Posts about Research


Learn More about Non-Verbal: Do Your Own Research

By: Katherine Hill & Robin Zander

In our last two installments on designing for the non-verbal in UX Research, we suggested you keep your eyes open for non-verbal cues in your existing research methods and then add prompts for them as integral pieces to your future processes. However, interpreting these cues may prove challenging at first, if you don’t know what you’re looking for or how to encourage such expressivity from a user.

This is where acting, dance, and improv training come in handy. The study of human behavior is wide, and we suggest incorporating physicality and expressivity to your already deep knowledge base of behavior. 

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In our last two installments on designing for the non-verbal in UX Research, we suggested you keep your eyes open for non-verbal cues in your existing research methods and then add prompts for them as integral pieces to your future processes. However, interpreting these cues may prove challenging at first, if you don’t know what you’re looking for or how to encourage such expressivity from a user.

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Rethinking UX Research: Non-Verbal Clues

By: Katherine Hill & Robin Zander

Understanding the end user is a complex and sometimes daunting process. Typically, we as humans don’t know what we want until we see it. We need experts to interpret our segmented requests and half baked ideas in order to design something we think we might like to use.

As the researcher, designer, or expert in any creative field this can be maddening. The individual uneducated in the specific field attempts to describe details and nuances without the proper language, experience, or expertise.

However, when working with clients, interpreting their needs is the name of the game. So, we’d like to propose a new (and old) way to go about it- pay attention to the nonverbals.

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As the researcher, designer, or expert in any creative field this can be maddening. The individual uneducated in the specific field attempts to describe details and nuances without the proper language, experience, or expertise. However, when working with clients, interpreting their needs is the name of the game. So, we’d like to propose a new (and old) way to go about it- pay attention to the nonverbals.

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Invest in brains

There's a special kind of fear-mongering you see in certain circles that always gets my goat. It goes something like this: "[some new behavior that people are suspicious of] has been shown to make detectable changes to the brain!" The implication of this is that the new behavior must be bad because it alters the brain from some perceived pure or natural state.

Is there other language we can use when talking about experience leading to changes in the brain? Yes, yes there is. It's very simple. It's called learning. (Next time you read one of those fear-mongering statements, replace "changes to the brain" with "learning" and see if it sounds so scary.)

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If you are serious about user-centered design, then you should be investing in the brains of your product team by giving them the experience of talking directly to your end users.

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Bringing Design Research Beyond the Transactional

Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching Interaction Design Foundations, and Design Research, to sophomore students majoring in IxD at the California College of the Arts. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and one that I’ll continue in the next year.

While I’ve been teaching my students, they’ve also been teaching me. One of the reason I love teaching so much is because it keeps me fresh—it reminds me of where design comes from and what its core values are, it keeps me questioning the way we do things in the “working world,” and my students help me glimpse into where the future of design might lie. 

In this post, I’d like to share with you a good reminder they gave me related to design research.

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Tree Testing: The Top 5 Reasons You Need It

The science of classifying and labeling content is essential to creating a delightful digital experience. It's the intuitive organization of information that allows users to seamlessly navigate through a site without ever feeling uncertain about where to go next or trying to shake a nagging feeling that they're missing something relevant that's been placed in a different section of the site.

The practice of labeling and organizing information, Information Architecture (IA), is certainly a science. However, any time people's reactions and emotions are brought into the mix there's always room for error. To mitigate the risk of launching an information architecture that users don't understand, we use tree testing to measure how users respond to the proposed structure.

What is tree testing? Tree testing is an effective method of evaluating a website’s IA by asking potential users to complete “tasks” using the site’s IA. Tasks should be based on the services or content the site offers its users. For example, a financial services company could have a task asking users to locate information on loan interest rates while a hospital might want to know if users can find the address of their cardiology clinic. Tree testing software allows us to track and analyze what percentage of participants successfully completed each task. It also gives information on task completion times, paths that participants take through the tree, and rates of direct success vs. indirect success.

 

Top 5 Reasons for Doing a Tree Test

 

1. Inform future research and design.

One of the best things about tree testing is that it always provides actionable results. Users’ overall ability or failure to complete tasks provides you with useful information about whether the site’s IA makes sense to real users. For example, a low task completion rate tells you that your site may need a complete overhaul of its IA and/or labeling conventions.

On the other hand, even high task completion rates can signal the need for more research and redesign if other metrics confirm that your site isn’t performing well. Verifying that users don’t have trouble navigating your IA means that problems may exist elsewhere. For example, a strong IA on a site with low conversion rates means that there are likely usability issues elsewhere in the flow. Tree testing can help you get to the root of users’ problems and uncover navigation issues that may go unnoticed with other types of research.

