La la love this concise case study from Bassett & Partners. In six sentences they make one of the most compelling  illustrative arguments for doing design research I have ever read. I'm going to use this as an educational tool in the future.  

"We took the design team down to LA on a market immersion trip, hitting high schools, colleges, street courts and even a Midnight Madness Tournament in South Central where Paul Pierce randomly showed up

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This projects is one that I will always be proud of.  Working with local companies is always exciting. Working with my city's art museum was a dream come true.

We started by conducted a large discovery phase including a day long workshop with all of the museum department heads, a humbling tasking working with such smart and creative people, but an wonderful opportunity to have access to everyone who has a stake not only in the website but the museum as a whole. We discussed all of the varied needs and  goals of the museum and in the end were able to arrive at a set of very actionable goals for the site.

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Walden University_ Small

Loved seeing the test results from this test on Which Test Won. I have recently lost a couple fights to display form fields rather than a call-to-actions in newsletter promos.

Next time I shall be armed with this.

This increased conversions (submitted forms) 72.27%.

Over This

Not bad.

Be sure to subscribe to Which Test Won 's email. Tons of great tests results posted here. We don't always get the research budget this site can fill some knowledge gaps and answer some "I wonders" (yeah I just made that up. you can use it)

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Empathy Map- Xplane I recently worked on a project that ran into a few issues when we got to the design comp phase. Essentially when the comps were circulated internally, a number of stakeholders felt their needs where not being met. You may ask how we got all the way to comps before this came up and I could talk through the entire project identifying places where the process could have been improved, but I'd like to bring the focus to the beginning of the project where I think we missed an opportunity to succeed.

The responsibility of a User Experience Designer are vast. We take a leadership role in project definition, we gather, validate and nurture the needs of not just customers but of the business and the stakeholders. I've distinguished the business from the stakeholders on purpose because I think this is where the problems on the my project began.

At this point in time most clients and most creative project teams have a pretty good understanding of the differences between users and their needs and the some times conflicting desires of the business. Clients usually arrive at a kick off meeting with a fairly clear idea of what they are trying to accomplish from a business perspective and are looking for us to perform a number of exercises to help them understand their customers so they can better achieve their business goals. Many have written and I could talk for quite a while about the flaws of this approach but this is not the point of this post...

So as a UX practitioner I am brought in to bring the user perspective but I'm also responsible for further defining, focusing and tending to the goals of the business, this pieces isn't always directly acknowledged, but it is expected that we will do it. What is even more over looked is that we are expected to understand the internal stakeholder's needs and perspectives and balance all of these with both the business needs and the user needs. It's a balancing act that takes a good plan and lots of creative, complex thinking.

This piece, discovering, understanding and becoming empathetic to the needs of internal stakeholders requires the same rigorous approach as we apply to understanding our external users. We can't assume that the business requirements we are given or discover during project workshops are meeting the needs of everyone in the company. I have often created an internal user Persona but this is still looking at from an end user perspective.

Just as I was thinking about how I could have gained a better understanding of the perspectives of my stakeholders (separate from the business goals ) and could have made sure my direct client understood that we shouldn't proceed without a incorporating their needs, ideas and goals,  I came across this article,  Empathy Mapping from the blog Knowledge Games.

Here's what they said:

GOAL: The goal of the game is to gain a deeper level of understanding of a stakeholder in your business ecosystem, which may be a client, prospect, partner, etc., within a given context, such as a buying decision or an experience using a product or service. The exercise can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. You should be able to make a rough empathy map in about 20 minutes, provided you have a decent understanding of the person and context you want to map. Even if you don’t understand the stakeholder very well, the empathy-mapping exercise can help you identify gaps in your understanding and help you gain a deeper understanding of the things you don’t yet know.

What I like about this exercise for understanding internal stakeholders is you can use to to test specific business goals or tactics. For example you could pose the questions, "How would adding live chat to the shopping cart process effect your job?"  or "What would be the impact to your department if we merge two of our sites into one?"

I can also see a possible big win in presenting these maps back to the actual stakeholders. Seeing their specific concerns being acknowledged and considered by the project team would go a long way in winning the trust of people company wide.

I'm going to try to articulate a specific process for stakeholder discovery in my next project and not just bury it in business and user discovery processes and reports. Had I outlined a process for working through the needs of a few particular stakeholder groups separate from the needs of the business on this last project, I would have been able to show my client the shortfalls of the design approach we ended up taking.

Have you had success in this area? What approaches did you use?

