“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”
― Thomas Gray
We know what we need to do research
- Find participants
- Obtain consent
- Provide the prompt
- Collect the response
- Offer compensation
- Bring home evidence
- Take care of ourselves
- Be good citizens
What do we need to make research matter?
- Tangible outcomes
- doing real research on a regular cadence
- sharing it with people who matter
- & they’re excited to hear it
- because they know it helps them
You’ve won 👏
- doing real research
- they know it helps them
Research counts when
It answers a question people care about.
You can explain
- oddities in analytics
- weird feedback from customers
- unexpected uses of products
- strange hunches (not just your own)
Curious people with power
are the most useful ones
Open up your practice.
- Don’t mystify about the work.
- Put as much effort into communicating as into
- Create opportunities for people to ask questions and
Other people who make
Communities of research practice
People affected by
Open up the research practice via
- ofﬁce hours
- open Slack channel
- brown bag program
- wall work
Research counts when
People can see it for themselves.
Who in your organization
from their user?
“When someone has been in the ﬁeld with
you, the data doesn’t have to be explained.”
―Meena Kothandaraman, Twig+Fish
Invite your team along
- Show them what you’re doing.
- Make the rules clear.
- Send them home with gifts.
Elements of an invitation
- Who is doing the inviting?
- What is the event? (What will happen there?)
- When & where is it?
- What will be provided?
- What do guests need to bring? (Dress code? Potluck dish?)
Hey, we’re going to fire up the grill on Friday
night, would you & Chris like to come by? Say,
6pm - we’ll have burgers & veggie options, bring
a side or some beer if you can! Board games
later, Jay’s going to bring Pandemic.
Make sure they want to come back
- Design the experience of observing research.
- Make sure everyone has tools.
- Give everyone a responsibility.
People who get to ask a question
buy in to the results.
Mixing your methods
- choosing interviews, diary
methods, card sorting,
- grounding the user research
in landscape analysis,
review, or comparison.
2008: How do people really use
phones in their cars?
Research methods & skills:
- Ride-along interviews
- Observer management
- Video editing
2016: Best Practices in Digital
What are the best practices for government digital
Better research question:
What makes modern digital practices stick within a
government entity, beyond a single innovation
how did this work when
companies were going
New York Times, 1999 https://www.nytimes.com/1999/12/23/business/toys-r-us-falls-behind-on-shipping.html
- What does digital transformation mean?
- How do you know when you’re done?
- What are the biggest obstacles to this work?
- How do you make the changes last? (Or not)
- What resources would be valuable for other
agencies doing this work?
“Who else in the organization had an important
role in this moving forward or not?”
3 involved people at different levelsoffer a
much more complete picture.
Your 3-day research plan
- Day 1: create testbed, write scripts &
scoresheets, buy incentives
- Day 2: go where the users are & intercept
- Day 3 morning:synthesis session
- Day 3 afternoon: host show-&-tell
- team members.
- friends, not on your team.
- target customers.
- real users with recent experience.
- real users with current needs.
- real users with a need this hour.
Can’t openly contact customers?
- Focus on your company’s sector more generally.
- What groups of employees can stand in?
- Where do people who need your product go?
- Get topic-related stickers & biz cards
- Consider using personal social media
No one seems interested in research
- Make allies in Customer Service.
- Find the most curious engineer on the team.
- Put your questions on a wall.
- Record a pain point & send a video to
No budget for research
- Patch the gaps with personal equipment.
- Consider buying minor refreshments as incentives,
with personal funds.
- Go without incentives.
- Try to get approval to use swag & business cards.
“Once an idea is out and about, it can’t be
called back, silenced or erased. You can’t
contain it, any more than you could put the
head of a dandelion back together after the
wind has scattered its seeds.”
“Once an idea is out and about,
you can’t contain it, any more than you could
put the head of a dandelion back together
after the wind has scattered its seeds.”