something up, that’s perfect, because you can get a lot of feedback just on showing some somewhat stakeholder like a visual concept and being able to get some of those early strategic mistakes before they become much, much bigger problems when you have like, you know, a finished product and you’re trying to Frankenstein some things together like you don’t you want to catch it early. So the earlier you involve UX research, the more effective your product will be. In theory,
the way I look at it, too, is like a lot of things you know, and doesn’t matter if we’re talking about you know, research if we’re talking about improving accessibility or feature sets, that the idea of, you know, the only wrong way to do it is to not do it, right, like even late is better than not at all. And a lot of the times, for folks, you know, if you’re walking into a job, if you’re starting at a new company, the reality is you may be walking into something that’s already there was built before you got there. And your job is going to be now to take this thing that exists and has been out there and tackle the complaints and tackle the problems. So there are always those situations where you don’t have the luxury of starting at the start, you know, you may be starting in the middle of the product cycle or don’t, don’t be afraid if you know, you look at something like well, it’s already done. What can I do? You can start, you can start right now.
Yeah, incorporate it. And you know, a lot of times some of these contracts that I do, they already have some kind of concept and they’ve realized, wait a second, we might have made some kind of, we might have built some things that were we’re not really even sure about and it’s Never too late to start basically, it’s that’s an important point. Yeah, the sooner you do it, the better. But a lot of times, you know, most of the projects are like we’ve gone down, you know, they get to a point where you’re like, Okay, we can go down this pathway or this pathway. And it’s just, they’re at a strategic standpoint where they need to figure out which is the best path. And it’s, I’m not gonna lie, it’s really easy to end up building a Swiss Army knife, you know, where you have a product that does like 10 different things, but none of them very well. And, you know, it’s actually much more confusing for a user to come to, to get to a product and have like 55 different concepts to explore within it when you really are just there to you know, to do that one thing. So as long as it’s completing that one major task, you know, the rest could be either you have to evaluate whether it’s like a distraction or adds to the experience.
You’ve used that phrase MVP, few times, yo, that’s minimum viable product in our lexicon where the idea is to build the studio. smallest possible thing that does the job you need it to. A lot of the times I think, you know, people get stuck they get frozen a little bit I think trying to figure out what we want everything. But wanting everything doesn’t necessarily mean you need it all on launch day iterating through some of those with the stakeholders to say we want to build that feature, but we want to build it in six months when the data is there for that feature to be useful not now when you couldn’t use that feature because the stuff it needs to actually work doesn’t it hasn’t come into the system yet. You know, through
that funny aside that’s kind of related to it. And he was just saying about having Swiss Army Knife products A long time ago like I got my son this little like kid friendly digital camera, and it had like, you know, reinforced plastic and rubber edges so you could drop it. The pictures of shot were like maybe 800 by 600 pixels wasn’t much but you know For like a little kid, but it also had, in addition to having a digital display in the back, it had the ability to play was it memory, like where you reveal to the tiles and then it can also do I think connects four, and then tic tac toe. And that was all my son wanted to do with it. He didn’t shoot any photos at all. All he wanted to do was play tic tac toe and memory. Like, why? Why are you having a camera?
Right? That’s, I mean, I gotta wonder what was going on in their design team there, you know, like you have this very specific product that’s positioned probably to do one particular thing. And then you have these interesting site features, which I think theoretically, you know, we like to think that every kind of new feature we come up with is adding some delight to the product. It’s it’s like a really interesting decision to invest the money to make that you know, it comes down to the finding the balance between, you know, what does the product? What is it intended to do? And what does it actually really like about it?
It’s a good argument, right? Like when you look at something like a content management system for, you know, look at WordPress and how they’ve kind of fought for a long time to keep base WordPress, fairly simple. For the most part, you know, of course, it’s certainly grown and changed over the years. But most of the added functionality gets added through plugins, so that you can say, Well, if I need it to do this, I will go use the plugin to do this. As opposed to, if you go look at some of like the monolith CMS systems, you know, if you look at something like Adobe’s offerings, or Oracle’s or any of these huge providers, they get trapped in this cycle of, we have to create every feature that our clients need. And even though they may license some of those features as additional upsells The reality is that They’ve built this giant CMS, that is the kitchen sink, and it ends up doing none of it. Well, it’s one of those things, right? It does it does everything, a little bit of it real well.
