Understanding Your Users
eBook - ePub

Understanding Your Users

A Practical Guide to User Research Methods

Kathy Baxter, Catherine Courage, Kelly Caine

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eBook - ePub

Understanding Your Users

A Practical Guide to User Research Methods

Kathy Baxter, Catherine Courage, Kelly Caine

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About This Book

This new and completely updated edition is a comprehensive, easy-to-read, "how-to" guide on user research methods. You'll learn about many distinct user research methods and also pre- and post-method considerations such as recruiting, facilitating activities or moderating, negotiating with product developments teams/customers, and getting your results incorporated into the product. For each method, you'll understand how to prepare for and conduct the activity, as well as analyze and present the data - all in a practical and hands-on way.

Each method presented provides different information about the users and their requirements (e.g., functional requirements, information architecture). The techniques can be used together to form a complete picture of the users' needs or they can be used separately throughout the product development lifecycle to address specific product questions. These techniques have helped product teams understand the value of user experience research by providing insight into how users behave and what they need to be successful. You will find brand new case studies from leaders in industry and academia that demonstrate each method in action.

This book has something to offer whether you are new to user experience or a seasoned UX professional. After reading this book, you'll be able to choose the right user research method for your research question and conduct a user research study. Then, you will be able to apply your findings to your own products.

  • Completely new and revised edition includes 30+% new content!
  • Discover the foundation you need to prepare for any user research activity and ensure that the results are incorporated into your products
  • Includes all new case studies for each method from leaders in industry and academia

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Part 1
What You Need to Know Before Choosing an Activity
Chapter 1

Introduction to User Experience

What Is User Experience?

If you are reading this book, you already have some idea about, or at least interest in, User Experience (UX). However, you likely arrived at this book and this field via a different path from the colleague sitting next to you or the classmate across the country who is taking the same online human-computer interaction (HCI) or human factors class as you. User experience practitioners and students come to UX from a diverse range of backgrounds, including computer science, psychology, design marketing, business, anthropology, and industrial engineering (Farrell & Nielsen, 2014). This diversity is an advantage; our community adopts the best practices and benefits from the knowledge of all of these disciplines. However, it also means that there is not one singular activity, style, or approach that defines UX.
There are many definitions of UX (see http://www.allaboutux.org/ux-definitions). The User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA) defines it as “Every aspect of the user’s interaction with a product, service, or company that make up the user’s perceptions of the whole. User experience design as a discipline is concerned with all the elements that together make up that interface, including layout, visual design, text, brand, sound, and interaction. Usability Engineering works to coordinate these elements to allow for the best possible interaction by users.”
If you are talking to people who are not familiar with UX and need an easy way to help them understand what you do, tell them you “help make technology easy for people to use.” It is not a perfect definition by any means, but people get the gist. Kelly discovered this after she got tired of blank stares when telling people her various job titles. She conducted a little user research on her friends, family members, and airplane seatmates to discover a one-line description for what she does. “I help make technology easy for people to use” always worked and usually made people say, “Wow, that’s great! We need more people like you.”
Whereas usability is about creating problem-free interactions, user experience is much broader and holistic. Usability is objective and product-based (i.e., a product is usable), whereas user experience is subjective and human centered (i.e., a person and a product co-create the user experience). Very often, user experience research seeks to gather “user requirements” for the design of technologies (e.g., mobile devices, websites, wearable technologies, software) or evaluate the usability of an existing technology.
User requirements refer to the features/attributes a product should have or how it should perform from the users’ perspective. User-centered design (UCD) is an approach for collecting and analyzing these requirements. This chapter introduces the basic concepts behind UCD, introduces stakeholders and their requirements, and tells you how to get buy-in for your user research activities.

Who Does User Experience?

Lots of people from many different backgrounds do work in user experience (see Figure 1.1). In industry, there are a variety of titles for UX practitioners, including (Farrell & Nielsen, 2014):
Figure 1.1 The disciplines of User Experience (www.envis-precisely.com). This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 30 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://Creativecommons.org/licenses/ by-sa/30 or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. From http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d5/Interaction-Design-Disciplines.png.
User experience designer
User experience researcher
Information architect
Interaction designer
Human factors engineer
Business analyst
Creative director
Interaction architect
Usability specialist
At the executive level, the titles include (Manning & Bodine, 2012):
Chief customer officer
Chief client officer
Chief experience officer
VP of user experience
Fundamentally, UX research is about understanding people, the domain, and technology. In that sense, while we have written this book from the perspective of UX research, the methods we describe can be used in any situation where you want to understand more about human behavior, perceptions, ideas, needs, wants, and concerns and how those play out in various contexts and with various technologies.
At a Glance
> User-centered design
> A variety of experiences
> Getting stakeholder buy-in for your activity
Suggested Resources for Further Reading
There are many colleges and universities with master’s and PhD programs in human-centered computing, HCI, engineering psychology, information sciences, etc., that offer coursework that will prepare you for a career in User Experience. If you do not have a degree in these or a related field, the books below can offer an introduction to many of the concepts discussed in this book.
Norman, D. A. (2013). The design of everyday things: Revised and expanded edition. Basic Books.
Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2010). Universal principles of design, revised and updated: 125 ways to enhance usability, influence perception, increase appeal, make better design decisions, and teach through design. Rockport Pub.
Rogers, Y. (2012). HCI theory: Classical, modern, and contemporary. Synthesis Lectures on Human-Centered Informatics, 5(2), 1–129.
Johnson, J. (2014). Designing with the mind in mind: Simple guide to understanding user interface design guidelines (2nd ed.). Morgan Kaufmann.
Weinschenk, S. (2011). 100 things every designer needs to know about people. Pearson Education.

User-Centered Design

UCD is a product development approach that focuses on end users. The philosophy is that the product should suit the user, rather than making the user suit the product. This is accomplished by employing techniques, processes, and methods throughout the product life cycle that focus on the user.
A Note About Terminology
Some of our colleagues (and even some of us!) do not like the word “user.” It has negative associations (e.g., drug “use...

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