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User Research? It’s a Requirement

Posted on May 8th, by Brad in Blog. No Comments

Below is a blog post I wrote for Follow The UX Leader a couple of years ago. This great online resources will be retired and repurposes soon, so I’m reposting the article here. I hope you find it as useful today as when it was first published back in 2011. Thank you Jeff Parks once again for allowing me to contribute to Follow The UX Leader. One of the hardest parts of the User Experience process to fit into a project is the up-front user research. There are many reasons for this, many unfounded, that make this the first thing to go when trying to cut down the scope or cost of a project. It seems that user research is the red headed stepchild, always being left out of all the family fun. It’s time that this changes. With the tools available today, along with the general exposure User Experience Design gets around the web and boardrooms there is little to no excuse not to include user research into every project you work on. User research exists in two forms these days, guerrilla and rigorous, and contrary to belief user research doesn’t always involve end users.

Guerrilla User Research

Thanks to many online tools, new collaborative workshop techniques, and advancements in web analytics guerrilla techniques are not only easy to implement but they are easy on the pocket book. Every project could benefit from some form of guerrilla user research methods. Simply incorporating stakeholder involvement in brainstorming sessions and design activities will get you closer to a solution that will improve the end user experience. Guerrilla techniques really pay off most on projects where scope and budget is limited. In other words, the type of projects where user research is normally cut out and left on the editing floor.
(http://www null@null N04/6078082357/sizes/z/in/photostream/)Photo By Mark Congiusta

Rigorous User Research

The honest truth is not every project these days require months of user research to make it a success. However, there are still many projects out there that require an in-depth, long term, user research phase. These are projects where the end goal is 3 to 5 years away with the solution being used in various forms during that timeline. When a solution will have this type of lifespan, or even longer, it’s necessary for the entire team to understand every single behavioural quirk and mannerism of the user population. Multiple phases of user research activities are even required on long-term projects, due to user populations evolving as the solution is being produced. Sure it’ll cost a decent amount to fund these activities, but that cost is easily recuperated by having an informed scope and project plan based on the user research collected.
Contextual Inquiry (http://www By For Inspiration

No Excuses Any More

Every project can use user research to inform the design, development, and business decisions that will be driving it. The question today is “Can you get away with a few weeks of guerrilla-based techniques, or do you need to go the long haul and spend months learning about the user?” This question is easy to answer if the project team has a complete understanding of the underlying business goals of a project and a defined end game for the solution. It’s time to make user research part of every project plan, and fight the urge to simply cut it to save a few dollars up front.

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