2. User research


When trying to distinguish the difference between user research and usability testing, the key difference is ethnography; the study of humans in their culture. It is a set of qualitative methods that are used to observe a certain user group in their ordinary lives. Ethnographic research enables design teams to understand the true needs and uses of the product without holding any assumptions and completely emphasizing with the user.

In order to accomplish this, we must keep in mind four things. Try to get to know the user very well as Hall calls the “Deep dive”, expect messy and unpredictable off the script happenings, make sure to do a systematic analysis of the data collected, and understand the real people, personas and their stories.

One of the most common ways to collect data is to conduct an interview. While the interview, Hall mentions to “strive to be a nearly invisible, neutral presence soaking up everything the other person has to say.” What I found most interesting in her methods were when concluding and asking the participant whether your observations were correct and they disagree, you might still be correct and the fact that the participant disagreed can become an interesting observation as well.


With the data collected from the user research, you can extract a general model of the users that represent their needs and behaviors. Personas embody the behaviors patterns of the intended user group and is used as a reference point for decision-making. This allows the designers to keep an empathetic mind rather than making assumptions or being stuck with one specific individual. When thinking about the user persona, you will notice two mental models. “The type each of us hold in our head to help us deal with the world, and the type designers sketch out to better create that world.” It is important that we stay focused on the latter and not be confused by the former and overestimating how well your views match the users when thinking about design. Hall suggests using the task analysis in order to notice all possible paths that the user may take.

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