Posts tagged “users”

Steve interviewed for UX Magazine

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When I spoke recently in Los Angeles I was interviewed by Luke Swenson of Media Contour.

The interview has been published on UX Magazine.

When should our clients invest in user research?

There are two things that you should watch for that can indicate it’s time. One is when you realize that you don’t know the answer to an important question. For instance, maybe you’re not sure who you’re targeting with a product or service. The second one is more difficult: it’s when you believe you have the problem already solved but you’re operating without any type of humility—you’re believing your own hype, so to speak. You’re making assumptions without any facts or evidence to back up those assumptions.

Rethinking Everything About What You Do For Customers

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Rebecca Mead’s New Yorker feature The Sense of an Ending describes some really dramatic (and successful) reframes in care for dementia patients. There’s a number of profound shifts in how the caregivers describe their role and in the kind of experience they seek to deliver for the patient (and their family). The whole article (linked above, but subscribers only) describes those shifts and the cultural and organizational efforts to get there. I’ve included just a portion here

One of the first things Alonzo did, in 1998, was to ask an aide who was born in Vietnam to talk to staff members in her native tongue. “It was the only language I could find that nobody else could speak,” Alonzo recalled. “So we had her tell us very sweetly, in Vietnamese, what she wanted us to do, and we couldn’t understand her.” The staff had to become attuned to the woman’s nonverbal cues.

On another occasion, Alzono underwent a public bed bath, in front of the entire staff, of twenty-seven. She didn’t allow herself to move her limbs, and behaved as if confused. Afterward, she was able to describe the nature of her discomfort, and staff members analyzed their own activity in light of it. “Let me tell you, it sucked – it was incredibly uncomfortable,” she told me. Staff members then spooned food into one another’s mouths and brushed one another’s teeth, in order to be on the receiving end of activities that they performed for their charges every day. “You can find how threatening it is to have something touch your mouth when you have not brought it to your own lips,” she said.

In the most radical experiment, the staff wore adult diapers. “That was kind of life-changing for everybody involved,” Alonzo told me. “We all recognized just how uncomfortable it was to sit in a wet brief. Some of our front-line staff, who really wanted to know how bad that felt, did not change them for a couple of hours.” Previous may residents had been dressed in diapers, as they tend to be in a majority of nursing homes. Not long afterward, aides decided to stop the practice with most residents, instead taking them to the bathroom fifteen or twenty minutes after mealtimes. This made residents happier while making the staff’s jobs easier, because they no longer had to change people who were agitated.

There’s a rich tradition of participating in the experience our customers are having (see this great war story about an adventure in an “old age simulation suit”) and what feels like an increasing mention of empathy. I really like how this story highlights not so much the ergonomic or functional task aspects that are revealed but how this drives to revisiting the fundamental ideas of how the institution conceives of the patient experience it provides. I also like the full-on simplicity of the approach, the people who do this stuff to others now try it themselves and talk about it.

See also Richard Anderson’s blog post from this week about reframes in general and in healthcare specifically.

Pattern-recognition is crucial for sense-making

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Interviewing Users is now available. Get your copy here!




theartofscientificinvestigation


Excerpting from a great post…The Art of Observation and How to Master the Crucial Difference Between Observation and Intuition [Brain Pickings] – Highlights from a 1957 book by Cambridge University professor W. I. B. Beveridge come from the era of the scientific method but are broadly applicable to creative, innovative, design-thinking approaches to problem solving.

Ultimately, Beveridge argues that the art of observation depends on developing the capacity for pattern-recognition, which in turn relies on a broad pool of networked knowledge that allows you to spot the piece that doesn’t fit: “In carrying out any observation you look deliberately for each characteristic you know may be there, for any unusual feature, and especially for any suggestive associations or relationships among the things you see, or between them and what you know. – Most of the relationships observed are due to chance and have no significance, but occasionally one will lead to a fruitful idea.”

Leo’s War Story: No, We Really Meant the User

Product Design Manager Leo Frishberg underscores the effort required to ensure you’re seeing the right user in the right context.

Our team was embarking on an ambitious, multi-country Contextual Inquiry effort. We had created our sample cells, identified the right industries, established a great relationship with our sales team and done All The Right Things Up Front to make the effort a success.

Working from Oregon with prospective participants in Bangalore is never an easy prospect; introducing a new research technique at the same time raised the stakes.

Several weeks in advance of the interviews we had contacted our sales team in-country explaining the process: we needed individuals who were currently working with our equipment and willing let us observe them working in their labs, in situ.

