Five Common User Research Mistakes
A vital element of any new product cycle is user research. Miss it out at your peril or even worse; do it but do it badly. It sounds easy enough, ask a few questions, get a few surveys filled in and you can say you’ve done user research. However, it is precisely because organisations falsely believe this stage of the process is simple enough and don’t allocate sufficient time or resources that they risk achieving the opposite – a costly mistake. The first thing you should do, before anything else, is conduct a UX audit of your products and platforms in order to achieve a proper understanding of how things stand for you right now. If you’re passionate about quality user research that adds value, we’ve identified 5 common user research mistakes that your organisation should avoid: 1. Research that is all over the place If you are looking to gather meaningful data that will inspire your project team and enhance product design, user research cannot just be embarked on. It requires careful planning, with clear, defined goals. The temptation is to throw some money and a few members of the team into the mix and expect to get something vaguely useful out of it. By all means, if vague works for you and you have a limitless budget at your disposal then jump straight in. The risk with this approach is that it rarely yields enough information that can be used successfully. To avoid wasting valuable resource on unhelpful user research, be clear on what you want out of the event. Discuss requirements with the project team, the client and any other stakeholders. Evaluate data that is already available and drill down to what exactly you need to know that will inform the next stage of the product’s process. What do people want the research to inform them of? Dealing with these elements will ensure that the user research phase has purpose and adds value. A clear user research plan is vital to get buy-in from stakeholders for both the research and results. Smashing Magazine describes a 1-page research plan that will help to focus and describe what will happen, why and how. 2. Asking people what they want User research is all about understanding people and their experiences with specific tasks, environment and products. Therefore it would seem the best course of action is to ask people what they want. Unfortunately, human beings, when confronted with such a general question, will falter and not be able to offer any coherent response. The majority of the time, people do not know exactly what they want. It is a misguided belief that we understand how our brains works and the impact of this on our behaviour. Nisbet and Wilson in their 1977 paper Telling more than we can know explain: “when people attempt to report on their cognitive processes…, they do not do so based on any true introspection. Instead, their reports are based on a priori, implicit casual theories or judgments about the extent to which a particular stimulus is a plausible cause for a given response.” In addition, taken out of their natural environment, people find it challenging to illustrate their activity and any problems they face. To maximum opportunity for learning, user researchers will find observation to be the ideal approach. Observation should take place in the locations where people are naturally engaged in tasks using tools that will give you and how your product may be impacted. If unable to go to people’s workplace or home environment, it is helpful to try and replicate surroundings that will allow them to…
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