And then it’s, you know, it kind of misses the point. And, you know, there’s other competitive products out there that I’m sure fill that niche more effectively. But yeah, it’s like that kind of balance between specificity and generalizability. To You know, what your user wants to do. We need to figure out, you know, what is the most important thing for the user? And I think one of the struggles of our role is just because it’s like a cool idea, you know, is it really actually going to be in the benefit of the user?
cool to have it there?
is like, Is it really because I think, you know, one of the key purposes of a UX research position is to help mitigate bias and maintain objectivity and when I say bias, I mean, you know, our tendencies. To kind of consume our own dog food, right, we’d like to eat our own dog food, we made it. And we’ve come up with this idea. And so, you know, we’re going to make a dashboard. And that’s what it’s going to be because, and all this research is just to prove that people like this dashboard, but the key areas that I have to push back on is whether or not you know, like, what the heck is the dashboard supposed to? Do? You know, like, is that actually really functionally useful for a user? You know, that’s like one of the most requested areas of design that I’ve heard of, you know, make a dashboard for? Who wants to look at another dashboard, honestly,
you know, getting back to the player, we’re like, it’s like the thing Michael was saying about chatbots. So the last episode, like, do we actually need that?
Hey, have you identified the problem, right? So thinking about, you walk into a website, or you’re building a new website, and you’re working on a new feature, and you’ve noticed, you know, maybe a conversion number isn’t where you want it to be? Aren’t clicking on your button, let’s say in filling out the form to get something. Step one, at least in my world, step one, as a developer is let’s identify that the problem, what is keeping people from clicking on that button, and then iterate on how to fix that. If you’re coming in, we’ve hired you to consult. So let’s let’s take drunken UX podcast and say, You know what, we just are upset that we don’t have enough users. And we want more people hitting our subscribe button, look at our site and tell us what’s wrong with it. What is like step one, in terms of walking into a problem and figuring out how to identify it for somebody, maybe who is that sole designer, sole developer?
I think one of those key things that you want to do when you’re scoping at the beginning of a UX research project is understanding really that that problem, you know, what do you guys define as the major problem that You’re the website solves, right. And then you would go into, you know, scoping out how you would explore that problem. And that kind of involves, you know, understanding what are your assumptions about the purpose of your website? So if your website is just providing information about you, you know, you would that would be a way of evaluating the website, figuring out, you know, is it providing information about what you guys do? Are there, you know, actions on the website like signing up for, let’s just say a newsletter or something? Is that an effective way of engaging your user? Some Other questions? So you typically at the beginning of a research project, want to unpack those assumptions and push into in terms of how you’re defining those problems that the website solves, right? You would want to know Okay, well, is that what people really come to your website to do? You’d probably do some kind of either, like a quick survey, you know, and then like the basically the researcher would help you figure out what would be the best method of understanding that. I think it’s really easy to want to fix all the things we’re user but it you have to, you know, you have to prioritize. And that ultimately impacts you know, how a product manager is going to start setting up their roadmap,
right. And last, so to that point, like in our case, like, let’s say, Okay, I’m unhappy that people aren’t clicking our subscribe button on the website. You know, my first line of defense, there would be I’d have Google Analytics running, I would go check to see you know, where clicks are coming from, what sources have been driving those and whatnot, but also compared to our listener stats across platforms, what I would find very quickly there, and I would notice, well, part of the problem is, people don’t learn about our website or our podcasts. through the website, and they don’t listen to it there. They’re going to Apple podcasts. And they’re getting to it through that, or they’re getting to it through our shared links on Twitter, which takes you to your native app. And so I would learn in this case that my assumption that I need to fix the button on the website would actually be wrong, because I’m not intuiting my user behavior in the right way. I have made an assumption that well, the button my websites role is to get people to subscribe. Not necessarily, in this case, my website,
intention with implementation, right?