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flushThis post is not about the green handle and sign All This Chittah Chattah said it very well here.This photo is from there too.

I would like to draw your attention to something that is driving me crazy. You may have noticed this too.

I first saw this new way to conserve water in the Portland Airport a few couple years ago and I was really excited until I used it.

The way it works is, you the flusher choose the amount of water, power of the flush, swirl of the bowl you need, based on what you just put in it.  It's great. Most of the time you only need enough flush power to push a little extra liquid and a bit of TP. Every 5th or so time (just a guess) you need flushing power to get a lot more down the pipes.

This is were the good idea meets bad design.

When I'm in a public restroom it isn't just about performing the task of going to the restroom, most of my thoughts, decisions and movements are around the issue of staying clean and not coming into contact with anything visible or invisible that might be disgusting or unhealthy.

We avoid using our hands.  Hips, knees, elbows, feet, chins to necks and butts are all recruited to assist in the tasks of getting in the room, opening the stall door, hanging up your purse, covering the seat, working with your clothing,  flushing the toilet, getting out of the stall, washing hands, getting a paper towel, turning the faucet on and off and finally getting out of the room.

Now look at this image.  What's wrong with it?

save water

The designer wants you to pull up for less water and push down for more.  Has the designer ever used a public restroom?

I would guess that most people use their foot to activate the flush. When you use your foot, the easiest way is to bend and lift your knee and come down on the top of the lever with your foot. It's possible to lift it up with your foot but it takes more balance and some thought. I also think people would be concerned about getting the dripping water usually found on these levers on the tops of their shoes.

So what we have is a design that asks us to do the more difficult, less automatic, potentially damaging action 80% of the time. The easy, more natural, cleaner action is being assigned to the less used function.

boo.

Had the designer done just a bit of research I'm sure these two actions would have been switched.

Wait. New thought. I wonder if it was intentional because they saw problems that could arrive if the Liquid Waste function was used when the Solid Waste function should be used. Crap. Well, if this is the reason it's another example of business needs vs. users needs and is an excellent opportunity to be more creative and more exceptional in our problem solving.

ps I do acknowledge that the design maybe a result of engineering constraints but it's still bad.

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methodotter

Well, I'll first say that I don't know if Method actually performed contextual research around the product design of their baby + kids products, but one of their justifications for a recent packaging changes, smells very strongly of in store/ in home observations.

From the Method blog:

Q: Why the change?

A: Leaky Otters! We found that people were unable to resist taking the Otter's pants off (no joke!) to get a big whiff of the what the product smelled like. This more often than not loosened the cap underneath the Otter which in turn sometimes created a big mess either on a shelf in the store or all over your bathroom floor at home.

This is great. It's great because the company is checking in on how their products are performing and not just from a financial perspective. Understanding how well your products are performing can be measured in many ways, but there's nothing like watching customer interact with it in the store and then watch a clerk go over and wipe up the mess while muttering to himself about how much he hates Method's stupid little Otter. A slow decline in sales will never tell you why and it will never ever tell you it's because of the ottter's pants.

It couldn't have been cheap to make the change and to tell you the truth I think the Otter is much more esthetically pleasing than the Penguin, but making the change was smart, responsible and respectful to the sellers and users of their products.

If any of the Method people read this, I'd love to hear about your research methods and anyother interesting insight you've come across.

Happy Thursday everyone!  I'm heading to PickaThon to get my groove on this weekend. Yeah!

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social pharam graph I read Josh Bernoff's article How to create a social application for life sciences without getting fired a while back and I found myself thinking about it again this weekend. I think the above chart is excellent and the perfect tool for illustrating how social media tools may or may not be appropriate, beneficial or wanted by different users.

You know that point in a project where you have the big list of ideas and have to start slimming them down.  I think this chart is an excellent piece to start the meeting with, it kinda greases the mind into thinking in a critical way about real people, their needs and current habits.

Yes, those with Cancer have a lot to gain by connecting with other Cancer suffers but it's easy to see why they don't currently spend a lot of time online in these communities.  Cancer treatments take a lot out of you and many people still have to continue their normal lives while under treatment.  So, if we wanted to give them social tools, they would have to have high, immediate value and would need to be embedded into a process they already participate in or really really easy with a low barrier of entry.