Everyone claimed to understand. We arrived in-country and I confirmed the arrangements, on the telephone, with the sales team. “Yes,” they confirmed, “we’ve found exactly who you are looking for…”

We arrived at our first interview in a gorgeous sparkling new office building and were led to an upstairs glass-enclosed conference room. Presently, a manager-type entered, clearly expecting to hold court with us.

I began the discussion with a recap of our expectations and a quick sanity check with the individual.

“So,” I began, “we are looking forward to working with an actual user in the lab. Are you going to work with us today?”

“No,” he said, dismissively. “I’m the team manager. I can tell you everything that’s wrong with your equipment. I’ve polled the team and have collected answers from all of them.”

It’s at times like this, having flown 10,000 miles, having spent as much time as I had setting things up, that I lose a part of my conscious brain. I could feel the anger rising, but I knew that couldn’t help improve the situation.

Instead, I signaled to the sales guy sitting next to me that as far as I was concerned, the interview was over and we could pack up to go to our next meeting. Here’s where the details get sketchy, but I know he said something, in English, to the manager, and whatever magic words he uttered, the manager smiled and nodded, suggesting he could definitely get the lead engineer to help us. He left to find the guy.

A few minutes later, the engineer entered the room, curious as to what the group was doing there. We began the front part of the interview, and it was clear he was the right guy. After explaining what we were planning to do, we asked if he had any questions or needed any further explanation.

‘No,” he said, “you want to see me work with the equipment. I don’t have anything to do today, but I could show you what I was doing last week.”

That was fine, we agreed.

“Okay. Just give me a few minutes and I’ll bring you back…”

Imagining what he might be doing in those few minutes I stopped him. “Uhhh, what would you be doing between now and then?”

“Oh,” he assured us, “I’m just going to get the equipment all set up.”

“Great!” We practically shouted. “That would be great! We’d be happy to watch you do that!”

He smiled as if hoping we had taken our medication and led us to his lab. “I’m not sure what you’ll find so interesting about my pulling the machines off the shelf, but come on along…”

The take-aways remain the same:

  • Persistence and staying on track no matter what the situation throws you
  • No matter how much you prepare, nothing will go as planned

Back from UX Lisbon

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Lisbon and presenting at UX Lx.

I gave an updated version of “Well, We’ve Done All This Research, Now What?” where we did a brief observation of the area around the venue and then developed concepts that spoke to the needs we uncovered. Among the concepts the teams played with was a giant robotic sheep that would provide shade.

The slide deck:

Per Axbom took a series sketchnotes during the session and kindly posted all of them here.

I gave a short presentation on the final day of the conference, exploring the power of user research not only to uncover data that drives product development but to change the way an organization thinks about it’s customers and itself.

The slide deck:

Sketchnotes from LiveSketching.com, Per Axbom, and Francis Rowland. Click on any of them to see the larger original.

(Side note: amusing to see the consistent use of the presenter caricature. The organizers of the conference may have contributed to this; in each attendee packet was a poster showing a funny if awkward scene with cartoon representations of all the different speakers, as well as a set of cards for one of the speakers. Attendees were supposed to trade cards until they got a complete set.)

ChittahChattah Quickies

P&G gets innovative [Cincinnati.com] – The process behind Tide Pods includes lots and lots of research such as “talking” to 6,000 consumers. It appears this research was all done in simulated environments. I am bemused by the willing self-deception that if you put a couch in a lab, it makes the research contextual. I’d like to see P&G watching people do laundry in their real, non-idealized, messy, distracted, semi-functioning environment. Because then maybe you’d get takeaways richer than “Most laundry-doers are looking for a way to get it done faster.”

Inside the Beckett Ridge “home,” P&G researchers interviewed regular people as they sat in the comfortable couches of a mock family room or at the counter of a mock kitchen. They did the wash in a fully functioning laundry room. Through it all, they were videotaped and audiotaped, so P&G can capture how the wash gets done in a real-world setting…Back at Beckett Ridge, researchers worked on the packaging and the store display. Inside the “grocery store” with its six aisles, two checkout lanes and a self-scan lane, cameras are everywhere, recording how shoppers shop. The video feed can be streamed to any P&G Intranet site so questions and comments can be called in.

Never Too Early Movie Predictions – Sure, if we care at all, we’re still digesting the most recent Academy Awards. But forgot about 2012, this site has predictions through 2017. Sheesh, I haven’t seen any of these movies! Another moment where the corners of the Internet remind you that everyday life is filled with some genuine science fiction moments.