Yeah. Where do you see like differentiation between when it’s appropriate to use something like, you know, maybe data you already have, and whether that’s Google Analytics or another platform, versus bringing people into a room and sitting down with them and having like, you know, giving them user challenges and things like that to work through
in this case of website, yes, you would definitely need to look at, you know, existing data to see, you know, what are the click through rates? So what are kind of what are the points of interaction that you can order that you already have measurement for the times that you would need to go and do one of those kinds of deep dives is if you were trying to launch some something kind of new like, you know, okay, you’re getting off of your now you’re just trying to figure out if you want to have, let’s say, like a forum or something that helps users quickly input their information and then get get onto the, onto the newsletter or something. That’s also probably a small enough feature, you could definitely do some like really quick survey, you know, do a quick survey and just like have it pop up to some of your users to be able to answer quickly, like, you know, why didn’t I sign up for the newsletter, it’s just basically understanding, figuring out a way to get to the user, but unpacking that problem in Probably the most effective, or you know, cheapest way. Because you want to save that money for something for like a really large build, like, Okay, you guys are creating your own native app. So the way that UX research would jump in is like, we’ve tried to be there at the beginning, you know, after one of these like, kind of ideation sessions to say, like, well, how are you guys going to improve your engagement of users? And then try to, you know, work with, you know, you to to like, figure out, what are some kind of ideas and concepts that you want to explore in order to get to more effective user engagement, like you would have to figure out how you’d want to measure it, you know, you’d want to figure out, maybe a target goal of like, Okay, well, we’ll show that this has worked with if, you know, we have a certain number of users that have started to click through to, you know, signing up for the newsletter. You know, I would be acting ideally As the filter for some of those pieces of information and putting together like a case, to identify problems and feature solutions,
you sort of touched on this a little bit. When you get a like, let’s say that you get someone who’s coming to you and saying when if we think we want to put this feature into our thing. That’s a problem that Michael and I have talked about on the show before, when your stakeholders are like just dead set on having a carousel or a chat box, or whatever else, like what are some strategies that you’ve used as a researcher and I you’re kind of like, impartial because you’re being brought on for your expertise, but at the same time, also, like you can be like, you’re going right towards a cliff. Maybe you don’t want to Okay,
maybe you should hit the brakes. Cool. Right before? Yeah, I think you know, I think one of the key things that you know, they hopefully teach you in design school is just, you know, be Be able to ask the five whys of like, when you’re meeting your stakeholders. And so, you know, the idea being that you just keep drilling down to the ultimate purpose of like, why they want to build that. And then helping those stakeholders really identify like the purpose. And I think sometimes it just involves, you know, using very active listening skills to make sure that their concerns are heard, but also trying to help them mentally unpack what it is conceptually that they’re trying to tackle because those problems almost existed, like but that’s why there’s so many specialists in like, the UX space is like really helping to step back and saying like, Well, you know, if you’re gonna re brand your website, yeah, you actually need to tackle your information architecture. You know, I’ve worked on a project where it used to be a job board now shifted to being just pieces of information. Well, what they really Need is like a content strategist to really figure out, you know, who’s actually coming to the website, and what kind of information and how they group that information to exist on the websites. So I don’t know that
we’ve I think we’ve like we’ve talked about the five wives, right? I know I’ve talked about it at my job.
That’s a good question. You’re, you’re now requiring me to go back through 55 past episodes of content, and I honestly don’t know that we have or not.
You guys don’t remember every single piece of content you’ve created in the last year.
I know I lay awake at night and think about just the ones who screwed up on
you, you remember your failures, way more than your successes. So what about like from a tool standpoint? What What do you find particularly helpful besides just You know, a well laid out google doc and and outline you know, but like, for collecting data or analyzing stuff or working with users or working with stakeholders, what sort of tools are out there that you find helps make that easier both from an execution standpoint, but also a communication standpoint?
