UX Cambridge 2013: User Research Methods on a Budget


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Presentation by Rebecca Blakiston on September 5th, 2013.

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  • Can’t afford to make videos (have to rent videos)?Can’t afford paper (have to sketch prototypes in the sand)?Can’t afford a usability testing lab & observation room (have to use cardboard with peep holes for the eyes)?
  • Who am I?Love Cambridge, like to visit (2010 photo)Born in London, father & his side of the family all living in UK
  • Cambridge – Hilary, Bob, GramsMeeting Philippa & Ellie in YorkCaroline in London
  • My home, over 5000 miles awayTucson, Arizona, a couple hours south of Phoenix. A desert & one of the sunniest & hottest cities in the country.University of Arizona, went to college for bachelor’s and master’s degrees
  • Main Library, have worked for 10 years. Includes 4 buildings and approx. 150 staff.Shelved books > information desk, public services focus, always wanting to improve experience physically & virtually2008, instruction & instructional design librarian, teaching classes, campus engagement, learning spaces2010, first Web Product Manager for the library – organization, communication, commitment to UXNo technical background, don’t design, don’t develop, work with those who do.Oversee our websites, chair WSG, create and manage a road map, work on content strategy, and do user research.Goal to cultivate a culture of user experience across the library.LJA courses do-it-yourself usability testing, writing for the web, and content strategy.
  • Project manager, spring 2012 CCP rebuild and redesignPart of the university library system. Internationally known museum that holds the world’s largest archives of North American photographers. Type of content: events, exhibits, collections.Homepage left, landing page right.Responsive design.
  • Project manager, fall 2012, Special CollectionsRare books and archives, including manuscripts, original photographs, artifactsOften used by faculty, history students, visiting researchers studying Arizona and the southwest and the history of the university.
  • Our other websitesMain site over 500 pagesMain website rebuild this year, but user research ongoing
  • User research is best thing to improve design, IA, labeling, and the content Do it yourself. Don’t have to contract out. Won’t be scientific (necessarily) but will give great insight. Make you a better developer, better designer. Involve more people in the process.Various strategic points in the design/developmentOngoing, sustainable way
  • UX conference. You know creating a great, meaningful, and seamless user experiences important. Part of your job.Experts in user experience design.No matter knowledge, you have to do user research. Continually listen to users, test assumptions, continually learn to improve designs, more usable and valuable.You are not your userSet all biases aside and really listenNot much or no budget Library and education on a lean budget. We have small assessment fund ($1000 a year)No ability to give $ or gift cardsUp next: 5 methods, what to use for, how to do with minimal budget
  • Who has used surveys?Common, simple.Often done poorly:Contracted out to research firm, too scientificToo much info, long, convolutedIrritatingIncentive expected – raffle, couple dollars (Survey Savvy)Wrong types of questionsRank satisfaction (doesn’t tell you why)Specific questions about what you did (users can’t usually recall details with any precision)But, useful for getting data from your users.
  • Learn who they areLearn what they are trying to doFocus on things Google Analytics (and organization/client) can’t tell you We did a survey for our Spec Coll and the CCP. Screenshot from the photography center. Helped us focus our efforts. Helped us build personas.Helped us develop scenarios for usability testing.
  • Use logic to target questions to segments of audienceGreat for building personas and primary tasksExample from photography center. Students questions.Users can’t give real insight into UX through surveys, but can tell you who they are and what they are trying to do.
  • Make it easy. Don’t make too many questions.Don’t make difficult questions to answer. Make it simple, straightforward, and even fun.Access users through email list, newsletter, through facebook, or in person, Tell them why you are doing the survey: to help you improve the library, improve the website, etc. What’s in it for them. Their opinion matters and will help you help them, improve their experience.Photography center, sent out with online newsletter (3,000 people), “help us improve the website,” couple hundred responses within a week.Main website, pop-up, 615 completed responses within just a week using this method.
  • [still need to add images of these products]Google forms is free and easy to use and send out to the masses.Surveymonkey is free for 10 questions per survey, 100 responses per survey. Or you can pay $17/month for unlimited questions and unlimited responses.Typeform, came out recently and it’s free to sign up. Their slogan is, “Making forms & surveys awesome.” and “Say goodbye to boring forms & surveys.”Other free tools like “Kwiksurveys, and “Zoomerang.”So surveys are very easy, are almost free, and can give you some insight into your audience and their goals when they visit your website.Surveys are good for gathering certain types of data, but not all data – someone won’t be able to tell you much about their actual user experience in a survey.
  • Go out in the world and talk to people one-on-oneUsers or potential usersShort & simple, or longer and in depth. Significant insight.Have people had experience with these sorts of interviews?
