Before you design, make sure you know who you are designing for.
- Who are they? What’s important to them?
- What do they think of your product right now?
- How do they look for things on your web site?
Whether you are designing products, web sites or applications; or writing marketing material, user documentation or web content — getting to know your audience is the key to success.
I can help you determine what the best research methods are to answer your questions and get to know your users.
Contextual inquiries or ethnographic research simply means observing and interviewing your customers in their environment.
When you watch people perform a task, you’ll often see that the person who says they never read anything, reads every instruction on the screen. And the person who says they have great web search skills, may not know their way around a Boolean search.
Watching people work in their own surroundings, observing their environment, seeing who is REALLY using your product, and asking questions provides insights you’ll never get in a focus group.
Baseline Usability Testing
Do you have a product in the field now?
Want to know how well it works for people before developing the next iteration?
Want to know how well your competition stands up to your product?
Baseline testing let’s you see how well your product is working now, and where you can make improvements in the next version. Testing what you have today, gives you great benchmark metrics to take into the next version. Testing what your competition has let’s you identify their strengths and weaknesses so you can solidify your offering.
Card Sort Studies
Do you use a lot of jargon around the office and have no idea what “real people” call these things? Do you know how people navigate through your site, and why they make the choices that they do?
Card sort studies provide insight into how users think about content, content labels and navigational hierarchies. Peoples group together terms, text, products etc. into groupings that seem logical to them, and explain their thinking. When patterns begin to emerge, you have valuable insights into how to organize content and navigation in your application or site.
Card sorting is an easy testing technique to use across distances and many participants.
Sometimes you need to know what more than a handful of people think. Do they value feature A over feature B. Do they call it a widget, or a gadget?
User surveys are useful for capturing opinion and preference data from a large sample of people and can help validate that the research being done through small samples of people applies to a broader audience.
Output of User Research
Chances are that after watching people use your web site, we’ll see a few usage patterns emerge. I can create personas, or user profiles, that capture these patterns in the form of archetypal users that your design team can relate to. Personas are a great way to keep design and development teams focused on the end user.
After watching people interact with your product, I’ll put together some task analysis for you. Task analysis helps identify critical elements of a task, potential usability issues, and aspects of a user interface that may have been overlooked.
Scenarios are stories about how people perform tasks. What is persona A’s motivation, mental model and usage model for using feature B? How does that differ from persona C?
I’ll put together scenarios that outline how people work with your product to help create the vision for your product and bring focus to your project.