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Innovation Always Starts With Empathy

Wonderful article by Ziba rebutting the recent skepticism on the UCD process:

When Ziba investigates a specific user as part of a design project, the end result isn’t a set of new products, it’s an internal understanding of what that user is like: The challenges she faces each day, the things that excite and concern her, and her motivations and values. If you don’t come out of a research effort feeling like a different person, you’re doing it wrong.

Introducing Insightico!

We launched a new webapp called Insightico. This online application helps you use and reuse your research data.

How many times have you gone back to those interview recordings that you so carefully planned at the start of the project? Or those snapshots you took when surveying how people work? I’ve spoken to many people in the business and they usually say “never”. In fact, some of the interviews we did for past projects are still in the audio recorder!

We want to go back to research, but the problem is that it is a painful process trying to locate that 15 second clip where you saw something interesting.

Insightico addresses this gap by enabling you to add your insights to specific parts of images, documents, audio or video files.

Say you are viewing a 30 min audio interview. You hear something interesting, now instead of noting what you heard and the timestamp on a sticky note, you can just select the part of the audio file and directly add your insights to it. Yes, you can tag your insights as well. Repeat the process with all your research data and now you have an inventory of insights but all connected to the relevant bits in the sources. This inventory along with the tags gives a good picture of the research findings.

The most important feature of Insightico—you can do all of this collaboratively with your team.

Check Insightico out by signing up for the beta.

Over 75 Free Rapid E-Learning Resources

Nice list. I found many resources that I can use today!

Research Ethics Guidebook

“The Research Ethics Guidebook is designed as a resource for social science researchers - those early in their careers, as well as more experienced colleagues.  It aims to help you find your way through the variety of regulatory processes and procedures that can apply to social science research - signposting you to more detailed information along the way, and acting as a prompt for reflection and questioning at all stages of the research process.”

IDSA design research

The design research section of the IDSA now has a website. Also, the current issue of IDSA’s publication Innovation is jam packed with design research related articles. Cool!

The Ethnography of Design: A Series

New series on Ethnography by Catapult Design:

This post is the first in a weekly series called “The Ethnography of Design” about the relationship between anthropology and design and how the ethnographer’s toolkit can be applied to build more effective world-changing, problem-solving products and systems. Each post in the series will be paired with – and will explore – a video or article that highlights an innovative design solution or product that has taken into account (successfully or unsuccessfully – and why) ethnographic research methods and human-centered design thinking frameworks.

The Myth of Usability Testing

Robert Hoekman Jr. discusses the reliability of usability tests in the latest issue of A List Apart.

“Usability teams also have wildly differing experience levels, skill sets, degrees of talent, and knowledge, and although some research and testing methods have been homogenized to the point that anyone should be able to perform them proficiently, a team’s savvy (or lack thereof) can affect the results it gets. That almost anyone can perform a heuristic evaluation doesn’t mean the outcome will always be useful or even accurate. Heuristics are not a checklist, they are guidelines a usability evaluator can use as a baseline from which to apply her expertise. They are a beginning, not an end.”

The essence of qualitative research: “verstehen”

Nice post by Sam Ladner on sample size when conducting qualitative research. Ladner says “Folks, qualitative research does not worry about numbers of people; it worries about deep understanding”. I can relate with this because I’m writing a response to a proposal that has stated the problem only briefly but has spent the rest of the proposal describing how they want the research to be executed, along with the exact number of people to interview, etc. This is an example of a quantitative proposal to solve a qualitative problem.

A Look Behind The Curtain At YouTube’s User Experience Research

Jason Kincaid writes about how YouTube tries to constantly test out and understand how its users are using the website.

“To help gauge the Watch page’s ideal layout, YouTube invited in a number of users and gave them magnets that represented different elements from YouTube and other popular video sites. The results were not surprising, but they present an interesting challenge to YouTube: the vast majority of users chose to streamline their page as much as possible, featuring a large video player, a search box, and a strip of related videos. But the site’s heavy uploaders, who are obviously key to YouTube’s success, tended to favor a more complex site with a greater emphasis on analytics, sharing, and social interaction.

YouTube’s task is to figure out a way to appeal to both sets of users.”

Card Sorting: Pushing Users Beyond Terminology Matches

A very useful article by Jakob Nielsen. His main point in this article is that we need to be wary of how we present usability activities like card sorting to users. If we are not careful, we may be priming them towards an option rather than allowing them to think through the different options. Jakob Nielsen explains his theory by way of an card-sorting exercise. Go ahead and read it.

Multitasking Muddles the Mind?

