design research for everyday projects - ux london

design research for everyday’ projects UX London 09 leisa reichelt disambiguity .com @leisa

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slides from my workshop on Design Research for Everyday Projects


design research for ‘everyday’ projects

UX London 09

leisa reichelt


this is not really about user centred design

to solve a problem you must first understand it

- kim goodwin

it’s about good design

who is this workshop for?

‘everyday’ projects?the design research projects you hear about most often are

enormous, time consuming and expensive.

most projects we work on can’t bear that.

research can/should be customised to suit the project requirements

what we’ll coverPART ONE: Designing Design Research

PART TWO: Conducting Design ResearchPART THREE: Analysing Design Research

LOTS of hands on exercises. Lots of your questions & shared experiences

Focus on QUALITATIVE Research (esp. interview format)

Focus more on practical ‘what you can actually do’ than ‘best practice’

part 1: designing design research

what is design research?

activities that seek insight into user behaviour, goals and needs that might be supported by the

design of products/services

‘we tend to project our own rationalisations and beliefs onto the actions and beliefs of others’

- don norman, the design of everyday things

why dodesign research?

why dodesign research?

design research helps you uncover, understand and design for

real user needs

real user needs

= design for good usabilitybut also

= insight for inspiration/validation

when to dodesign research?

generative research


evaluative research

design research toolkitQualitative


Depth Interviews (Customer&User)

‘Snap’ Interviews

Direct Observation (Ethnography)

Longitudinal Research

Group/Social Research



Remote ‘Testing’ ToolsUsability Testing

Focus Groups

Stakeholder Interviews

Subject Matter Expert (SME) Interviews

Competitive Reviews

Contextual Inquiry

Literature Reviews- diary study-twitter- flickr

Co-design/Participatory Design

quantitative Vs qualitative

Quantitative research is the systematic scientific investigation of quantitative properties and phenomena and their relationships. The objective of quantitative research is to develop and employ mathematical models, theories and/or hypotheses pertaining to natural phenomena. The process of measurement is central to quantitative research because it provides the fundamental connection between empirical observation and mathematical expression of quantitative relationships.

mathematics and natural sciencesstatistically sound, scientificlarge random samplesquestionnaires, surveys, testsQuantitative

Qualitative research ...aim(s) to gather an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern human behavior. Qualitative research relies on reasons behind various aspects of behavior.

Simply put, it investigates the why and how of decision making, not just what, where, and when.

social sciencesinsight gathering, exploratorysmall sample sizesparticipatory, observational, interviews, analysis of documents & materials.Qualitative

‘To design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say.

Self-reported claims are unreliable, as are user speculations about future behaviour.’

- jakob nielson

choose qualitative for insight

but ideally, combine quantitative and qualitative inputs

quantitative can be great for problem identification & solution validation

how to choose?

‘stock standard’ / garden variety plan

45-60 minute interviews 6-8 participants.


understanding the problem:what are you trying to learn?

- the problem is not always what it first appears to be

- define your research questions - what might be the best ways

to answer those questions?

understanding the problem:

what is the context for the problem?

- care not to narrow the context early- are their multiple relevant contexts?

- WHERE can we learn about the people’s behaviour in relation to this problem?

- research as close to context as possible.

remember: the power of ‘artifacts’

- memory aid / detail- cross check for accuracy

...don’t be afraid of getting a bit creative

...ethical research

EXERCISE! Part 1Your client is a grocery store.

They want you to do some research and make recommendations about how they can provide a

better online grocery shopping experience for their customers.

You have unlimited time & budget

for your research.

What research activities would you suggest?

design research toolkitQualitative


Depth Interviews (Customer&User)

‘Snap’ Interviews

Direct Observation (Ethnography)

Longitudinal Research

Group/Social Research



Remote ‘Testing’ ToolsUsability Testing

Focus Groups

Stakeholder Interviews

Subject Matter Expert (SME) Interviews

Competitive Reviews

Contextual Inquiry

Literature Reviews- diary study-twitter- flickr

Co-design/Participatory Design

squeeze to fitSTART:

design the research project you’d love to do if time/money/resources were no barrier

THEN: work out what is achievable. Be creative!

ways to squeeze- fewer participants

- fewer activities- shorter sessions

- less proximate to context (use artifacts)- use technology (phone, web video, twitter)

- less complex research activities- more readily accessible participants

Even the smallest amount of data beats none.

(yes, I’m quoting Jakob again - Guesses vs Data as the basis for Design Recommendations)

let’s take a break!

part 2: conducting design research


who to recruit?‘persona hypotheses’

Think about:- the different user roles

- factors most likely to affect behaviour

Don’t over complicate it!

how many?as few as possible.

if given the choice to more research studies with few participants.

why?- diminishing returns

- speed to action (design)

In earlier research, Tom Landauer and I [Jakob Nielsen] showed that the number of usability problems found in a usability test with n users is:


where N is the total number of usability problems in the design and L is the proportion of usability problems discovered while testing a single user. The typical value of L is 31%, averaged across a large number of projects we studied. Plotting the curve for L=31% gives the following result:

(yes, I’m quoting Jakob again - Why you only need to test with 5 users)

The most striking truth of the curve is that zero users give zero insights.

how to find them?

