Briefly on my recent UX research
Research has been a really long and let’s say troublesome process for me. Maybe that’s one of the motivations for why I want to get better at it.
What would help me to get better? I know I’ve allocated too little time to it initially, less than was required. But also the fact that when practicing I’ve found there are a lot of things that should have been done properly from the start. And some others that should have followed a certain order, plan and optimization.
Better to start sooner than later
It is also true when it comes to other activities as well. “Be prepared” should be the UX researcher’s motto.
The saying goes something like this: When is the best time to start doing research? Well, it was yesterday. So the next best time to do it is today.
The first advice I can give is to start as early as possible with the things that need input from others, i.e. surveys, sending and answering emails or just getting things scheduled and planned.
There are things we cannot control and therefore we should not get mad about them. There are things that require time for receiving input from others. So planning our research really well matters. Getting an idea of what we want to achieve is very important.
Plan. There should be a structure and an understanding of the things we need to do immediately and where we could get bottlenecked in the process — due to not collecting the necessary information needed to move forward.
For example, after planning your research you need to do certain tasks before having your first interview. Let’s say that gathering participants will take a few days. You could already start doing the necessary steps to set up interviews (i.e. creating surveys, sending emails, scheduling the first interview) and then use the time left before the first interview to think about the details of the interview like creating the script, refining and practicing it.
When doing research it may look like you have a plan, but the general feeling is that you have no idea where you’re heading
A plan helps you to give a bit more context regarding the information about the things you’re trying to discover. It’s not going to be a straightforward way of navigating through the processes.
My secondary research done initially has been updated many more times during the research. I did this by speaking to people who helped me enrich my documentation(since each individual does his own research when it comes to products they invest time in). My bet is more helpful information will be added to my list by the end of the project, information that will most probably influence the proposed solution.
Getting the details right matters
I know it took me a lot of time, but I sure think getting the proper research in at the start of your project matters more than getting the first design “right.” You get to test your design, but the initial research can be expensive to redo.
Of course, during a bigger project you may have the opportunity to repeat part of your research (or just do more), but the fact may be if you’re already unsure about the direction the research is going, adding a miscalculation of some sort could hinder the process even more.
I have two examples here.
One, I did not know if I’d done my competitive analysis right. I needed to add information about each app that was used the most, but I initially did not think about what the purpose of the tool was, what the direction of the research was and if I was getting what needed to move forward. Therefore, I had to rethink it.
Second, I spent a lot of time doing the survey. I figured out the questions and the path in which someone could respond over and over again until I got it right. But I missed one setting that could have initially been putting people off during the first day because they needed to be logged onto their Google accounts to do it.
I don’t think I work very well under pressure, but when I am under a certain amount of it I discover things about myself. Small doses of stress make our work challenging (state of flow). Too much and we don’t cope well with it (Dr. Robert Saponsky summarizes this concept well on Andrew Huberman’s podcast).
One of the interviewees did not fit the usual profile, but I still needed to see some qualitative data. So some of the questions I usually used couldn’t be asked this time around. During the interview, I just lost my focus because I did not practice it beforehand and I realized late that some of the questions would not fit her profile. I babbled a lot and got nervous while calculating the questions.
After the first one or two awkwardly addressed questions I started to only think about the categories of things I wanted to find out and not about the questions themselves. And I began to do two things: to ask follow-up questions based on listening to what the person said and to steer the direction of the discussion in order to check all those categories with my questions.
We can possibly get over the “stage fright” element in time, but getting the details right can help us get what we need easier. Always asking “why” and breaking things down into categories helped me get the process down better. And I have Mento and my mentor Radu Vucea to thank for helping me to understand what I needed to do, and how I changed my way of thinking about it.
Research the researcher
One of the major things I was left with after reading the Think Like a UX Researcher book is that having a Research Log is one of the best things you can do in the long run. You can use it to write down what you were doing on that particular research, what went well, what you discovered and what reflects the things you can correct. Highlight the good things while constantly reminding yourself to ask “why.”
You can also use the 5w2h method when possible. Or you can go meta all the way and you can even research how you log your insights regarding the research process. Is there anything you would change, remove or add? Why?
Here is my Notion example based on the aforementioned book: Research Log Template. You can make it your own or get inspired if you’re already using something.
An example of things we can’t control is the number of participants who accept to take part in our research. Is there a way to add more to them? Yes, we can share our surveys all over the world, ask our friends and colleagues to do it as well, but the number of people who access it is not in our control.
Stoics say we should not get upset about the things we can’t control. It’s important to be patient and try to do our best with what we can control and not get frustrated about other things outside of it. I won’t add more, but since this is the end of this reflection I will leave you with this quote from Epictetus (also found in “The Daily Stoic book”):
“Some things are in our control, while others are not. We control our opinion, choice, desire, aversion, and, in a word, everything of our own doing. We don’t control our body, property, reputation, position, and, in a word, everything not of our own doing. Even more, the things in our control are by nature free, unhindered, and unobstructed, while those not in our control are weak, slavish, can be hindered, and are not our own.”
EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION , 1.1–2