  • Ask them questions. Have a conversationGet inside their heads, find out how they thinkWe focus on organizational goals rather than on user goals. Must meet the user goals first.Questions:Why would/do you visit a particular website? What would you want to do on the website? What would you want to find out on the website?What service do you use most? And what would they expect to find if they clicked on something called X? Find out primary tasks of your audienceHelps you focus on what is most important. Discover expectationsDiscover the mental models of the users. Find out language they use to describe things.
  • On a budget:Carry around a basket of candy, fruit, or water bottles. Tell them you want to improve your website. Seek out opportunities for impromptu, on the fly interviews. Example: Wildcat Welcome Week. “Why did you visit the library today?” Read books for fun, laptop checkout.Hallway interviews – intercept passersby. Example in main library. Incentive is a free print job (worth $1.50), candy bar, bag of chips or a bottle or water. Filmed. Focused on library terms (jargon): document delivery, interlibrary loan, express retrieval, express document center, on-demand information delivery, and information commons. Students said “document delivery” meant a messenger service, delivery of books from one library to another, actual delivery, when it means online delivery – “express retrieval” – “a rush order on a book” or “getting a book that’s not on the shelf” or “a search engine the library has.”Language: “central waiting area” (not hold shelf), “search engine” (not database” and “the shelves” (not the stacks)Share with stakeholders.Video is a powerful tool – for all methods involving real life people talking.See real users talking, expressions, quotes. Helpful justify decisions and get stakeholders on board.
  • Like user interviews, but groupAsk them questions.Same benefits: primary tasks, mental models, expectations, languagePlus conversation between participants, diving deeper, different perspectives
  • Free lunch, or $10 gift cardHow you could get volunteers through something like this?Special Collections example –Provided lunch, one hourRepresentative from each primary audiences (invited by archivists)Questions we asked:How often do you use the Special Collections website, and what do you use it for?What materials are you usually looking for?Could you tell us more about your research process? (How do you usually go about finding primary source materials?)Found out most users looking for materials based on subject (Arizona) or format (images). They said, “show us what you got!”Helped structure collections, more browseableWe also asked:What do you find unhelpful or frustrating about the Special Collections website?Users frustrated when pushed out to Arizona Archives Online, so pull in those guidesFocus your questions on what you want to learn.Don’t ask too many questions.Dive deeply into certain questions. Ask follow ups, keep them talking.Take vicious notes, or record
  • Who has conducted a card sort?Each card has a piece of web content – labelParticipants group the cards into categoriesOpen card sort – they create categories (example on slide - labels)Closed card sort - you provide categories. Hybrid model
  • Get insight into how users think about thingsHow they think about groups or concepts.How they think differently What they understand or don’t understandHelps you understand the content from the perspective of the user. Facilitation: it’s not a test – can’t do anything wrong; keep them talkingSo you can…Improve your information architecture – the way you structure and organize content. Guide you to a structure that makes sense to users. Insight and ideas on how to structure confusing content.Decide if you should organize by audience, task or topic.Traditionally card sorting captures all content on 60 or 70 cards. More time, incentives.Alternative: hallway, on-the-fly style. Focus on particular areas of confusion. Example: Main website, table in lobby, box of candy bars, bottles of water. Tutorials, guides, how do I?s. Rather than writing labels, described content.Hybrid model“Writing and citing” category worked really well“How To” and “How Do I Find…” were popular categories.Instructors thought differently than students.
  • It’s a fun activityCan keep it short and simple, requiring less incentivesTake advantage of opportunities (example, Grad College office first week of classes – outside your office)Talking out loud most valuableWon’t give you enough info to create a perfect IA, but insight
  • Remote card sorting requires less time/moneyWebsort for photography center and special collections (also Optimalworkshop.com).Example: photo centerClosed card sort to validate our proposed structureNo incentive – just sent it out to email list. 114 people participatedIn addition to validating menu and structure, made us realize that some content should be listed in two places – for instance Rare Books & Reference should be in “Collections” and “Study & Research”
  • Usability testing is kingAuthentic, actually observing users trying to complete tasks – You will find out quickly what works well, what needs improvement. Do usability testing at all phases of a project. Test early, and test often.I teach a 4-week class on this topic, and I’m writing an entire book on this topic, but I’ll briefly walk you through how to conduct usability testing in 3 (or maybe 4) easy steps.There is a book by Steve Krug called Rocket Surgery Made Easy: A do-it-yourself guide to finding and fixing usability problems. Read this.Who has done usability testing?
  • Figure out what to testOther user research methods help with thisWho your users are & context - where they are, what device they use, What is most important to your users Test something you have control over, something you can fix.Write out the tasks: find hours, find how much a service costs, purchase an item. Write non-leading scenario for each task. Put user in context in which they would complete task, avoid leading language.“Find hours” > “you need to drop by the bank after work, find out what time it closes today.”“Find how much a service costs” > “You want to hire a consultant to meet with your project team, find out how much you would be charged for this.” “Purchase an item” > “You want to buy this t-shirt, size small, and want to make sure it is delivered in time for your brother’s birthday next week. How would you go about doing this?”
