Is Bad Research Better Than No Research?
“We humans are full of unpredictable emotions that logic cannot solve.”
- Captain James T. Kirk
“When it comes to conducting user research, everyone thinks they are Spock but in reality most of us are actually more like Kirk.”
- Deidre Kolarick
At Catalyst Group we are big fans of Lean UX. We especially like the tight integration of design and research practices that differentiates lean methods from more traditional waterfall design processes.
Recently, Deidre Kolarick, Catalyst Group’s Director of Research & Insights, delivered a talk entitled: “Is Bad Research Better than No Research?”. Deidre’s presentation was part of LeanUX Researchapaloozafest: An Epic Human-Centred Evening — an exciting series of lean user research talks that we curated along with our friends at TLC Labs. You can view Deidre’s entire talk below, but here’s a quick summary to whet your appetite.
Webinar: User Research Tools and Techniques
Date: February 27, 2013 at 2PM EST
Presenter: Deidre Kolarick, Director, Research & Insights
What’s the difference between field research and lab testing? When might you want to use a site intercept to learn about your target audience? Is ‘shadowing’ something to do off the basketball court? In this talk, Deidre will provide an introduction to the catalog of research methods we use to gain insights about the user experience. Using the framework of a product lifecycle, we discuss which methods are most appropriate depending on the project constraints and insights desired.
Ray’s Smartwatch Test Drive
The Pebble smartwatch was originally introduced via a very successful Kickstarter campaign (they raised $100,000 in two hours). As with the Samsung Galaxy Gear, the Pebble does not stand alone — it works in conjunction with a bluetooth-capable smartphone. So, in essence, it is an auxiliary screen for my phone.
My initial reaction to this was… “Meh.” However, after wearing the thing for a few weeks my tune has changed.
I’m sure smartwatches will hit their stride in a few years but I like to ride the early part of the wave. I’m usually the guy people ask to help them set up such devices, so I gotta know what I’m doing. So I set out to find out everything the Pebble could do, and that’s a lot (in theory).
The Pebble platform is just that, it’s a platform. They distribute a free SDK and a good number of developers are on board. There are apps to use FourSquare and Yelp, a remote control for your GoPro camera and more. Almost out of the box you can control the music on your smartphone, read email, read and even send text messages, check the weather, track runs, get sports scores. Oh, and you can change your watch face.
For me, and for now, none of these apps really fulfills any kind of promise. The ability to interact with the interface is just not there yet. On the Pebble, the screen is not touch-enabled as the Galaxy Gear is, but I don’t suspect that’s the problem. I just don’t think we yet know how to effectively design high (or medium) degrees of interaction on such a small screen, on our wrist. I believe we’ll get there but the Pebble isn’t there and, from what I’m reading and hearing, the Galaxy Gear isn’t either.
So why and how has my tune changed? It’s very simple… the Pebble grants me a little (tiny) bit of freedom from my phone. And, that’s significant. As someone who remembers life before smartphones (even before cell phones) I can appreciate just how much I’m connected to that thing. I’m not a high volume texter, but I get messages throughout the day, and often in situations where I don’t want to pull out my phone. The ability to glance at my wrist and see if it’s at all important, and even be able to read it if it is, without having to pull out my phone is actually a big deal. And to me, it’s enough to be really excited about the possibilities of wrist/glance based interactions.
Sure, maybe someday I’ll be talking to my watch to compose messages or having video chats on it, but then it’s turning into a smaller smartphone on my wrist. The only thing I gain is not needing to take it out of my pocket.
For me, the present, and maybe even the future, of smartwatches is at-a-glance value.Give me more time to look up and around while still being connected, not quicker access and a smaller screen to touch and stare at.
The Pebble does this. Thank you, Pebble.
General Assembly Portfolio Critique
Last week Catalyst hosted a portfolio critique night for some alumni of General Assembly’s (GA) UX courses. Three alumni submitted mock applications to Catalyst, each of which included a cover letter and a carefully crafted UX portfolio. Catalytes provided unfiltered feedback with the perspective of hiring managers on each whole submission package.
- Your process
- Challenges you’ve encountered and your solutions for them
- Your role in the team, if applicable
2. If you’re including a mock project, explain your design brief or the project constraints (goals, users, platform, etc.). If your mock project didn’t have any constraints, provide rationale for your decisions.
3. It’s common to organize a portfolio by project, but showing samples grouped by type of activity is also a good presentation method to consider (e.g., information architecture, flows, wireframes).
4. Ensure your portfolio is multi-purpose. Remember it will be used during two key steps of the hiring process:
- As something to persuade a potential employer to interview you
- As something to discuss during your interview
5. Put yourself into it. Show what you stand for, and who you are as a designer. Remember that the hiring manager will look at the portfolio at different levels:
- The quality of the designs contained within the portfolio (e.g., Are they quality designs? Do they demonstrate strong knowledge of UX principles?)