Definitely, you know, in the last year, I’ve discovered neural, that CEO, which is basically an online whiteboard, I was working with this team, who were based out of South Paulo in Brazil. And so since we were it was completely remote, it would have been almost impossible to display some of those visual concepts without this online whiteboard. Essentially, you know, mural just gives you the ability to make little stickies and draw lines, but it is so fantastically useful for a remote team that like I don’t I I would not be able to find And without it now it is
that I got to go look at that now mural him You are a LC I will throw a link to it in the show notes. I work on a remote team so and like a highly distributed remote team so you’ve got I’m in Kansas I’ve got a dev and Pennsylvania our product manager is in North Carolina, our QA and two of our front end guys are in Boston so it’s like we are we we are thrown to the winds and so something like that actually, we we do a lot our company as well like equipped technology wise so we do a lot of Hangouts and stuff and people will be in a meeting room and you can literally point the camera at the whiteboard or whatever, but it certainly I can’t take part in the whiteboard that way. So that’s very cool.
What I’ve done is I’ve conducted workshops using mural where you know, you can use one of their very helpful templates where they you know, breakdown, versus like empathy maps or You know, like, they’ll have like, prioritization, or they’ll just have these kind of concept boards. And you can work with that and just throw stickies onto it. Or, you know, if you can just work with a blank one and just start drawing, you know, post it in lines and concept maps. And I actually find it really useful for unpacking insights in terms of some of those user interviews, because, you know, you’ll talk to like 15 people, and what you’re looking for are kind of generalized trends. And you’ll be able to count, you know, based on the user and their reactions to each of those screens. How many times Okay, was it a positive interaction was an a negative interaction, what did they like what they do not like? What did they highlight as being important to them during this process of clicking on this screen? Like, why was that a trigger for them, and then you’ll be able to kind of like get this bigger picture and you can move them around. It’s really simple. I definitely is really, really made my life a lot easier.
Awesome, I’ve been looking for a tool like this, this is really cool. I just I like, I do a lot of stuff on paper with pencil because I like being able to just draw shapes and connect them. And I haven’t found a tool in mind that isn’t just like, okay, you have to drag your mouse and make a box, and then grab one of the handles and then connected to another thing. And that’s just that’s too much switch process. I just want to go with the like.
Yeah, I mean, I’ve I’ve created some boards where you know, we are basically doing an innovation workshop after we’ve explored a particular problem. And you can show people okay, well, this is the user responses and then you can also have prompts for the users who are you know, you can just throw it into a group called like on zoom or something and be able to get people to directly interact with like, okay, we think here’s some five solutions. Let’s vote on the best one. You know, they have little icons you can throw on there. They have little, a lot of preset lines and like, you can change the color palette. Really great for engaging people who aren’t typically designers and being able to make something quickly. Cool. I would say mural and I think InVision and figma are probably my other two other most often use tools. I’ve heard of
figmas come up a lot in that space now, especially, because it allows, like designers to tie into things like patterns and the creation of stuff like that. So they’re, they’re actually I feel like they’ve been trying to cross a lot of boundaries, in terms of their, you know, who they serve, so to speak.
Yeah. And I think the reason why I typically use those as just because it’s easiest to you know, get those visual concepts in front of a user without having, you know, development build something that they can interact with. Like it’s just, you sometimes you just want general feedback, especially if it’s a concept. So the Lower fidelity that design is, the better because you just want people reacting not to the look and feel but to the overall experience. Right. So if, for instance, like we were, I was testing a reporting feature, you know, we just want to make sure that people are able to find the reporting feature, reported to maintenance control and, you know, be able to figure out where, what the statuses and what are kind of the basic pieces of information that’s needed in order to do that kind of reporting. So you just want to make sure that it’s like pretty bare bones and the more developed it is, unfortunately, people start, you know, saying, well, I’ve really liked this because they the more finished it looks, the more that you’ll end up with a user bias of people thinking it’s a finished product. Yeah, my other key recommendation just like getting some bare bones wireframes out there.
