As a User Experience Researcher, what is your action plan or steps to approach a new project?

This answer does not discuss any UX methods but highlights the process that I follow. UX research is very critical to the subsequent design process and thus is as much important as the design itself.

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”Zora Neale Hurston

Don’t get to the solution first!

One might have done similar projects before and might be knowing solutions to the common problems. However, do not hurry into finishing research and jump to design. Chances are one will overlook the important points. However obvious this may sound, one will still try to design solution due to client’s demand or tight timeline. Rather, the first step is to get a clear brief from the client. Also, this is not easy!

Debrief

Inflate the brief. Detail out the objective, intent, requirements and everything which is necessary for the research and make sure it is in conjunction with the client. Build an understanding of the client – get closer to the problem; this might help in strengthening the empathy. UX Research is a very exhaustive process if done in its fullest. Many times if the scope is not defined correctly, there are chances that one does not know where to end the research and that pushes the timeline.

Plan

At this stage, one should have everything to begin the research. Yes, the actual research has not started yet. One’s vision now should reflect the objective of this inquiry. On the other hand, he should list the sources of carrying out this research (such as technical papers, interviews and field trip). The plan will be the primer for the research – the process, methods, deliverables will be its ingredients. Now, one will find hundreds of techniques and deliverables for UX research, generalized enough so that he can apply them in the context, but sometimes it is not sufficient to follow the existing schema. They may need improvisation and planning here means thinking ahead and selecting what will be relevant here. Of course, there may be detours, and that is part of this process.

Observe and Research

However simple this may sound, this is exhaustive and goes mundane if the plan is not adequate. Don’t decide the solution or result before actually reaching there by the facts.

“We tend to be distracted by the voices in our own heads telling us what the design should look like.”Michael Bierut, Partner at Pentagram Design

The chances are that one will not be able to find if he is biased by himself. Peer reviews can be of help here. Organize and document the research and don’t be afraid of picking facts that may not sound relevant directly. The mode of the investigation drives the quality of the study, what information is from the target user and what from the publications or experts. Many researchers select the users based on ease of accessibility. Picking friends and family for the user study for the research who does not qualify in the desired target group should never be done. The sample size is another thing which is critical and should always have a basis. Also, It is hard to end the research because one may not know that if this research will suffice the intent set in the plan or not; and this is why that analysis of the research should happen simultaneously with the research.

Analysis

The analysis is often the final step; one should deduce all the facts collected till now into (valuable) insights and implications. The selection of methods will be based on the kind of research till now and don’t be afraid of applying multiple methods to the same observation to find hidden patterns. Stay away from personal opinions and in case if one finds a possible pattern but not enough evidence, go back to the research.

What is one trait you wish more UX designers had?

Only if I can mention more than one trait, I would say the already mentioned ones in the previous answers (Following article was originally written as an answer to Quora answer) — empathy, pragmatism, and ability to take criticism to name a few.

Now so they are already stated, I wish if UX designers have honesty. The fact that this discipline is so vast makes it incredibly difficult to become one person equipped with the knowledge that makes him the UX Designer — Human Factors, Ergonomics, Interaction design, Visual design and what not. Considering the vastness and depth, many would think that then there must be only a handful of UX designers in the industry. Contrary to this, there are more UX designers (at least they call themselves so) than ever, many who are either good at visual design or wireframing start calling them as UX designers. It is possible that one is only specialized in one or few of the above sub-fields but still call himself as UX designer but is it justified? Emil Lamprecht from UX Mastery sums up like this, “With new professions come new pitfalls, and being an often misinterpreted role, the job title “User Experience Designer” is becoming one of the most abused titles in the tech industry, full of fancy User Interface (aka, graphic) guys who’ve added wireframes to their portfolios and claim to be UX experts.”1

Perhaps this is one profession which is dominated by the graphic designers. In fact, most of the people think that Photoshop and Illustrator are what you should know to be a UX designer. The term UX dilutes with UI, and what results is often just about visual aesthetics and nothing more, and stating the design as “intuitive” just because it looks shiny. Many try to reason the decisions that they make after design. Please don’t put those golden spirals in your logo. That is not reasoning.

I should not even talk about User studies – extrapolating results from a focus group of three people does not justify anything.

Notes.


  1. 7 Signs This Person Isn’t Actually A UX Designer – UX Mastery, 7 Signs This Person Isn’t Actually A UX Designer – UX Mastery (accessed March 07, 2017). 

How Should Quora design its feed?

Quora is a great resource but certainly not the most well presented. I do not have much information on how Quora tailors the feed for her users, and all I know is mostly from my personal experiences while using Quora. Feed is one of the important assets (after content) to user experience here, and a great discovery tool. My scope of answer would remain about how might Quora design its feed in the future and not about any other revolving features.

Like most of Quora users, I’m also curious about many topics beyond my area of work and want to read the answers (more often than to write one). It was not much before when I simply used to follow almost every topic that Quora fits in between the questions in the feed.

My feed went lustrous day by day! It had content from countless topics and most importantly, I was learning something new almost every time I opened Quora. I used to keep scrolling and stop by the question that fascinates me. This spree continued till last year when I started realizing that either the quality of questions is diminishing or my feed is filled with utter nonsense (or let’s call them as things that does not interest me much) because of the 400+ topics that I followed since using Quora. I was required to scroll more and stop less because I was not finding the content interesting enough to hold me on. This started bothering me, and I started finding why I was fed the kind of content, which I did not intend in the first place itself.

I had this topic subscribed called Psychology of Everyday life and it has some great questions and answers by some of the prolific writers on Quora. But not much later, I started seeing questions marked with this topic which did not interest me.

I wondered if I actually subscribed a topic to get questions like this. This looks more like to be dumped into some other topic (may be Life advice) but cannot at the same time that it should not fall into Psychology of Everyday life either.

Like every other topic on Quora, it has its share of some great and some not-so-great content. But I’m not hinting about the quality of content foremost, but the facts that the content within topics also has a hierarchical structure, they also fall into sub-topics and I might want to see only some of the sub-topics of the parent topic that I had followed and not the rest. I checked Quora if it lets me personalize the feed other than following topics/writer. I found I can not do anything other than reporting/down-voting answers which I certainly don’t want to do because I don’t want to rate the content which I don’t have an interest in and for the sake alone to personalize my feed. This is the precise problem – Quora feed shows content from topics that I followed but does not let my personalize at a sub-topic level.

Quora may offer a “Show less of questions like this..” or unfollow a certain sub-topic within parent topic. Quora anyways offer to associate content with multiple topics and a context topic. I have not yet thought about how best we can solve this or may be, this is already on the to-do list of Quora product designers.