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Submitting to Low-Fidelity User Research: a Primer

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A brief presentation made on March 12, 2014 to residents of the Harvard Innovation Lab during an evening workshop at the Almighty offices in Allston, Massachusetts.

Submitting to Low-Fidelity User Research: a Primer

  1. 1. Submitting to low-fidelity user research: a primer by Ian Fitzpatrick, CSO, Almighty prepared for the Harvard Innovation Lab
  2. 2. First, and for just a few moments, let’s remove ‘research’ from its’ pedestal. Let’s not worry about what it means, what it’s good for, or who ‘does it’. For some of you this will be difficult. ! We’ll put it back on the pedestal when we’re through.
  3. 3. Our goal is never ‘research’, but rather a stronger understanding of how people use the things we make for them. That means asking questions designed to help us know more than we otherwise would. Nothing more.
  4. 4. Sometimes, ‘research’ serves simply to help us disprove absolutes. That, in and of itself, is enormously valuable.
  5. 5. We believe in designing for the most important user first. You can’t usually design a product, service or experience for everyone.
  6. 6. 4 tools to start your own low-fidelity research toolkit: 1. User surveys 2. Experience gap analysis 3. Self-documentation 4. User deep dive
  7. 7. User surveys What it is: a snapshot of your users, taken at altitude. ! Why it’s useful: disproving myths, and gleaning realistic pictures of a population. ! Finding users for qualitative research.
  8. 8. User surveys Try this: Wufoo/ SurveyMonkey + MySQL + Bootstrap + a little bit of PHP + Elbow grease
  9. 9. User surveys Be careful of this: Now that you’ve got mounds of data, resist the urge to start looking for truth in it.
  10. 10. Experience gap analysis What it is: the difference between the ways in which you and your users perceive the events that comprise a transaction.
  11. 11. Experience gap analysis Why it’s useful: identifying hurdles to adoption, spots where interactions fail, or inputs to experience design. It can be useful both in the initial design process of a product or service, and also in iterating existing products & services.
  12. 12. Experience gap analysis Try this: write down all of the steps involved in using your product. Include the things that happen immediately before use, and immediately following. Begin each step with a verb. Then, ask ten users to do the same. The dissonance (and, by extension, the opportunity) lies in both the gaps in sequence and the verbs they use.
  13. 13. Experience gap analysis Be careful of this: Resist the urge to allow this to become about the ways people navigate your app or experience. Make it about what people do before, during and after a transaction.
  14. 14. Self-documentation What it is: a picture of the worlds in which your users live, as described by your users.
  15. 15. Self-documentation Why it’s useful: a better picture of the user’s lives helps us build things that live inside of them, rather than asking them to bend routines to the things we make. It’s also great for uncovering ancillary information and nuances that people are loathe to reveal in-person.
  16. 16. Self-documentation Try this: Print a sticker with a shot list on 10 disposable cameras. Hand one to ten people who fit the profile of your most important user, and ask them to adhere carefully to the list.
  17. 17. 1. The last thing I do at night 2. Where I charge my phone 3. Something I do for fun 4. My favorite place 5. Where i use [it] 6. Me, immediately after using [it] 7. Me, using [it] 8. The contents of my bag 9. An analog device that I love 10. Me, looking at [the data] 11. Where I store my phone 12. Something I do alone 13. Where I relax 14. Where I use [it] (again) 15. Me, using [it] (again) 16. First thing I do in the morning 17. An electronic device that I love 18. My desk 19. Something I do every week 20.Where I use my computer 21. Where I use [it] (again) 22.Me, using [it] (again) 23. Inside of my refrigerator 24.The people I live with 25. Something I do every day 26. Where I live 27. What [it] looks like
  18. 18. Self-documentation Try this: Give users a notebook with a handful of questions printed inside. Ask them to fill it out over a brief period while using a product or experience — either yours or a competitors.
  19. 19. 1. Tell us about the setup process. 2. What are your thoughts and reactions after using the system for the first time? 3. Draw a picture or diagram that explains why the system you’re using is unique. 4. Are you having fun with this? Please explain. 5. Has the system changed your routine in any tangible ways? Please explain. 6. Share something that you’ve learned about yourself in the process of using this. 7. What makes this useful to you. Is it as useful as you had expected? 8. How would you make this system better? 9. Describe this system to someone from Mars. 10. General notes and observations
  20. 20. Self-documentation Try this: Ask people to give you a non-identifying screenshot inventory of their mobile phones, laptop computer desktop, wallet, or book bag — whatever they might have with them when they would, ideally, use your product or service.
  21. 21. Self-documentation Be careful of this: Don’t go hunting for confirmation of the things you already believe to be true.
  22. 22. User deep dive What it is: a snapshot of your users, taken at ground level.
  23. 23. User deep dive Why it’s useful: avoiding generalizations and defining new use cases
  24. 24. User deep dive Try this: People leave vapor trails. ! Pick five people from your survey responses who fit the profile of your most important user, and go deep on them. Search on Google, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, message boards — anywhere they might be found.
  25. 25. User deep dive Be careful of this: respect people’s presumption of privacy, even in public channels.
  26. 26. To recap: Go forth in search of insights, not truth. Don’t fall in love with a single response or respondent. The best stuff is usually the small stuff. ! Profound respect for your subjects leads to profound respect for your users.
  27. 27. Thanks. @bealmighty @ianfitzpatrick ! full deck at
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A brief presentation made on March 12, 2014 to residents of the Harvard Innovation Lab during an evening workshop at the Almighty offices in Allston, Massachusetts.


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