2015 Oscar Best Picture predictions
1. Noah
2. Citizen Hughes: The Power, The Money And The Madness
3. Churchill And Roosevelt
4. Avatar 2
5. The $700 Billion Man
6. The Color Of Lightening
7. Serena
8. Americana

Young Women Often Trendsetters in Vocal Patterns [NYT] – I had missed the original “vocal fry” hubbub a few months back, but I also enjoy how this article reframes young-female speech into a positive, leading-edge anthropological act.

Girls and women in their teens and 20s deserve credit for pioneering vocal trends and popular slang, adding that young women use these embellishments in much more sophisticated ways than people tend to realize. “A lot of these really flamboyant things you hear are cute, and girls are supposed to be cute,” said Penny Eckert, a professor of linguistics at Stanford. “But they’re not just using them because they’re girls. They’re using them to achieve some kind of interactional and stylistic end.” The latest linguistic curiosity to emerge from the petri dish of girl culture gained recognition in December, when researchers from Long Island University published a paper in The Journal of Voice. Working with what they acknowledged was a very small sample – recorded speech from 34 women ages 18 to 25 – the professors said they had found evidence of a new trend among female college students: a guttural fluttering of the vocal cords they called “vocal fry.” A classic example of vocal fry, best described as a raspy or croaking sound injected (usually) at the end of a sentence, can be heard when Mae West says, “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me,” or when Maya Rudolph mimics Maya Angelou on SNL.

Plastic Surgeons See iPhones Increase Demand for Cosmetic Procedures [Austin-Weston Center for Cosmetic Surgery] – It’s hard not to be cynical about this “press release” in which plastic surgeons tie the need for their services to a particularly hot tech brand. If you do this (the wrong way, at least) in China, you can get into trouble!

“Patients come in with their iPhones and show me how they look on [Apple’s video calling application] FaceTime,” says Dr. Sigal. “The angle at which the phone is held, with the caller looking downward into the camera, really captures any heaviness, fullness and sagging of the face and neck. People say ‘I never knew I looked like that! I need to do something!’ I’ve started calling it the ‘FaceTime Facelift’ effect. And we’ve developed procedures to specifically address it.” (via Kottke)

draw me in – Jeff Johnson’s quest to become a comic book extra. The best summary of the project – yet another example of the collapsing gulf between producer and consumer comes from this Wired article (quoted below).

Popping up in nearly 30 comic books, he has become the industry’s Waldo-a lurking stowaway who has managed to hijack the unlikeliest panels. “It’s the ultimate bragging right to go into a comic store and pick up a book you’re in,” says Johnson, a 30-year-old Kmart electronics clerk from Leavenworth, Kansas. His infamous glasses-and-goatee mug has been zombiefied (The Walking Dead), digitized (Tron: Betrayal), and placed alongside Sinestro (Green Lantern Corps), thanks to his ceaseless lobbying and the cooperation of artists. The idea sprang from a 2006 FHM contest in which entrants sent pictures of themselves in homemade costumes of villains; the winner (if you want to call it that) was drawn into Ultimate X-Men. Johnson didn’t want to dress up, so instead he handed out DrawMeIn flyers at Comic-Con, after which penciler Ryan Ottley worked him into Invincible.

Portigal Consulting year in review, 2011

Another year is speeding towards its conclusion and we wanted to share our highlights for 2011.

Really nostalgic? Check out summaries from 2010, 2009 and 2008.

Listen to Steve on the User Experience podcast

I was interviewed by Gerry Gaffney for his User Experience podcast. The topic of the interview was, recursively, interviewing. You can listen to the interview below, and read the transcript here.

To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac).

Steve: Yeah there’s something about interviewing. It is such an individual and it’s such a human activity that we can talk best practices, you know, all day. I think there’s something really great that happens when people make it their own. I think this is one of those “find your own style” things. I like to be dictatorial about best practices but I also have to acknowledge very strongly that what people bring is very interesting and different. Along those lines think about introverts versus extroverts and what’s easier or different for introverts or extroverts in these kinds of situations. Extroverts of course get energy from other people, introverts get energy kind of on their own and so that starts to manifest itself in interesting ways or in silence. But also just how much of yourself do you bring to it? And so I’ve seen extroverts be very successful at establishing rapport by talking about themselves, by being very open and genuine and giving.

