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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Designer’s Toolkit: A Primer On Capturing Research

You’ve been preparing for your research—recruiting, screening participants, devising schedules, testing discussion guides—and now you are deciding the best way to capture your research. But how? If you’re busy scribbling down notes, you might miss a sound byte. If you film the interview, you might unknowingly influence the conversation. These are all serious considerations. Properly capturing and documenting each research encounter prevents spending time and money on data that sits solely in the memory of the researcher.

How you choose to conduct and capture your research will greatly impact your outcomes, and ultimately your client outcomes. I’m going to highlight a variety of research capturing tools, and then we’ll have a future post about how to effectively videotape research. Both the type of research you’re conducting and its purpose will help you decide which capture method is best.

Before we begin, I wouldn’t recommend going into research alone—you will struggle to document while maintaining a conversation. A good structure is to have a moderator and a note taker, that way one practitioner can focus on conversing with the participant, while the other focuses on capturing what is occurring.

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It’s Never Just a Website Redesign: Transforming Business Through Design

At Cooper’s UX Boot Camp, facilitated by Kendra Shimmell, Stefan Klocek, and Teresa Brazen, held between March 25th and March 28th at Monkey Ranch in Petaluma, CA, Fair Trade USA looked to participants for ideas around how to raise awareness of their mission and inspire consumers to purchase Fair Trade products.

Fair Trade USA enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model through certifying and promoting Fair Trade products. Their work benefits everyone from farmers and workers to consumers, industry and the environment, and yet only 20-30 percent of Americans even know what Fair Trade means. Why? The issues are complex, but as students dug into this problem they identified key factors behind this disconnect, including a lack of brand awareness of the business case for Fair Trade, low brand adoption, and limited Fair Trade product presence in stores.

From those explorations, the following goals emerged:

  • Motivate and inspire brands to adopt and evangelize Fair Trade practices.
  • Put more Fair Trade products in front of consumers.
  • Build “pop culture” awareness of Fair Trade to get more brands to buy into the movement.

To get there, student teams went beyond the initial concept of a website redesign and took on the bigger questions that lead to business transformation. For a look behind the scenes as the teams approached this challenge, check out the following video filmed during the Fair Trade USA Boot Camp, and read more to take a look at the Fair Trade USA ecosystem model and what the students came up with in the pitch decks that follow.

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Elevating the brand and visual strategy with the experience workshop

Defining and creating a memorable experience for your customers is no easy task. Product owners and development teams can easily rattle off ideas to designers about what features are necessary to stay competitive. But if you ask them to share their vision for the overall more subtle emotional aspects of the experience, they often get quiet or resort to the familiar old UI clichés of “simplicity, intuitiveness, etc.” This means that you often start your design work with less insight than you need to drive visual and interaction design.

Enter the experience workshop – a collaborative meeting and setup where clients can really talk about what a great experience can feel like among a sea of inspirational images, digital interfaces, products, services, brands, cars, textures, and more. Companies that build digital products and services are engaging in a new level of competition; it’s no longer good enough to deliver a usable product. Our designs must reach an aspirational vision that elevates the experience beyond mere usability, and a visual, collaborative workshop pushes people to explore and discuss the possibilities.

The workshop helps teams discuss what attributes are inherent in these other experiences that are meaningful to the experience they’re defining. After a process of prioritization and discussion, the end result is often a huge cloud of ideas and words that sit on a spectrum from a poor experience to an ideal experience. The examples aren’t what’s important for our output. We collect insight from the discussion, the words, that help us define the ideal experience.

The workshop brings teams together to learn and collaborate on the experience. What I love most about this activity is the connections made from people across different teams that can relate on a personal level because of their shared experiences. It’s not just a visioning exercise for the future; it’s a team-building event.

Check out the above video to see a glimpse of the workshop in action. And if you want to learn more about how to conduct a workshop and integrate this new approach into your company, you can sign up for an upcoming Cooper U Visual Interface Design course. In fact, we have just a few spots left in next week’s class (May 7-8), if this post left you inspired…

Using video for design PR: 3 things that work well

It has never been easy to demonstrate the value of interaction design, but the ubiquity of video as communication tool has helped a lot. Video is a great way to reach online audiences: It is easily accessed on YouTube and Vimeo, and it is expected to be short and to the point. With little investment, design firms can capture high-quality video with any number of relatively low-cost cameras, and use powerful editing tools to tell our stories. When a video is done well, it helps humanize the design, and gives a peek into the methods behind it.