DIY vs Using Professionals- how much time/money do you have?

- how easily accessible are participants?

is using friends/family network really bad?

Incentives. Pay them.

CAUTION: researching young

people & kiddies


- where to research- timing your research

- factoring in ‘no shows’ (& ‘floaters’)- consent forms (privacy, their rights

& incentive acknowledgement)

discussion guides

-writing a discussion guide

discussion guide> define your research questions> start as wide as possible, narrow slowly> keep it contextual, not speculative> show, don’t tell (observation = good) (show me how you do that?)

> uncover mental models (if you clicked there, what do you think would happen?)

> ask OPEN questions (ask questions to get them talking NOT yes/no answers)

> take care not to lead (you can have leading questions AND leading structures)

> don’t outsource design to your participant! (remember, you’re the designer!)


write a discussion guide for a depth interview for your grocery store client (who wants to design a better online

grocery shopping experience)

interview technique

getting the most from your research participants

(quite possibly the most important part!)

capturing data

what to capture on sticky notes

> *anything* interesting/relevant said in the course of your interview, in as close to direct quotes as possible.

> your design ideas> questions for the future

> capturing on the fly is a *real* skill. I still live transcribe to a text file then extract affinity notes from the transcription.

interview technique

introductions & getting started

- introduce yourself (and any colleagues)- what are we doing here?- what time will we finish

- forms & incentives- ask permission to record

interview technique

it’s not a test!

- allay their nerves- distance yourself from the design

- we only care about *their* opinion, not people they know or ‘most people’

- there’s no right answer or smart answer- their opinion counts - will really help shape the

design of the product/service

interview technique

building rapport

*everyone* has something that makes them either very interesting or passionate.

find it. talk about it.

the investment in building rapport is repaid by the quality/quantity of insight given.

interview technique- Active Listening - nodding, smiling & paraphrasing

- Focus - don’t let yourself get distracted- Look for physical clues - additional information,

and do they match the words? - Don’t Rush - take time to get your thoughts

together & prepare your next question- Keep it open - Who, What Where, When, Why, How

and my favourite ‘Tell me about...’- Follow the flow - don’t stick to your script, mix up

the order if it flows better for that participant.

interview techniqueHave a great closing question.

Some of my favourites are: - Do you know someone you might

recommend this to? Who/Why- How would you rate it out of 10

- What would you tell the designers

Try to summarise the parting sentiment (notes that it is not more or less important than the initial sentiment)

interview techniquesay thank you.

always remember the participant is HELPING appreciative.

research participants are like dangerous

animals...they’re usually just as scared of you as you are of them.

if you’re feeling nervous, remember...

EXERCISE! Part 2bAn interview!

in pairs, take turns to conduct a 10 minute interview using your discussion guide from

the previous exercise

part 3: analysing design research

rule of thumb: allow at least a day of analysis

for each day of research

start with single case analysis(the story of each participant)

eg. affinity sorting

then move tomultiple case analysis

(trends in the data)

a mind map can be a digital affinity sort

collaborativeaffinity sorting?

I’ve had great results with this but only if participants have observed the research

using research data in design: audience modelling

using research data in design: audience modelling

using research data in design: experience strategy & design


Commitmenthow much will I care next month?

Proximityam I experiencing

‘it’ right now?




Today I’m pissed at British Gas

I’m passionate about Education

the more I learnthe more I care

once my billing problem is fixed,

I’m fine.

using research data in design: audience modelling


32yrsJnr Mgr, Lloyds TSB

Income approx £30K p..

Keith is planning to pop the question soon - in about a weeks timeThe engagement ring will be his first big jewellery purchase.He knows virtually nothing about diamonds or jewellery. He doesn’t want to become and expert, he just wants to know enough to buy well and wants to feel reassured that he’s getting what he’s paying for.

He has a general idea of his girlfriend’s preferred style but is not really confident about choosing the right design. Some of his mates have been engaged recently and he’s asked them a few questions about the process.

He popped into Goldsmiths last week to tentatively start investigating his purchase and spent most of the time telling assistants he was ‘just looking’ - he left quite quickly, not liking the ‘pressure’ of the store experience. He doesn’t know (but wants to) what makes one ring so much more expensive than another.

‘I just want to know enough to buy well’

investment emotion

£100 £2000

novice expert

for self for other

need it quickly willing to wait


knows that a potential purchase is on the cards, has heightened awareness of information that crosses his path but not actively seeking information.

weeks/months in advance.possible sources: social networks, media/content

actively seeking information to inform purchase (qualities of diamond and metal, price etc.) Gaining enough knowledge to buy well.

10 days to weeks in advance in store, google for information

find and purchase the ring

the right ring at the right price from a company he can trust.

approx. 1 week in advance of proposal

using research data in models: personas

Recommended Reading:

Designing for the Digital AgeKim Goodwin

About Face 3Cooper, Reinman & Cronin

Rapid ContextualDesignHolzblatt, Wendell & Wood

thank you :)Leisa Reichelt

[email protected]