User Research, Task Analysis, Ethnography, & Focus Groups (

By: Kiewe Consulting  09-12-2011
Keywords: Ethnographic Research

User Research

One of the most dangerous assumptions product developers can make is that their users are just like them. This assumption is almost always wrong. While our users may be like us in some ways, in many critical ways they are different. Their basic assumptions are different. Their goals and tasks are different. Their physical and social environments are likely different. Understanding the details of the users' world can make the difference between a modestly successful product and wildly successful one.

I use one or more of the following methods to help your organization gain a clear understanding of your users so you can make a product they will love:

  • User interviews are semi-structured conversations held one-on-one or in a focus group. For remote users, telephone interviews provide an economical alternative to face-to-face meetings. The goal is to develop a rich understanding of the user's assumptions, needs, and environment, and not simply have them dictate a list of features that they would like to see in the next product release. User interviews may be supplemented with online questionnaires or surveys to collect data from a larger user group.
  • Product ethnography is an adaptation of ethnographic research methods used by anthropologists and sociologists. It involves onsite observation combined with in-depth interviews. The onsite field observation provides direct, unambiguous access to the pertinent information that can be used to refine existing designs and uncover new product opportunities.
  • Competitive analysis involves the user experience analysis of a competing or related product. Usability testing, heuristic inspection, and other UX evaluation methods are used to reveal design concepts to borrow, improve on, or avoid.
  • Customer-support analysis involves reviewing customer support records and interviewing support staff to identify UX issues with existing products.

Stop designing in the dark. Using one or more of the above methods can provide the insight needed to target user needs with confidence, thus greatly improving the odds of product success.

Keywords: Ethnographic Research

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