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11

Field Studies: The Best Tool to Discover User Needs

"The most valuable asset of a successful design team is the information they have about their users. When teams have the right information, the job of designing a powerful, intuitive, easy-to-use interface becomes tremendously easier. When they don't, every little design decision becomes a struggle."

Techniques such as focus groups, usability tests, and surveys are valuable, but according to Jared M. Spool from UIE, the most powerful tool in the toolbox is field studies. While it might be the most expensive technique to use, it has contributed to some of the most innovative designs.

With field studies, the team gets immersed in the environment of their users and allows them to observe critical "unspeakable" details. It eliminates guesswork and opinion wars, by providing the designers with a deep understanding of the users context, terminology, and processes.

Links:

  • The article Field Studies: The Best Tool to Discover User Needs Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 07, 2004

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12

First Rule of Usability? Don't Listen to Users

In his August 5, 2001 Alertbox, Jakob Nielsen writes about an old rule of usability, which I often hear myself preaching:

"To design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say. Self-reported claims are unreliable, as are user speculations about future behavior."

Asking people about their opinion of a product whether they are target users, clients or "usability experts" without watching how people actually use it, won't help us design better products.

"Say, for example, that 50% of survey respondents claim they would buy more from e-commerce sites that offer 3D product views. Does this mean you should rush to implement 3D on your site? No. It means that 3D sounds cool."

Links:

  • The article First Rule of Usability? Don't Listen to Users Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 14, 2003

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13

balancing inputs

George Olsen (in a recent B&A; article) argues that the user is only one of the sources of information that should be considered when designing systems.

There needs to be a balance between considering the UX and design driven by ideas - possibly that the user doesn't even realise they need/want.

So the focus is again on persuasion rather than coercion. With the goal to achieve relevance and desirability.

Links:

  • The New R&D;: Relevant & Desirable Open link in new window
  • Interaction by Design (george's thoughts page) Open link in new window
  • Boxes and Arrows Open link in new window

ben hyde - March 03, 2003

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14

Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web

In the introduction, Christina Wodtke claims that her book on IA isn't for people doing IA for a living "most of it will probably be old hat." It might be true, that her book won't make a revolution for the IA field, but it is very enlightening to read about Wodtke's practical use of the techniques and principles of IA. And there's no armchair theory here. Everything is backed up by cases, examples, and practical advice on how to make everything work in the real world.

The book concentrates on traditional IA practices, such as:
- User research
- Organising content
- Card sorting
- Personas, scenarios and task analysis
- Site and flow diagramming
- Wireframing and storyboarding

At the end of the book, you'll also find some she-devil tricks on how to persuade you boss and co-workers to do things your way. Highly revealing - my girlfriend is never going to fool me again.

Links:

  • The book at amazon.com Open link in new window
  • The book at amazon.co.uk Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 14, 2002

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See also: Books (44)  Prototyping and wireframing (52)  Card sorting (11)  Site and flow diagramming (5)  Usability testing (45)  Personas (17)  The design process (17) 


 

15

Objections against user requirements analysis

According to Sim D'Hertefelt, requests for proposals for web projects describe the desired solution in terms of functionalities and technologies, but often lack basic information about the problem that will be solved. Without user requirement analysis the risk is that you won't solve any problems.

D'Hertefelt lists 13 common objections against user requirements analysis and why you should not believe them. You might have heard some off these before:

- We know what the user needs
- You're the internet expert. You should tell us what people need.
- We don't have the budget for user requirements analysis.
- It doesn't fit in our planning.
- Users don't know what they want.
- We're not at the university. We're a company developing a website.
- Our project is top secret. We can't approach the future users.

Links:

  • The article Why user experience disasters happen at the start of web projects Open link in new window
  • 13 common objections against user requirements analysis, and why you should not believe them Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 03, 2002

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16

What users say vs. what they actually do

On the CHI-WEB list Baron Lane asked for anecdotes of what users say vs. what they actually do. This great (apocryphal) story on focus groups showed up:

"Phillips electronics gathered a group of teens in a room and asked them "What color boom box would you prefer? Black or yellow?" Teens to a person said that yellow was it. Black was conservative and old. Not hip at all. Yellow is definitely the color for them. Later in the afternoon, the teens were informed that they could each take a boom box home with them. Boom boxes were stacked at the exit in two piles, a pile of black and a pile of yellow. All teens selected black. What customers do is more important than what they say. We can watch and influence what they do online like never before."

Links:

  • The CHI-WEB post Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 03, 2002

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17

Usability Toolkit

InfoDesign has a section with a lot of free usability toolkit materials including descriptions of usability techniques and downloadable tools such as guidelines, check lists, examples and software.

Links:

  • The toolkit at InfoDesign.com Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 09, 2002

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See also: Tools (66)  Expert reviews (9)  Card sorting (11)  Personas (17)  Usability testing (45)  Prototyping and wireframing (52) 


 

18

Techniques for requirement gathering

In this article IBM gives an overview of different techniques for doing initial requirement gathering with emphasis on online methods. The techniques include traditional and online focus groups, surveys and scenario building (a technique where users are asked how they would like to accomplish specific tasks).

Links:

  • The article Finding out what users want from your Web site Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 08, 2002

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