2. Get solid research for an affordable price.

Tree testing is very affordable when you have a limited budget. On average, participants spend 10 minutes completing the tree testing tasks, so compensation and recruiting costs are minimal compared to other types of research.

3. Easily compare alternate versions of an IA.

Tree testing allows you to test more than one IA to see which one performs best with users. This is worthwhile to do anytime you have more than one idea about how the IA should work. Whether you want to test several IAs prior to launching a site or you want to compare a new IA to the existing one, it’s a worthwhile investment to prevent user frustrations from happening in the first place.

4. Ask the experts.

Are you a designer or information architect working on a site full of esoteric or complicated topics? No one expects you to fully understand the material, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask the people who do. Put your IA in the hands of those who will actually be using it, whether they be biochemists, stock brokers, or any other group with specialized knowledge. When you’re dealing with a site that is tailored to a specific group of people, you want to make sure they are able to find what they need. Cooper uses detailed recruiting screeners in tree tests to ensure you are only getting results from people who are representative of your target audience.

5. Get clear results, fast.

Tree tests are great when time is of the essence. Compared to more qualitative research techniques, tree testing requires very little time for recruiting, programming, and execution. Graphical representations of the data let you see what problem areas exist at a glance. This means less time spent on interpreting results and more time implementing changes on your site.

When you partner with Cooper to conduct a tree test, you get the benefit of having a trained team of professionals who provide expertise in the areas of recruitment, test design, analysis of results, and recommendations. To find out more about tree testing and how it can best serve your needs, send us a message.

The practice of labeling and organizing information, Information Architecture (IA), is certainly a science. However, any time people's reactions and emotions are brought into the mix there's always room for error. To mitigate the risk of launching an information architecture that users don't understand, we use tree testing to measure how users respond to the proposed structure.

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Six (6!) new ways to push your practice

You asked. We answered. Bringing you SIX new workshops and courses in customer experience, brand strategy, leadership, product definition and design, research, ideation, personas and more—each chock full of skills for taking your professional game to the next level (and maybe even the level above that). Stay current, get smarter, make an impact, effect the bottom line, and teach your team a thing or two (or ten) about your new-found knowledge. We've saved you a seat.

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User Research Beyond Usability Testing

Each week at Cooper we get numerous inquiries about usability testing services. We love this! It is incredibly satisfying to help our clients uncover usability concerns with real users and, better yet, help them strategize about how to improve their digital products.

But, our user research services go far beyond basic usability testing. In this post, we'll share some new and interesting user research services that may help you overcome a hurdle in your product's design.

 

Q: How do I learn who is coming to my site?

To understand the basics of who is visiting your site, we suggest a site intercept survey. We place a snippet of Javascript on your site that will show a pop-up to each visitor. These visitors are invited to answer a few questions about who they are, why they’re visiting and what their experience is like, usually in exchange for a chance to win a prize.

Benefits of this type of user research:
  • Quick and easy. These kinds of surveys are easy to roll out. All they require from you are a discussion with us about what you'd like to learn most about your users, and the placement of some code on your site.
  • Provides insight about your site's users and their expectations. These surveys can provide valuable information about your site's audience, including their demographics, psychographics and technographics. The surveys also allow your visitors to provide feedback about any parts of your site they find difficult to use.
  • Useful as recruitment for other user research. Are you considering in-depth user research techniques in your project? Site intercept surveys can be a fantastic way to reach participants for later user research activities.

 

Q: How do I make a website user experience that's already working fairly well even better?

If you have an existing website and just want to fine-tune, consider using site intercept interviews. In this process we put a tiny snippet of code on your site that prompts site visitors with an invitation to participate in live research.

That's right, participants are essentially asked, "Can we call you in the next 5 minutes and watch you use this website?" We call participants, ask them to share their screens with us, and follow them as they perform the tasks they originally came to the site for. And, if you’re skeptically asking yourself, “Do people actually agree to this?”, they sure do. We’ve watched people do a variety of things, from shopping for clothes to finding a doctor.

Benefits of this type of user research:

  • Real tasks. Unlike lab-based usability testing, this kind of research has no imposed script or pre-determined tasks for users to do. Whatever users came to your site to do, that's what we watch them do. Thus, we see users performing a lot of different tasks on the site, several of which we might never have dreamed up for a lab-based study. This allows us to explore nooks and crannies of a site that are having a big impact on the site's user experience, unbeknownst to anyone.
  • Real-life environments. Unlike in an artificial lab environment, this kind of research allows us to connect with users in their natural environments, complete with real web browsers and real distractions. The other day we got to speak to a mother using Internet Explorer 8 who was watching over her baby at the same time as using the site. Talk about real life!

 

Q: How does my online experience compare to my brick-and-mortar store experience?