A Stanford University study seems to suggest that multitasking reduces intellectual efficiency.

“Nass [the author] says the study has a disturbing implication in an age when more and more people are simultaneously working on a computer, listening to music, surfing the Web, texting, or talking on the phone: Access to more information tools is not necessarily making people more efficient in their intellectual chores.”

Designing for Interaction: Design Research

Here is a sample chapter from Dan Saffer's Designing for Interaction. In this chapter Dan offers a good commentary on Design Research -- what it is, why do it and how it can be done.
"Imagine a zoo where the zookeepers don't know anything about animals, and they don't bother to find out about the animals' natural habitat, dietary needs, or natural predators. The zookeepers keep the animals in metal cages, group the animals randomly together, and feed them whatever they have around. Now imagine the chaos that ensues and the unhappy (or worse: sick or dead) animals that would be the result. Not the type of place you'd want to take your kids to. Our fictional zoo is the state of a lot of the products and services today, albeit not so extreme. While most businesses do have strong interest in their customers and put considerable amount of money into their products and services, a lot of that money is poorly spent. If only a small bit of the typical time, money, and resources used to make and market a product or service were put towards design research—observing, talking to, and maybe even making artifacts with customers and users—the products and services we use would be greatly improved."
[Via Infodesign]

Laddering: A Research Interview Technique for Uncovering Core Values

Got this link from ColumnTwo on yet another research technique called laddering.

"Asking Why? during research interviews seems rather obvious and straightforward. I have always tried to make it a point to structure my research interview scripts to ask Why? when following up on questions I’ve asked participants. However, the Means End Chain theory and the laddering method provide a focus and a direction for the Why? questions. While the actual implementation of the laddering technique may be difficult and cumbersome, I found a general awareness of the goals for asking Why? to be helpful. My hope is that using the essential concepts of the laddering technique will help me uncover people’s root consequences and values, providing insights that I can leverage in my design projects."

A market (design) research primer for designers

Brianna Sylver has written a nice overview of design research methods and then summarizes by showing when to use which method. The comments on this article debate the use of the term 'market research' over 'design research'. I won't fret over vocabulary. If you prefer the term 'design research', just use it in place of 'market research'. Confused already?

Blog on Design Research

Sam Ladner teaches the Research Design and Qualitative Methods course at Ryerson University. She uploads her slides on SlideShare regularly and blogs about different research topics. Check out posts like, Qualitative versus quantitative research, Design research, step by step. Nice stuff.

When to Use Which User Experience Research Methods

An Alertbox article by Christian Rohrer:

"Modern day user experience research methods can now answer a wide range of questions. Knowing when to use each method can be understood by mapping them in 3 key dimensions and across typical product development phases."

Nothing new here, but interesting classification:

On iTunes U: Guide to writing research papers

Just received this from Apple news:

"Need to write a research paper for a summer course? Then you’ll want to pay a visit to the Florida Community College at Jacksonville and sign up for English Composition II. The 24-unit video course provides a comprehensive resource for writing academic essays. And you can also learn about technical writing, writing for business, and literary analysis, as well."

A resource for writing research papers (direct launch on iTunes).

Extreme User Research

Daniel Lafreniere writes about talking to surrogate users about information needs and desires. Don't forget to read the comments section. They put the article in perspective.

"Doing user research doesn’t have to be tedious and cost lots of money. In many cases, you should be able to do it in a few days, even a few hours, depending of the scope your project. The main idea behind extreme user research is that instead of going for the real users, we go for surrogate users. Those are the ones within a company who talk directly to the customers. We want to talk to the people who talk to the people."

Forrester Research: Taking Web Sites Beyond Useful And Usable

Forrester Research extends useful and usable website metrics to include desirable:

"[M]any Web sites make users struggle to complete simple goals, have little to no emotional punch, and fail to embrace the diversity of consumers' wants and needs. To make matters worse, today's Web organizations must often backburner projects that would improve their sites' desirability factor in order to fix more pressing problems. As a result, the topic of desirability largely remains a mystery in the user experience community. We've explored three tactics for creating desirable online experiences: 1) providing engaging content and functionality, 2) focusing on aesthetics, and 3) incorporating elements of game design."

Using research to end visual design debates

Nick Myers from Cooper gives us a strategy to deal with those never ending debates about this shade of blue or that gradient of red, especially from project sponsors and stakeholders:

The visual design process is essentially composed of a series of decisions that establish a strategy, then define a visual system in increasing degrees of detail and clarity to optimally satisfy that strategy. Relying on subjective feedback to make these design decisions can be disastrous and will result in a design that may be acceptable to your team but has no appeal to users.

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