That’s something remember. Michael armor balsamiq Yeah, I know. We’ve talked about So I that was one of the things I liked about it was that it was just whenever you include you include any color at all, like even the red and balsamic, the stakeholder talking to you will always immediately jump right to that. Well, we don’t like that red.
It’s like, Oh, I don’t like the color of the button. Well, it doesn’t matter what the button looks like necessarily yet. Like, that’s a, that’s something you’d want to explore later. But when you’re, you know, testing out early concepts, like, you don’t want them reacting to the look and feel. Yeah, right.
Right. I’m going to ask a more pointed question here. And this maybe, is a little off the beaten path, but I feel like it’s it’s tied in somewhat. When people do research on, you know, UX topics and stuff. One of the phrases that tends to come up a lot more now is Lean UX. And Lean UX is one of those areas where I think you run into some of that problem because of the social bead. And you know, it’s focused on quick deliverables, that it has an emphasis sometimes on getting to those more high fidelity type wireframes earlier so that you can iterate on them. And this is where it gets into bigger process questions of agile and things like that, that are maybe out of scope for this episode. But I worry in those cases, right, that you are you’re you’re trading off some speed and and nimbleness for potential confusion and some of those cases, I think, is that a fair way for me to sort of characterize that if people run into that phrase, let Lean UX.
Yeah, I would agree that it’s sometimes that you know, the push to getting it looking like a finished product. It really is kind of dependent on a number of variables where you need to get it beyond the MVP proof of concept to like, into The Agile process where it starts, you’re just iterating on the same solution. And I think, you know, you would want to use like bare bones wireframes because you have an early concept of it right? And I think the the sketch here it is, during those early concepts, the better in some ways because you’ll actually engage the user that you’re testing with, on a more CO creative kind of level, like you’ll show them like, hey, it’s just a sketch, like what could make this actually beneficial to you so and it actually is more engaging that way because the want to be more involved in the process and be kind of more interested in the outcome later. Once you’ve actually got get to the point where you’ve proven the build and push through to the Agile process. I think it’s like a just another technique of like engaging users and stakeholders earlier on and it’s tough I think if you are getting started in this and even if it doesn’t matter if you’re in a big organization or or small one, I think I don’t want to call it sound trap, I guess, but it is just a function of business. Let me say it that way that Yeah, there’s a fear of deviating from sunk costs when your designers have been working, especially if the design team is its own island, and it’s working on stuff, and then bringing it to you to implement and test and do all of this. And whether you’re agile or anything else, as you iterate on these things, you know, design has started taking shape or you know, a feature has started, you know, being built by the developers on some there becomes this fear that will if we test it, and our test says that this thing doesn’t work, then we have to unwind all of this work. And I think the only advice that I have that I can give people on that is a Don’t be afraid of that. That’s natural. That’s, that’s organic. That’s the process of measuring and adjusting. I say this all the time, measure, adjust, measure, adjust.
You know what happens if you don’t do that. screw up an election.
And now the American people are managed to, like, not just a PR disaster for, you know, your lack of execution, but it’s like, there’s giant ripple effects here for
you it’s a case right where like nothing, you know, this is where waterfall gets its benefit, right? Because waterfall is meant to, you know, very orderly you one step leads to the next step leads to the next step. So it’s like you would do all the research and all of this before you start doing wireframes and comps agile is meant to iterate on this. And so in theory, you have parallel tracks happening at the same time. Neither one of these is superior to the other. In fact, I think like many things, the best solution is actually a rough mixture of some of these techniques. But just know that you are going to run if you’re building stuff and you’re working with clients or you’re working with your employees. And you’re trying to work with designers and and QA testers and users, you will always run into those moments where it feels like, Hey, guys, we need to stop for a second, look at this thing, and maybe make an adjustment, even though we have some suck time into it. Right? That’s just the nature of the process.
