As seen in the previous post, designing a product (a website for instance) calls for thoughtful research on the user experience. And that requires to study habits, needs and idiosyncrasies of users. So then, what exactly are we supposed to be looking for?
The Aim of the Research: Chasing Patterns
Lidia Oshlyansky, user experience expert and researcher for Google, clearly exemplifies the abstract theory of research into practical methodology:
“When you’re doing user experience testing, you’re looking for patterns […] If one person says something about the way they use the product, that’s interesting — but if lots of people are saying similar things, then you might have found something important.”
Imagine the amount of data on user behaviour that is at Google’s disposal… and still, they do massive on-field research (eg. Eye movement and micro-facial expression tracking on users with specific web navigation tasks assigned). This is the way to improve the UX and gather meaningful data to crunch and think over.
Patterns or Phenomena?
As Dan Saffer clearly explains in his book Designing for Interactions, the most important thing a designer looks in research are patterns. That includes patterns of behavior, patterns of stories, patterns of responses to a question… Yet, he recommends to bear in mind the unequivocal and useful clues provided by phenomena:
Phenomena are particularly interesting to a designer as well. Unusual behaviors -especially unusual methods of working- can suggest [Innovative & unexpected] directions that will benefit other people in their work. Say an accountant has created a different use for a spreadsheet; perhaps this approach can be built into the spreadsheet so that others can use it as well.
And if you’re not Google? If your company doesn’t have the time/money/staff or raw data to spend in such useful research? Then you’d better study other people’s findings and research discoveries. Most of the time they are real gold-mines of brilliant clues and heuristic patterns to help improve your product or service.
To be continued… STAY TUNED!