It’s a wrap for Dollars to Donuts, Season 2

I just wrapped up the second season of Dollars to Donuts, the podcast where I speak with people who lead user research. Check out all the great interviews this season. Links include transcripts and links for each episode.

An interview about The State of UX Research

I was interviewed by Jen Ignacz of Topp. We spoke about the history of user research (at least how I experienced) and some of my thoughts about the present – and future. Check out the audio and/or read the transcript here.

I remember that we did this project with IBM that was very much like the future of the home PC, so for us that was really, really new and exciting. Maybe a lot of people might be rolling their eyes like yes, we’ve seen that we’ve done that, so that was this watershed moment where we were able to do a sort of an industrial design type of project, but it led with ethnography – it led with rethinking the whole purpose of this thing they were making. And right after that we got approached by a packaged goods companies that wanted to rethink breakfast, and that was the exciting part because their innovation part of the business was getting clients that didn’t look like industrial design clients. It was someone else coming through the door, and that was the moment where I think we thought “this is a real thing” – you know, companies – business is looking into this and we can work on all kinds of stuff. I think that was a huge moment. Fortune, BusinessWeek and other magazines were writing cover stories about ethnography or anthropology, and showing pictures of people in pith helmets or scientists or similar. The conversation turned a lot more serious and specific about how this kind of work was going to help business. I think the work we were getting and we were doing, and this kind of popular press shift, we started to feel like oh, this really is a viable thing for business, a viable service to be offering. We will see products made this way from here on out, so that was kind of the transition.

Grant McCracken on his interview technique and mindset

Another fantastic Grant McCracken post. He conducts a short interview (embedded below) and offers a terrifically insightful reflection on his technique as well the meaning of the overall endeavor. A must-watch/read for interviewers.


Another thing I liked about the interview was the glimpse it gives of city life. In this case, of the invisible distinctions of space that are perfectly clear to Craig and a surprise to the rest of us (if and when discovered by the rest of us). The world is filled with this invisible distinctions. They surround us all the time. The secret of ethnography: keep an eye out. Ask everyone.

Sign up to get blog posts by email

Did you know that you can receive all blog posts by email? Go here to sign up.

Yeah, portigal.com has long had this capability, through Feedburner, eventually bought by Google. It’s still running but it seems that Google has abandoned it. Feedburner emails look something like this

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It’s not even possible to tell if it’s being supported or not; the webpages that support it seem to have been abandoned. So yeah, it runs every night, for now, and sends out postings, but it probably won’t stick around forever.

I would manually migrate Feedburner subscribers to the new Mailchimp list but it’s so broken that even though I can log in, I can’t find the actual mailing list. Support pages show many people with similar complaints.

If you’re receiving posts already, you can do nothing and probably for some time you’ll be fine. But you can also take 30 seconds to sign up here for the shiny new list!

How To Tell If Your Participant Is Faking It

Although How To Tell If Your Participant Is Faking It is mostly about usability testing and unfortunately chooses to frame the participant as “faking” (a nice word for lying) it’s nice to see this level of specific detail around the clues to look for in terms of how people express themselves.

Your participant reflects in the 3rd person. If a majority of the feedback your participant gives includes phrases such as “Some people might…” or “I have a friend who would love this…” or any other reference to someone other than themselves, then you’re probably not getting great data. They’re not exactly faking it or hiding anything, but they’re definitely not giving you relevant data about their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Be sure to clarify whether they mean to really speak for themselves or not.

Listen to Steve on the Getting2Alpha podcast

I was interviewed by Amy Jo Kim for her Getting2Aplpha podcast.

Those transition rituals tell people when they are going to go into an interview, there’s a point at which you’re getting ready, you’re going over there. You’re going from an activity that’s not the interview to an activity that is the interview. Just to take a moment and say, “Okay, for the next thirty minutes, the next hundred twenty minutes, let’s just try to learn about how Joanne makes travel reservations. Let’s just make it about that.” The implicit part of that statement is that we’re not thinking about what meetings we have, what aspirations we have, what sales targets we have to make, what our burn rate for our coders is. We’re really thinking about just looking at this person and their behavior.I think that’s just a way to give yourself a break and just make it easier, not easy, but easier to really think about that experience with that person and learning about them as a complete thing. Afterwards, you can leave and you can go back and pick up your world view and make sense of this and start to triangulate and organize and learn. For those periods of time where you’re with someone to learn about them, just taking that weight of the world off your shoulders and just saying, “Okay, I’m just going to learn about them.” The transition ritual is to consciously articulate that.

Listen to the podcast here or below

Whose Job is User Research?

I was interviewed by Laura Klein and we discussed Whose Job is User Research?

Not every research study requires an expert at the helm. Quite a few products would benefit from having somebody on the main product team who could quickly get feedback or answers to simple questions. “Even a newbie researcher should be able to answer some factual questions about what people are doing or might want to do. They also have the opportunity to reflect on what assumptions they were holding onto that were incorrect,” Steve explains. “You’ll always get more questions to go with your answers, but hoo boy–it’s better than never talking to users and acting with confident ignorance.”There are some questions you’re better off bringing in an expert, though. “The more help you need in connecting the business problem with the research approach and connecting the observations to the business implications, the more expert help you need,” Steve explains.

Check out the whole article.

Make sure you’re still subscribed to Dollars to Donuts

When I launched the new portigal.com just over two weeks ago, there were some changes to Dollars to Donuts. Episodes don’t appear on the blog, instead they are all now on the dedicated podcast page. There are separate feeds for the blog and the podcast as well.

If you subscribe in iTunes ideally the transition was seamless. You should have the last two episodes (Kavita Appachu, Elizabeth Kell). If you don’t have them, please go to iTunes and resubscribe.

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