A client of ours recently came to us with this question; we recommended a large variety of user research activities to get the true answer, with one of the most interesting being store shadowing. With store shadowing, we've been visiting our client's brick-and-mortar stores and asking shoppers if we can observe them while they shop, make purchases and returns. This allows us to identify qualities of the offline shopping experience that could be translated online, as well as better understand customer shopping behaviors across channels.

Benefits of this type of user research:

  • Going to the source. We can use a variety of qualitative and quantitative techniques to hone an online experience, but if brick-and-mortar stores are out-selling a website or app, the best way to learn why is to go straight to the source: the stores themselves!

 

Q: Which design option works better? 

If you're trying to narrow down design options, consider using a remote unmoderated usability study. In these studies we still evaluate the success of designs with real users, but we do it without a moderator (as opposed to a regular usability test, which includes the use of a moderator).

Participants are given tasks to complete online, and we ask them survey questions after each task to assess their success and comprehension of what they just did.  We can also glean useful information for each task like the average time spent, where people are clicking on each page (using heatmaps), and the various paths people are taking through the website.

Using this technique, we can economically scale up the number of participants who see a design, and be completely confident in the results. Instead of 12 participants seeing your design, we can get hundreds if we want to! We can even have participants video themselves while evaluating a site, meaning we can see where people are having difficulties as well as understand why.

But I can just do an A/B test, you say! This is true, but building out versions of pages can be laborious and expensive. A/B testing also fails to provide information on why one design is fairing better than another.

Benefits of this type of user research:

  • Power in numbers. We can tell you which design is superior to the rest, based on any number of criteria, with statistical significance.
  • The best of quantitative and qualitative. When combined with video of participants, this technique can provide the best of both worlds.

As the inquiries come in, the new research methods keep rolling in with them. One of the most exciting parts of being a consultant is getting to work with a variety of companies on a whole host of problems to be solved. We get to take something we learned with one client during a meeting in the morning and completely rethink how it might be applied to a project that we’re discussing later that afternoon.

If you have a research issue that’s been on your mind, or you have a question that you don't know how to answer about your digital product, give us a call. We can’t promise that we’ll be able to address every concern that you have, but we do promise straightforward answers on what we can do and innovative techniques to get you the most valuable feedback.

User research services go far beyond basic usability testing. In this post, we'll share some new and interesting user research services that may help you overcome a hurdle in your product's design.

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Inside the Empathy Trap

It's not uncommon to find yourself closely identifying with the users you are designing for, especially if you work in consumer products. You may even find yourself exposed to the exact experiences you’re tasked with designing, as I recently discovered when I went from researching hematologist-oncologists (HemOncs) and their clinics to receiving care from a HemOnc physician in his clinic. (Thankfully, all is now well with my health.)

This led to some revealing insights. Suddenly I was approaching my experience not just as a personal life event, but as both the designing observer, taking note of every detail, and the subject, or user, receiving the care. Instead of passively observing, I focused on engaging in a walk-a-mile exercise, literally walking in my own shoes, as my own user.

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It's not uncommon to find yourself closely identifying with the users you are designing for, especially if you work in consumer products. You may even find yourself exposed to the exact experiences you’re tasked with designing, as I recently discovered when I went from researching hematologist-oncologists (HemOncs) and their clinics to receiving care from a HemOnc physician in his clinic. [...]

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Inside Goal-Directed Design: A Conversation With Alan Cooper (Part 2)

We continue our conversation with Alan Cooper at Sue and Alan’s warm and welcoming ranch in Petaluma, CA, which, in addition to themselves, is home to sheep and chickens, a cat named Monkey, and a farmer who works the land.

Part 2 brings us up to present-day, and discussions around the applications and fundamentals of Goal-Directed Design that support its success at Cooper and beyond.

From Theory to Practice­­

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We continue our conversation with Alan Cooper at Sue and Alan’s warm and welcoming ranch in Petaluma, CA, which, in addition to themselves, is home to sheep and chickens, a cat named Monkey, and a farmer who works the land. Part 2 brings us up to present-day, and discussions around the applications and fundamentals of Goal-Directed Design that support its [...]

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Designer's Toolkit: A Primer On Using Video In Research

In our last post, we explored a variety of methods for capturing user research. Yet a question lingered—how can you effectively use video in your research without influencing the participants?

Here are some tips and tricks to minimize the impact of using video in research engagements. Keep in mind, these tips are focused on conducting research in North America—the rules of engagement will vary based on where you are around the world.

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In our last post, we explored a variety of methods for capturing user research. Yet a question lingered—how can you effectively use video in your research without influencing the participants?Here are some tips and tricks to minimize the impact of using video in research engagements. Keep in mind, these tips are focused on conducting research in North America—the rules of [...]

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