And that’s what I mean by, you know, our tendency to consumer or eat our own dog food, you know, it’s like, well, we built it already. Can’t we just, you know, oh, well, it’s like, of course, it’s good, because we’ve already gotten this far in the process. And I think that one of the struggles in this in UX research is trying to help somebody understand that a sense of objectivity to show like, actually, I know you’re really wedded to this particular solution, but there’s there might be something easier that might just be like lower hanging fruit that we’ve missed out on. You know, I think an example is like the MVP. I was just Talking about where users like to look at this information panel where they could see all the documents and photos. You know, it was, it was interesting because we were thinking, Oh, it’s mostly a communication app. But actually the way that, you know, users had preference, it’s actually because most of their work involves using items and artifacts as like reference. And but them being sort of given and empowered with the professional know how to do those actions, like they’re not just going to sit there and wait for, you know, for orders. They’re sitting there kind of actively, you know, structuring their own work, and it’s sort of it’s like an indirect nod to their professionalism by giving them things, you know, just not sort of chasing them down for for updates.
And, you know, to throw back kind of to the start of this whole discussion and the idea of, you know, where does UX research fit is it some One thing you do at the start, is it okay to do at the end? You know, the reality is we should always be doing at least some because throughout all of this, the other thing that is always changing is your user. your user base today is not the user base next year or 10 years from now, and it’s you think about I think a really good example of where this applies is. If you go back to 2007. And I pick that year very specifically because that’s when Apple launched the iPhone. The first iterations of the iPhone there you eyes relied incredibly heavily on skeuomorphism. skeuomorphism is the technique through which you make something you know, digital represents something physical, so like a volume knob looks like an actual knob in the app.
A button is raised has a bevel that Yeah, you know, to push it.
So they use those techniques because they needed to get people to understand This new interface this interface nobody’s ever seen before a touchscreen phone, full screen phone. How do we communicate that to our users will will make the things look like things. Donald Dorman calls those
Yeah. affordances over the years, though, here we are 13 years removed from that day. We now you know, a lot of skeuomorphism is looked down on because it’s too old. It’s It’s too literal. Yes, too literal in a world where the users have now adapted and understand those interfaces, and those trends in very different ways from when they first came out. You know, we have, I have a buddy, he’s got three kids, God help them all boys, and very close in age. You know, the oldest is eight, the youngest is two or three. They’ve all had tablets, you know, they’ve they have these devices in their hands from the moment they’re born. So the way we approach interfaces, design for those users is going to change when they’re 15 1617 years old.
Yeah, and the less you have pivoted your product to be able to meet those changing needs, like you’re just, you know, ultimately, you know, giving benefit to your competition. Like it’s, it’s, if you don’t adjust to it, I mean, because it sounds like you know, apple, like establish the mental model for how to interact with those kinds of affordances. And, you know, if you, like, are launching something and you know, you’re going into that gray area, you really need to understand, like, what, what that space looks like right now. And it’s really like accurately taking the temperature of what your users are, and also where the direction of UX is kind of already going.
So is the direction of UX. Like where that’s going. Is that the kind of thing is that where you where you are when it work comes in is kind of establishing what that is when you’re looking five to seven years down the road?
Yeah, I think you know, a significant part is just Sort of understanding the viability of a concept would use again, like, you know, at Citi group looking into bitcoin, and just whether or not it would be, you know, beneficial to, like how how you would even want to incorporate that as an experience? Is that something that somebody wants to keep into, you know, a product? Do they need to at least just like keep an eye on that or what’s going on? And typically, you know, my role is brought in just to help people break out of that analytical thinking of like, how can we make our current product faster and better? That better is the space that is, you know, is that falls into that blind spot of like things that you’re not seeing. And so part of the role of UX research is to get you to look into that spot because I think sometimes people will have you know, tons of ton of confidence that yes, that we’ve known all that we need to know about this particular thing, but society’s always shifting contacts. And, you know, like our, that subjective experience of humanity is always changing. It’s like you need somebody to kind of help sharpen you into that process of being more creative and thinking outside that strategic lens.
