Roll up your sleeves and convince your manager that UX Research is key


“My manager does not believe in user research — thats why we don’t do it.”

I have heard this statement so many times! Some managers may still believe that doing research is purely connected to academia. Student research projects can last from a semester (approximately 6 months) to almost four years (PhD). Don’t get me wrong — I understand where they are coming from. And it is true in a sense, research is still very predominant in academic circles, but not completely.

Like other things in life that evolve and adapt, so does research. And user research, especially in tech startups, did refreshed the view on traditional ways. Being here, you probably know why research needs to be done — but how to convince others might be a bit tricky. So here are a few tips on how to convince your boss, specifically your lead or manager, to do user experience research.


1. Research can be fast and iterative, like design.

User research still is and will be about understanding humans, their behaviour, interactions, trying to figure out why some things work better than other, etc. Doing it in a company means being iterative throughout a cyclical process in which you identify a problem and propose solutions or trends. From these proposed solutions, insight are made and delivered to the design and development team. There follows the process of sketching, prototyping and designing. These are at the end tested on a target group or internally, depending on the problem statement.

Main takeaway: Explain to your manager that UX Research can be fast and iterative, done by one person, and most importantly — that it can fit in a two-week cycle.


2. Success stories never fail

Now tell me, who doesn’t like a good example of a successful company? There is nothing wrong with telling your managers that other companies find values in doing user research — see it as a source of inspiration.

I like this example from Uber’s design researchers: “Do it early and often. When we are building products at Uber, usability and visual design helps shape the product’s story. Testing at different stages helps us refine the story by uncovering user motivations, behaviours, as well as validating the assumptions we make during the creation process.”

Main takeaway: Take examples from successful stories, study them and be ready to answer questions!


3. It’s far less expensive to prevent a problem than to fix it later

For me it’s funny how we show facts, which come from research itself. Of course, researchers write about how beneficial research is. It’s really simple, we need to find out what people want, need or wish in order to build it. Right?!

Now for a second, try to think like a manager — and this is where it gets curious. Try to talk about how much more efficiently you would work if you had the right insight insights, or how much time of post-release fixes would developers save.

There is a really good book by Clare-Marie Karat from IBM, where it is explained how every dollar spent in usability returns in development and post-release maintenance.


Main takeaway: Talk about efficiency and time put to work that prevents fixing post-release.


4. Roll up your sleeves and strategise

In this phase, you need to put your skills on the table and in a table, LITERALLY. I had to prepare in advance and think strategically what I can offer. Be prepared to use the experience from previous work and cover the details — because this is where it gets interesting. If you perhaps do not have any practical experience and you are an aspiring UX Researcher, I hope this table helps you as well.

Firstly, I made explicit the methods I feel most comfortable with, diving them into quantitative and qualitative. I additionally inserted a column differentiating the number of users that need to be involved, number of weeks, researchers and designers from the team, time, place and money (the prices are purely an indication that the more time you spend with a user the more incentive you need to provide). Of course, incentives are something that needs to be run through more people in your company so be open for those to change.


Takeaway: This is the time to show your skills and explain the work you can do with appropriate tools.


5. Show your previous impacts

Often times we (user researchers) forget that other people might not exactly get what we do. So try to show examples from previous work that YOU have directly worked on. This way you can show the details of the research: such as methodology used and time, money and resources; problems that users face and actionable insight on solutions, etc.

Keep in mind that showing examples from your previous work might stimulate others to think of their own examples. It is important to open a discussion.

Takeaway: let your manager connect to your work by showing previous examples, where you had a direct impact.


I hope this read will help and I hope to hear some of your stories as well. 🙂

Follow Stories of a UX Researcher

UXcampNL madness: bridging the gaps and becoming UX unicorns

Dear readers,

If you want to know more about the most awesome UX event in the world, you are at the right place!

UXcampNL tradition goes back to the year 2009; being the first one of its kind in the Netherlands, more specifically in Eindhoven. This year I had the honour to be part of the organising committee, so let me tell you more about it.

UX (user experience) camp is an “unconference”, born from the desire to bring together the industry and academic communities to share knowledge in an open environment. It is present in many places, such as UXcampEurope (Germany), UXcampDublin(Ireland), UXcampNL and UXcampAmsterdam (The Netherlands), UXcampBrighton(UK), UXcampCopenhagen (Denmark) and many more.



UXcampNL is known to be a completely free and open environment, a safe place to share ideas, projects or even challenges. Participants come from different parts of the world and bring with them a baggage of various UX (and non-UX) knowledge. They themselves are the ones who shape the event by giving talks or facilitating workshops. To make it even better, the variety of talks presented at UXcampNL is always depicted. This year, the variety can be seen from the titles of our 3 best talk awards:

  • 1st prize: “How to combine design methods with agile and remain sane” (by Den Tsekrovnyi — @dtserkovnyi)
  • 2nd prize: “Introvert’s guide to user research” (by Maria Leonova@marys_point)
  • 3rd prize: “UX & robotics: bridging the gap” (by Nina Buchina — @METiger)



This year, some of our sponsors had the opportunity to expose their shining talent(s). We invited Mirabeau and StudyPortals (two awesome companies everyone should check out) to take part in workshops.

