Strategic User Research

Roma wasn’t built in one day, a new department is not built with one executive order.

The executive order can provide the crew, the budget, but does not necessarily guarantee the new department can be well absorbed to the already-established process in the organization.

We have so much to share under this topic, and I have a feeling that many research teams are on the same boat.

So the first question people have is — why do we even need to do user research? When I first joined ABCmouse as an UX designer, there was no user research department. R&D department was sort of doing some informal play testing with kids now or then, and we UX designers would help with moderation, note taking, report compiling if needed. As we start to bring more insights back to the design iterations. Other teams start to see the benefits of such practice, especially when kids constantly overthrew what adult designers have visioned for their design, teams start to realize that they need to get their design tried out by the true users early before they fail later, and that’s really what human centered design is advocating for.

Great, now people understand why do they need to test the design, here comes another question — we are requested to test every other week, every week, why do we need to test so frequent? We are already busy scrumming, preparing the testing materials just adds up more work

And there are more —

Testing the prototypes also means whatever the team is working on, will be exposed to the entire organization, including executives. Are we ready for them to see the “unfinished” design yet.

How do we know when to test and how to test? If the designer can’t make a decision among 5 different icon mockups, should he put all of them in front of kids and “test” it? When the designer prototype half of the functionality, should she just have the kids try it out and ask “do you like it?”

How do we utilize the data collected from the testing? In another word, how do we connect research with design? I saw four out of six kids didn't click on the button, should I increase the size of the button then?

All those questions, uncertainties, wonderings are what my team has been addressing by optimizing process and methodologies. Based on the design and production stage, and more importantly, the answer they are seeking for, we help the teams to determine:

  • what kind of testing methods should we deploy (see the chart below)
Research types and methods
  • what research questions are they looking at (it’s not easy!),
  • how to ask questions with kids appropriate language,
  • how to design the protocol so that we can gather data in an efficient way and at the same time, providing a fun and meaningful experience to the participants, and lastly,
  • how should we process the data and bring back the recommendations for next step design and research.

Eventually, when things start to makes sense to the users, everything also makes sense to everybody, every team.

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