Train Week — Monday morning weeknotes

First things first, I’m not going to number these, as they would have no meaning to me or anyone. What I am going to do is provide a Great British Bake off style title that summaries what the upcoming week will be characterised as in one word.

This week is Train week, I’m going to be on the train of a total of 16 hours this week. I think I’ve nailed the title.

Last week

I was reminded how far the profession of User research, and user centred thinking, has come. But also, further reminded how far we still have to come to get away from a testing mindset.

The week started with a cry for help from myself on twitter about how to get a novice team involved in analysis of research session that was duly answered by a Jane Reid, thanks Jane! Always astounded by the sense of community UX has.

I then moved into planning on separate projects, the objective of these was to help us see what work needed to be done. The level of detail trying to be achieved seemed to great though, especially as we are in a discovery phase in both projects. These planning turned into more of a workshop around what the aims of a discovery is, and where user research fits in with this. This wasn’t unhelpful as the team will be better placed going forward. But it was apparent the ‘user research’ that was expecting to validate ideas early on, which is a big no no in this case. Helpfully I called on DTO’s and ex-GDS Leisa to help out with explaining what the aim of a discovery is.

Thinking back on this too, I also came back to the case for making good names for the things we are working on. Good services are verbs, this is true. It may seem that sometimes the name of something can be quite trivial as its not the product, its not what we’re measured on. However, in the planning session as a team we were unable to properly define what question we needed to discover as we were so concentrated on the noun we had named the project. Thus removing the opportunity to really discover the best way to meet our user needs.

These conversations made me think though, how do we through research know if we’ve got the root of the need. That is to say, we may discover a need, but should we just design for that straight away, or should we dig deeper to see if actually that first need is just a cover up for a further couple of rooted needs?

The week ended with doing what I love best, speaking with users and understanding their stories. It was a shame that only the research team attended this research session. We had a big observation empty and too many left over croissants. This is my next aim. Get the project team out and involved in the research. To do this first though, we’re going to replicate the research we did on Thursday in the office. Get a room, with a TV, post its and sweets watch back the day’s research in real time. A proxy research day. Hopefully showing the team the worth of coming out to watch research.

This week.

As the title suggest I’m on the train a lot. First to Birmingham, to carry on discussions around some planning work. What I’ve remembered this time however is not to assume everyone has the same understanding of what user research is and why we run projects that are user centric. So I’m prepping myself much more this week, and being ready to educate more.

Wednesday is London (can’t wait for that Severn Tunnel to open up). Team meetings and those stuff. Working remotely is difficult, especially when we don’t have access to those techs that help remote working. So I always make sure that I’m in London once a week for a free day just to say hello to the team and have desk chats.

Thursday is DVLA in Swansea, much closer to home. Taking the opportunity to learn from a public department how they support their users through contact centres, web chat and other things. More importantly, how they got to the reasons for offering support in the way they do. Always love opportunities to go to other departments. I like I said the UX community is like no other.

Friday, quick trip to London for a meeting. But I’ll end the week up in Yorkshire to watch the top of the championship team Huddersfield in a Yorkshire derby with Sheff Weds.

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