Triangle User Experience Professionals Association (TriUXPA)

Recap: "Design Research" workshop with Todd Wilkens (Adaptive Path)

06 Mar 2009 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

Todd Wilkens (from Adaptive Path) presented a full-day workshop on design research for TriUPA on Friday 2/20/09.

Todd introduced Adaptive Path's design research process, emphasizing the importance of qualitative, contextual research. He argued for focusing on people's behaviors, motivations, and meanings (as opposed to a more traditional user research focus on tasks, goals, and preferences).

Here are some ideas I took home from the workshop…

Approach and framing

  • One's attitude to the research process is important. Research shouldn’t be “scary”undefinedit’s just “going out and talking to people.”
  • UX practitioners should embrace the “messy complexity of human life,” and look for behaviors, motivations, and meanings. Todd argued that using this type of language/framingundefinedas opposed to traditional usability language of tasks, goals, and preferencesundefinedreinvigorates design practice.
  • Adaptive Path won’t do projects without time and access for stakeholder interviews. They rely on these interviews to unearth assumptions, benefit from good ideas, identify landmines, and find misalignment within the client organization. They deal with conflicting stakeholder views by presenting the alternative views objectively, and helping stakeholders reach a consensus or decision.

Research methods

  • Be creative and open when brainstorming research methods. Todd told workshop participants to “consider illegal ideas”undefinedI found this approach helped to broaden my thinking, as our group considered unusual approaches such as wiretapping and disguising a researcher as a taxi driver. These off-the-wall ideas can lead, in turn, to divergent but practical (and legal!) approaches.
  • It’s important to think about the experience of research approaches and methods from the participant’s perspective. Is a survey going to be time-consuming and out of the context of use? Is an interview trying to address topics that are too personal?
  • People fundamentally want to tell their stories… they just need to be in the right context to do so.
  • Give team members--particularly clients--a clear role to play when conducting interviews. For example, if a client comes to a field interview with the research team, give him a camera and ask him to take photos.
  • Debrief after field interviews using a summary sheet of the key, high-priority research questions guiding the project. Have each interviewer review these questions individually, noting relevant insights from the fieldwork, then discuss as a team.

Suggested resources

Please add your thoughts, questions, and resources in the comments!

Cheers,
--Abe
VP, Professional Development Programs // TriUPA

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