Mirabeau shined in explaining the secret of their wireframing, calling it: “Breaking the Fairy Tale of Wireframes”. StudyPortals on the other hand, shined in “A Grand Experiment (of 50 minutes ;)) in Multidisciplinary Teamwork” (*we heard about the paper plane challenge StudyPortals, smart move*).



As a new addition to the UXcampNL, we organised the panel discussion. We had the joy to invite Karin Slegers (KU Leuven), Gabriela Braga (IBM) and Ivor Grisel (TU/e) for an intriguing one-hour discussion. Topics varied from current hypes in the UX, future concerns and fears, tips and suggestions and many more.

Some of the questions posed by the audience were: What will be the next big move in UX? And what are the biggest challenges experts face in everyday work? Are we going become UX cyborg designers and/or UX drone researchers?

Aside than having fear about the unknown future, participants were interested in the panelist’s job experience, specifically “How do we bridge gaps between design and engineering, or design and research? How can everyone be on the same page and speak the same language?”



This event wouldn’t be possible without an amazing team of hard-working and passionate people. The organisers are UX professionals from the User-System Interaction (USI) programme at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). Add them and to talk to them, give them some love. 🙂



To recap, I had the honour to be part of the UXcampNL and experience…

… a total of 200+ reserved tickets

… so many nationalities and disciplines

… UX Designers, UX Researchers, Front-End Developers and many more

6 organisers and 8 volunteers

9 amazing sponsors

16 talks, 3 workshops, 3 members of the panel discussion

… A lot, a lot, a lot of energy, enthusiasm and fun

To conclude, I feel that people in this community are ready to change the world of UX. I saw people with stories and passions, ready to show their superpowers. Coming back to the title, we are not ready to become UX unicorns, but we already are (*). As a personal note, I would like to encourage everybody to start the UX camp initiative in your town or even country. It is amazing to discover and come across different stories and experiences. If in doubt, I am more than willing join the conversation!

A big shout out to Gabriela Braga, she inspired me to write this article. Thank you, Gabi!

For more info visit http://www.uxcamp.nl/ and follow us everywhere (@UXcampNL).

Enjoy your day!

Stefan

How can we translate expression into objects? — Fast prototyping in the “fuzzy” front-end

Hello,

I will start by saying the fuzzy front-end of a design process is the very initial phase of exploration, brainstorming and idea generation where the result is not clear (in my words: “I learn by doing and consequently, I will grow something out of it: could be a building, could be a letter”).

By this task, I was quite intrigued by the movement of the pupil since it is really mysterious. It can dilate due to related emotions, substances, light/darkness, etc. Being part of a Masters in IT Product Design helped think quickly through rough prototypes. This project was done in 2 two days and the results could differ from obvious expectations.

DAY1: In the first day, the endless exploration of my pupil’s behaviour and research on digital platforms was needed in order to create a context of understanding of the expression. Given the chance to have some entities such as LED, servo motor, Arduino Leonardo, an elastic hairband and tons of bricks of LEGO, the exploration started. The aim of the day is to try to replicate an opening/closing effect of the pupil. To translate this action on a tangible surface was complex since for me it didn’t create any meaning. Looking at a video of a pupil made me think of what are the possible reasons for it to dilate, looking at the prototype I could only hear the sound of a servo motor trying to break my elastic hairband.


DAY2: On the second day I took a different approach. Rather than understanding/exploring the pupil on myself and the digital platform, I started to concentrate on what this prototype looks like. Maybe it is my “design mind”, but I needed to make the rough prototype look at least like an eye to help me engage with it. After some laser cutting and foam modelling, I tried to replicate my eye, putting the elastic band on (what was supposed to be) the Iris to evidence more the “ergonomics” of the movement. After this stage, I was ready to study a smooth, a fast and a “normal” movement. This step definitely helped in understanding why such movement is related to what factor, and it finally triggered my reflection like the video in Day1 did.

The purpose of the fast prototyping in the initial stage made me realise to what extension and which factors I need to include in translating an expression into a prototype, such as smoothness/roughness of the movement, the placement/position of the desired component and how can we help trigger reflection by simple form-giving. Most importantly, it made me realise how a simple elastic hairband move can trigger reflections and imagination. It took me in scenarios of what if this tangible was facing running in tunnels of dark/bright spaces or if maybe wake up after a good night sleep. This method of Fast prototyping in the “fuzzy” front end helped further exploration in engaging with the expression and elaborating them into tangibles. This turned out to affect positively the thinking of expression-movement-object in later on design development.