- The quality of the deliverables that contain the designs (e.g., Is it easy to follow? Is there attention to styling? Are the annotations clear and concise? How good a vehicle for the design is the document?)
- The quality of the user experience of the portfolio (e.g., Is it easy to browse and give a hiring manager enough information to judge your work?)
Get Ready for ‘LeanUX Researchapaloozafest’
This ain’t your typical -palooza, folks.
Five speakers will drop some knowledge about design research at the new Spotify office Tues., Jan. 14 at “LeanUX Researchapaloozafest: An Epic Human-Centred Evening”.
Catalyst’s Director of Research & Insights, Deidre Kolarick, will give one of the five epic talks that evening — she’ll tackle the gnarly question, “Is bad research better than no research?”
If you want to know the answer, better sign up now. The cost to attend is $20. Bonus: “Fancy snacks” will be there for your consumption.
Visions of Sugar Plums
Run, run as fast as you can. We spent the afternoon making gingerbread men and women. (Well, we made their homes, but you get the idea.)
Armed with frosting, gummy penguins, and of course, gingerbread, we Catalytes got to work creating our ideal holiday treat.
With a room full of designers the creative energy was bound to get pretty intense. As the sugar high set in, the mood got downright silly. While some went the route of classic gingerbread homes, others felt the project called for different structures, including an anarchist church and a multilevel bar.
Whatever inspired everyone this afternoon we enjoyed the opportunity to indulge in this sugar-filled tradition.
A few weeks ago, my friend Tak made sheep-shaped waffles for a group of friends.
Tak designed and built a custom waffle iron as part of an ongoing project, “Sheep-shaped Cuisine.” The project draws from his experience as a product designer.
He went through a process of sketching, sculpting and prototyping before arriving on his final design. The waffle iron is a functional piece of art, complete with his own logo engraved on the outside.
The waffles were delicious, fun and beautiful.
Whataburger (and External Architecture in Service Design)
Interaction designers know that (information) architecture can make or break an experience. But, when we look outside at the businesses and services we use on a daily basis, we see that architecture — particularly the external architecture of buildings — is beginning to play less and less of a role in contributing to the infrastructural layer of service design experiences (the planned interaction between customers and service providers).
Starbucks is perhaps the most famous business that takes advantage of its internal architecture to enhance an experience. Whether we walk into a Starbucks in North Dakota or in Mexico, Turkey or Taiwan, we know what’s up: We know where the line is, we know we’ll see coffee mugs and music for sale by the register, and we know that the bathroom is at the back and anyone can use it (unspoken rule).
Many other companies employ the same tactic—designing a service to seem familiar no matter where we use their service.
While it’s much easier (especially budget-wise) to capitalize on familiarity within an experience through the use of internal architecture, I’d bet that taking advantage of external architecture could be equally worthwhile and perhaps even more worthwhile.
Maybe I’m biased, though, since my reasoning for this belief comes from missing Whataburger, a legendary burger chain which originated in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas.
The founder of Whataburger, Harmon Dobson, was a pilot. He used to fly over Corpus Whataburger sites with a Whataburger banner affixed to his plane, dropping coupons from the sky onto unsuspecting patrons. In his time doing this, he concluded that making his business more eye-catching (from all angles) would be a good investment.
An Auto Mechanic Walks Into a Bar…
Creativity and design inspiration often come from unexpected places. This is certainly the case for Jorge Odon, the Argentine car mechanic who created a device to assist the delivery of babies who become stuck in the birth canal during delivery.
Odon built his first prototype using a glass jar as a womb, his daughter’s doll as a trapped baby, and a fabric bag as the extraction device after watching a YouTube video showing how to extract a lost cork from inside a bottle. It took a car mechanic, with no medical training or experience, to improve on the current options that include the use of forceps and suction cups. Odon was able to make a leap that designers in the medical device field have been unable to achieve.
Designers know that cross-pollination of ideas can be an inspiration in the creative process. Steve Jobs said, “The key to creativity is to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then to bring those things into what you are doing.”
A key to user-centered design is the notion that partnering with users to understand their work, processes, goals and needs will bring key perspectives and insights to the design process. Users know their work, but are unable to unlock that knowledge to envision how a process could be improved or reimagined. When we partner with users, we are able to bridge the gap between what is and what can be.
Source: The New York Times
Catalytes Present: Lean for Agencies
Catalytes Nick (CEO) and Ray (Sr. UX Consultant) stopped by General Assembly last week to talk about their experience applying a Lean UX methodology to a recent client project. Pizza and learning was had by all. Here are the slides, which contain most of the salient points. But please feel free to get in touch with us to explore the issues in more depth.