That reminds me of one of the points I made earlier about, like, why we might want to do this, because if the team has already invested in the design team has already invested in it, who are doing it this way already. I think one thing that is really easy to overlook, especially if you’re newer, is that if you work with a product, a whole bunch, you become literate with all the patterns and the approaches and everything and then you’ve learned them and then they’re no longer challenging to you. And I maintain it. This is one of the reasons that like Microsoft’s applications suck, is because they’ve been sniffing their own farts for so long, you don’t realize how shitty their UI is
as a metaphor for Yeah, it’s what and you know, Aaron, we’ve mentioned a couple times here on the show, right that the 10 Ux commandments, and number something is you are not the user, right? Like you, you are not the person that you’re building for. And that can be really hard to step out of that space. And any of your comments, you know, remove that bias, you know, stop working from assumptions, or at least stop relying on assumptions, which actually, I think is another one of the commandments. Like you, you need to trust but verify. Let me ask before we get to break here. Are there any resources that you would direct people to that you think are particularly useful in either blogs or books or other podcasts, things like that, that you think folks should check out if they want to learn more about, you know, getting into user experience testing?
Sure, sure. In terms of UX are I definitely enjoy UX pin. They have a ton of resources about not just design but also from a user researcher perspective. I think InVision has always been great because their product is mostly about getting, you know, users to interact with a design and you can record some you know, really they have a lot of resources on their website about kind of generalized trends of what’s happening and let’s see and user testing calm their product I had some experience with and you know, it’s it’s definitely really helpful to reaching some remote audiences and they have a ton of great information. If you’re trying to understand like, what is UX research, they have like a good bulleted like one on one understanding you know, like, what are some basic techniques what we’re what type of research falls under what part of a product cycle you know, like, what do you want to use a be testing you know, when do you want to be doing some of this more like deep dives exploratory research. And just so that you can, you know, have some kind of foundation to justify the methodology that you’re going to go with. Because pretty much most people, you know, in UX can be able to do this kind of can do the research and you should. I think that a lot of, you know, teams are coming to the realization that it’s really helpful to have a UX researcher because the researcher acts as a filter to all like that noise that can be user feedback, because sometimes you’ll have one person who is not tech savvy, and they can’t figure out how to use the app or, you know, just some sort of these and helping you guys you know, stay focused on like, addressing the things that are the most important.
Yeah, great. We will make sure to get show notes, show notes, links to all of those in the show notes. So if you want to go check out any of those resources, those will all be listed there. One more thing before we get out of here. I I wanted to hit on just real fast, the different types of research that are out there because I think that’s also something that maybe we don’t talk quite enough about. And like thinking about things like academic research, right? Like, that’s not necessarily always the same as what you get when you’re in, you know, in the trenches in a business, huh?
Yeah, I mean, to that point, you know, what I’m seeing a lot of in terms of some of these job postings for UX researchers are looking for PhDs and, you know, master’s degree candidates who are coming out of school, you know, and for folks who don’t have a lot of direct industry experience, it can be kind of jarring because the two environments have different priorities. You know, just just like in terms of, like time alone, like, the timelines are completely different. So the last position I worked you know, working for this aviation is Innovation Lab, I worked with, you know, four PhDs, I believe, all with backgrounds and, you know, getting into the user experience space. And they have, like, you know, medical experience. And some of the things that I saw that they ran into were just, you know, issues with, like, the different expectations of time, like in academia, you know, there’s this expectation of like longer timelines, you have like, three to six months to explore a problem, whereas in the UX industry, that time is money, you have a significantly shorter time around probably about six weeks to scope like a deep dive project. And like, one week to unpack it in one week to come up with results at most, typically, you know, the shorter the better. So like, it’s it really is like very conflicting priorities. I think another trend I would mention is just that in academia, like, you know, transparency and like, effective methodology is your goal but in the industry, you know, Less is more, the more efficient efficiency is the school because you need to be able to get your point out as soon as possible because your stakeholders are, you know, they’re not going to have that much time there. They don’t care, you covered all the most efficient methodology, you know, you don’t want to look at your source code for like unpacking a survey, they want to, they want you to like get to your point in as short a time as possible. And the more visual you can make it the better.