At Cooper, we have been experimenting with video, and we pay attention to what others are doing in that space. As we share more about our process, we are also changing our clients’ and the general public’s expectations of disclosure. While it’s a great idea in theory, in practice we find that finding the right formula can be tricky. For example, video is a more spectacular and emotionally effective medium than static blog posts, but subtle mistakes in tone and presentation run the risk of coming off as pretentious, overproduced, off-topic or just downright goofy. Here are three big things we’ve noted about how to get it right.

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The revolution will be portable: Understanding the tablet opportunity for alternative media

The Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s 2012 Web Conference was held in San Francisco and attended by publishers, editors, and owners from over 130 of North America’s alternative news organizations. Stefan Klocek spoke about how alternative news organizations can bring their content to the emerging platform of tablets in “The Revolution will be Portable: Understanding the Tablet Opportunity” session. He highlighted unique qualities of the tablet for local news consumption and gave an overview of how organizations with a cultivated and established brand presence can deeply engage with their audience. View Stefan’s presentation below or download it.

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Vote for the TaskRabbit iPhone app!

Last summer, Cooper partnered with TaskRabbit and Pivotal Labs to design their new iPhone app. The app works with their service to help people who need help with simple tasks—anything from walking the dog, standing in line at the DMV, or moving furniture—with “Rabbits,” a network of background-checked and pre-approved individuals who have the skills and time available to complete tasks.

The TaskRabbit iPhone app has been nominated for the 2011 Crunchies and the 2012 IxDA awards. This week, you can vote for the app in both awards and check out the other nominations.

The TaskRabbit project

Posting a Task is super easy

The TaskRabbit service is continuing to expand in new cities, including Austin, and we’re excited to see their service evolve and grow. Congratulations to Leah Busque for her nomination as Founder of the Year in the Crunchies also.

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The sCoop: week of January 16

The past week at Cooper started out with bang…and a crash…and boom…and a kapow! Lunchtime fun with the endless entertainment of Action Movie FX. Blow up your friend’s egg roll and then laugh it off together:

Something else that dropped like a bomb this week were the SOPA and PIPA protests! Wikipedia shut down for 24 hrs Wednesday in protest of the legislation and countless students everywhere simultaneously said, “My dog ate it.” A historic moment no doubt as the controversial bills were “put on hold” shortly after.

CES wrapped up in Las Vegas, but I still covet this Samsung Transparent Smart Window:

Why would I want to walk to my kitchen window to check Facebook and the weather instead of just pulling out my phone wherever I already am? I dunno, I guess touchscreens should be on everything, right? Right?!

This past week designers, technologists, entrepreneurs, and medical professionals gathered for the Health Innovation Summit. Stefan explored how a group of panelists incorporated the patient perspective into their products, as Susan and the newest Cooper Interaction Designer, Christina Worsing, guided conference attendees through a design challenge to re-envision four different aspects of healthcare.


Apple announced their iBook 2 and iBooks Author applications targeting the reinvention of the textbook for the education sector. I think by now it’s obvious Apple doesn’t want to just design products, they want to redesign whole industries. When you’re out to fix a problem, you might as well start at the root.

Another announcement that caught our attention was Nike’s NikeFuel and FuelBand. Trying to pick up the ball dropped by Jawbone’s Up, Nike’s solution seems elegant and simple at first glance. One to watch, indeed.

A random link I found this week featuring some impressive re-coloration of old photography. Color is one of the number of powerful tools in a designer’s kit. This collection is a great example of how a little hue can bring an image strikingly closer to reality.


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Can doctors and computers get along?

Practice Fusion, the leading provider of health records software for medical professionals, has published a nice recap of their user conference, Connect11, where Alan Cooper spoke about the role of interaction design in health care. Among the questions answered – “what do you get when you cross a computer with a doctor’s office?”

At the 13 minute mark, Stefan Klocek presents a prototype of Practice Fusion’s new iPad app.

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