Josh actually created this chart to help understand whether the risks involved with implementing social tools in the health care industry had strong enough value to the users to pursue. He says, "I decided to focus on who has the most to gain from social applications. Because if you don't have a lot to gain, the regulatory issues mean you may have a lot at risk, and it's not worth it"

He's right on and really asking the right questions that will ultimately protect his clients.  There is also a much broader lesson in this statement that we can and should apply when working on our own projects. What risks will your brand or campaign be taking by implementing particular social tools? There may not be a large regulatory body like the FDA watching you but there is risk involved with implementing these tools.

Is this something your target users even want, will use or, find benefit in?  If no, why would you expose the company to the obvious complications, risks, and at very least management responsibliites of emplimenting a social media tool? How will your users react to the new functionality?  Will they backlash and decided to go somewhere else? Will they be irritated and loose trust in the brand? or will you fullfill all thier dreams?   I will hope it's the later but I know doing research and analisys such as this will get you a lot closer than you might have been.

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There is a nice article over at Scientific America about how humans interact with and react to the build environment. I thought it was a nice reminder of for those of us who spend our days designing digital environments that what we create, though not wood and drywall are spaces that people spend time in but what I found really interesting was on of the experiments they discus.

" In 2007 Joan Meyers-Levy, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, reported that the height of a room’s ceiling affects how people think. She randomly assigned 100 people to a room with either an eight- or 10-foot ceiling and asked participants to group sports from a 10-item list into categories of their own choice. The people who completed the task in the room with taller ceilings came up with more abstract categories, such as “challenging” sports or sports they would like to play, than did those in rooms with shorter ceilings, who offered more concrete groupings, such as the number of participants on a team. Because her earlier work had indicated that elevated ceilings make people feel physically less constrained, the investigator posits that higher ceilings encourage people to think more freely, which may lead them to make more abstract connections. The sense of confinement prompted by low ceilings, on the other hand, may inspire a more detailed, statistical outlook—which might be preferable under some circumstances"

Wow. I'm pretty cognizant of the impact of environment on how you feel and your ability to think. Personally I'm extremely effected by it, I've even had to leave a couple jobs due to the environment. Reading this article has me thinking about the research I have conducted and how I will conduct it in the future. I also love that they use a card sort! (great validation for the method).

Here are some thoughts:

1. Is it possible that the answers a user gives in the lab could differ enough from the answers they would give at home in front of their own computers, as to make the data false or at least misleading? I'm not just thinking about the difference between ethnographic or contextual inquiry research, I'm thinking about the lab experience might actually change the way people think they think about something. Just as the tall ceiling affected the subject of this research.

2. How does the experience of conducting an interview over the phone effect the data. When you are on a call your mind almost creates a "mental room" that that the conversation is happening in. If the connection is bad, the volume is uncomfortable or the voice of the interviewer reminds you of someone you know, the environment of that call could effect the data. As a researcher over the phone you have no way to know what the interviewee is experiencing so you can't help to adjust the environment.

Full disclosure on this thought: I'm not really a fan of the phone interview, so I'd selfishly like to learn anything that could help me convince stakeholders to spend money on in person research.

3. All of the research labs I have seen have a similar layout and feel. What if this typical research environment has been effecting the results of research in a particular way all this time. What if sitting in a room with a one-way mirror causes you to answer questions with less intensity then you actually feel or causes you to prefer blue over green? Hummm....

We All Need a Window Seat!

This isn't particular to UX but a great topic to bring up when selecting a new location for your office or are planing to rearrange or remodel your current space.

"In addition to ceiling height, the view afforded by a building may influence intellect—in particular, an occupant’s ability to concentrate. Although gazing out a window suggests distraction, it turns out that views of natural settings, such as a garden, field or forest, actually improve focus." "They found that kids who experienced the greatest increase in greenness as a result of the move also made the most gains on a standard test of attention." "In their analysis of more than 10,000 fifth-grade students in 71 Georgia elementary schools, Tanner and his colleagues found that students in classrooms with unrestricted views of at least 50 feet outside the window, including gardens, mountains and other natural elements, had higher scores on tests of vocabulary, language arts and math than did students without such expansive vistas or whose classrooms primarily overlooked roads, parking lots and other urban fixtures."

This stuff just gets me going. I believe we all deserve a nourishing environment to spend our time in, whether we understand or realize the impact or not, but unfortunately many people aren't as lucky as many of us in our beautiful agency offices. This may have to be my next philanthropic project.....

Go read the whole article, I'm sure you will find ten other points that could be applied to our work. I'd love to hear them:)

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Came across this site today. The idea is that people are more likely to sign on (give money) to a project if they know that full support is in place before they actually hand over the money or make a move themselves. Pretty interesting.

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