And there is a trap there. And I will use that word this time. Because the other thing that I think you’ll run into, and this won’t be at every company, everybody’s experience will be a little different. But you will run into those organizations where your role is not so much expected to come in and find what’s best for the user. But it’s to verify the assumptions that people who get paid more than you have already made. And right yeah, that can be a very challenging and I have no good at Ice for that except to just fight for fight for the users, you know, you have to use the data and trust the data and find ways to not, don’t prove those people wrong, you know, don’t challenge them necessarily in that way. instead try to use that data and use that research to realign their focus, let’s say you know, there’s some social engineering that can go into those outcomes to to figure out how, you know how they feel about something and like you said, Maybe if you dig a little bit you can find a real source of the problem that you can adjust the focus and pivot towards
Yeah, it really is like a flexibility on understanding a problem and present it it’s like an A really important soft skill to have is being able to deliver that in a manner that is effective, you know, and and not caving, because your product managers just wants to verify whether or not the problem that
user research means you gotta have at least some people skills. Folks, kickback as stick with us here for just a minute we’re gonna get a word from our sponsors and we will be right back. The drunken UX podcast is brought to you by our friends at New cloud. New cloud is an industry leading interactive map provider who has been building location based solutions for organizations for a decade. Are you trying to find a simple solution to provide your users with an interactive map of your school city or business? Well, new clouds interactive map platform gives you the power to make and edit a custom interactive map in just two minutes. They have a team of professional cartographers who specialize in map illustrations of many different styles and are ready to design and artistic rendering to fit your exact needs. One map serves all of your users devices with responsive maps that are designed to scale and blend Then seamlessly with your existing website. To request a demonstration or to view their portfolio, visit them online at New cloud.com slash drunken UX that’s in you cloud.com slash drunken UX. Any thanks for sitting down with us tonight. We appreciate you taking the time out of your day to go through this and, and share these experiences with us. We appreciate it. I know our listeners appreciate it. I want to give you just a second. Take the microphone over and take a couple minutes here. tell folks what you’re doing where they can find you. And if you’ve got anything that you want to draw attention to.
Sure. Thank you, everyone for for having me on the show is a really great opportunity. Again, you can find me on LinkedIn under anime Lynn. I have some you know you can find my background. Feel free to reach out to me if you want to grab coffee. If you’re in the New York City area. Hit me up. I’ve definitely coached a lot of professionals Getting into the UX research space if you’re going from academia to industry, you know, I can certainly give you like some, some pro tips on how to make that jump. Unknown Speaker Awesome. Thanks
should connect with us on socials on the Twitter’s and the Facebook’s dot com slash open UX and linkedin.com slash trumpkin Ux podcast www.com. Right. Are we on LinkedIn? Michael?
No, we are not on LinkedIn. I’m sorry. I’m a great disappointment to you. I know.
It’s the giggles.com slash drunken UX podcast and check this on slack.com slash slack.
You know, it occurred to me thinking back about, you know, as a user, experienced professional of any kind, you know, this idea that you have to advocate for your users and sometimes that means butting up against the people that write your checks and, you know, it can be frustrating and it can be challenged. People and honestly, I get it. And every once in a while, you’ve got to pick your battles and decide which hills are worth dying on. It’s unfortunate, but it’s also business. And this, you know, these are the realities of the world we work in and find ways to leverage that you find opportunities and ways to build, save that data. always save your data, because even if you can’t use it now, you may be able to use it later and use it to show you know, plant the seed, right, you say, you know, I don’t know that this is going to work. And then quietly, you can start tracking that you don’t necessarily need permission. And in six months, when they wonder about conversions, you can dig that little nugget up, because it’s all about keeping your personas close and your users closer
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