  • Test with people. Lots of options. But minimal budget.Test friends, test family.Intercept testing, or hallway testing (rather than making appointments)Location where your audience frequents, ask passersby to volunteer. “Will only take 5 minutes, help us improve our website.” Small or no incentives will do.Works well in library and union, but perhaps going to Jesus Green, or Mill Pond, or the Grafton Center would work for you.Only need to test 5 to discover majority of your problems. (Jakob Nielsen, “Why you only need to test with 5 users.”)Steve Krug says, Recruit Loosely and Grade on a Curve. Don’t worry about participants exactly matching your target demographic. Keep them talking Make sure they know that they can’t do anything wrong. Don’t lead them in any particular direction. Capture what they are doing (screen recording, web cam, notes). It’s ok if you break a cardinal rule.All usability testing will be useful. It’s always better to do some usability testing than none at all.
  • Focus on the biggest problems first – fails to complete task, gives up, lack of functionalityMaking small improvements is better than not doing anything.Even if your solution isn’t perfect, you can almost always make some improvementDon’t fall into the trap of “waiting” until you have a better solution.We have this happen a lot – “well, there are usability problems, we all know there are, but in 6 months we are going to have an entirely new system so let’s not bother trying to fix it.” No, you can make improvements now and it will impact hundreds or thousands of customers, and you are more likely to retain those customers so they will actually come back when you finally have the “bigger” more long-term fix.
  • Ideally, test again, compare resultsHelpful to have development site or test site – test proposed solutions before implementing, especially if significant changesNot always possible, and sometimes it won’t really be necessary. You might know that something is an improvement. If you know it can’t possibly make things worse, and are confident it will make things better, you may not need to test again. (or test again later and make further improvements)
  • (Statue of Isaac Newton at Trinity College).Things to take away, if you remember nothing else from this presentation.
  • Put in a little bit of effort, it doesn’t take much, really.Talk to your users regularly. Anyone can do it – build a culture of user research and spread the work around.Build it into your process. Make it part of your workflow. Just a few minutes a day.Realize that some user research is better than no user research. And use what you find to guide your decision-making.
  • You don’t necessarily need any money. Take advantage of good will. Get creative with incentives (library free printing, fresh fruit/vegetables, waive fines, raffle for your own study table, or t-shirts, tote bags, water jugs.)Make things easy and make them fun. Explain that this will help improve the website, which will in turn help improve their experience.
  • Putting in minimal effort, minimal budget, make significant improvements to the user experience. Remember to focus on what you want to learn and what you can control.Listen and use the insight to guide your decisions. It really can make all the difference.
  • Questions?
  • UX Cambridge 2013: User Research Methods on a Budget

    1. 1. User Research Methods on a Budget UX Cambridge 2013 September 5th #uxcam Rebecca Blakiston Website Product Manager University of Arizona Libraries
    2. 2. GrannyAunt Hilary Godmother Caroline Cousin Ellie Aunt Philippa Uncle Bob
    3. 3. 5,291 miles away… Tucson, Arizona
    4. 4. University of Arizona Main Library
    5. 5. Do-it-yourself user research: You (yes, you) can and should do it.
    6. 6. Thoughtful user research leads to better user experiences.
    7. 7. Method #1: Surveys
    8. 8. Use surveys to help define your audience and their primary tasks.
    9. 9. Use survey logic to ask specific questions of specific audiences.
    10. 10. Make it easy and fun, and you don’t need incentives.
    11. 11. Many survey tools are free.
    12. 12. Method #2: User Interviews
    13. 13. Conduct user interviews to get inside your users’ heads.
    14. 14. Film. Listen. Capture expressions. Capture quotes.
    15. 15. Method #3: Focus Groups
    16. 16. Focus on what you want to learn. Pay attention to how they describe things. People will talk to you for a free lunch.
    17. 17. Method #4: Card Sorting
    18. 18. Use card sorting to improve how you structure content.
    19. 19. People actually have fun doing this. User comments can be the most valuable.
    20. 20. Use remote card sorting to gather quantitative data. websort.net
    21. 21. Method #5: Usability Testing
    22. 22. 1. Establish primary tasks and scenarios.
    23. 23. 2. Test the scenarios with real people.
    24. 24. 3. Talk through the problems & fix them.
    25. 25. 4. Test again.* Test Improve Test Improve *optional, sometim es
    26. 26. Final words of wisdom…
    27. 27. User research takes minimal effort. (It’s not as hard as it looks).
    28. 28. User research can be done on little or no budget.
    29. 29. User research can make all the difference.
    30. 30. Be in touch: blakistonr@u.library.arizona.edu Questions?
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