My tactic as an introvert is to remove a lot of myself from it and really focus on them, express my interest in them, ask questions, ask questions, ask questions, ask follow-up questions, really drive everything towards my focus on them. So my long answer there is I think there’s a personal style thing that kind of comes out. I think if you reveal things about yourself, regardless of your style, I think it needs to be very deliberate. It’s a great tactic to give somebody permission.

Steve to lead “Interviewing Users” workshop 9/28 in Seattle

As part of the Rosenfeld Media UX Workshops Fall 2011 Tour, I’ll be leading a full-day workshop – Interviewing Users: Spinning Data into Gold.

You can choose up to 3 workshops, including ones from Lou Rosenfeld and Steve Krug. Early registration (with a decent discount) ends September 9.

Bonus: the event will held at the amazing Seattle Central Library!

I hope to see you there!

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Facebook Policy Spurs Big Pharma to Rethink Social Media [Advertising Age] – [Beyond challenges such as authenticity, relevancy and voice, social media presence is a regulatory risk for brands in some industries.] Being forced to enable comments on its Facebook pages puts pharmaceutical companies at risk of running afoul of the current FDA regulations, even if it's just consumers making the comments. For instance, if a company has a branded page for an antacid, and a consumer comments that it helped lower his blood pressure as well, that's considered off-label promotion. "The Facebook decision is entirely consistent with what Facebook is designed to be — interactive. A Facebook page with the interactivity turned off is just a static web page residing on an interactive platform. And that isn't what Facebook is all about. It's time for regulated industry to step up to the plate and embrace the powerful tool that is real-time interactivity."
  • [from steve_portigal] Focus Groups That Look Like Play Groups [NYTimes.com] – [The lede, emphasizing focus groups, is misleading. The article explores a range of methods that market researchers are using. Maybe some novel ideas in here but also a good artifact of the popular press discourse about how we work.] Mr. Denari’s agency takes a different tack, interviewing consumers in their homes and leaving them with journals called “Little Truth Books” for a week or two. “It forces people to think a little more deeply than they normally would,” Mr. Denari said. When Ugly Mug Coffee wanted to retool its brand, Mr. Denari’s agency asked consumers to use the journals to draw family trees showing which family members were coffee drinkers. They were also asked to list some of the worst things about coffee, what their coffee “cut-off time” was and why they drank it at all. “The whole goal is the get to the heart,” Mr. Denari said. The research helped Ugly Mug create new packaging and expand distribution. [via @serota]
  • [from steve_portigal] A gelato-less June [Gelatobaby] – [Interesting to see how blogs can structure/support deliberate habit changes.] I wrote an essay pledging to fly less to reduce my environmental impact. (I’m actually only allowing myself one round-trip flight per month, compared to the 23 trips I took last year.) My friend Greg Lindsay, author of the new book Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next pointed out that my air miles were nothing compared to the footprint of my gelato habit. A United Nations report from last year noted that “agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.” I’m hoping that I can fill my gelato-less days with facts and information about where my dairy is coming from, how it’s produced, and if­if!­I might even come to love some dairy-free options. Suffice it to say, this is going to be an extremely enlightening 30 days. Especially since I have just discovered that the LA Weekly has embarked upon 30 Scoops in 30 Days project.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Design Research with Sam Ladner [Johnny Holland] – [Looking forward to checking out this podcast. Sam always has smart things to say.] Jill Christ and Andrew Harris talk with Sam Ladner about design research, and the theories behind research design. They discuss how to choose the right research method, the differences between qualitative and quantitative research, and why certain research methods are used at certain times. "What I think designers can learn from sociologists primarily is …for two centuries now, sociologists have been thinking about how people interact with each other. And all of those findings, those theories, that deep research, that deep insight, they are still valid, and they do have a great amount of applicability in the online space. …Designers could learn a lot about this idea of the “Presentation of Self”…or where sociologists have thought about “how do we work in groups together?” …there are all sorts of sociological research and theory that would help designers."
  • [from julienorvaisas] Nokia Pure Typeface [Design Boom] – [This celebration of their bespoke font will surely reach a very limited audience. Their slow-font approach and aesthetic has appeal but seems a bit misplaced.] Citing the varied but expansive demands of smartphone usage as a design consideration, alongside the potentials opened by the clarity and sharpness of contemporary smartphone screens, Nokia has worked with Maag to develop a sans serif typeface that references the varying stroke weights and more rounded flow of handwriting, creating a more open effect than the classic 'Nokia Sans'. In an interesting return to analogue, Nokia celebrates the release of the font with the commissioning of a woodblock version of the typeface. Documented in the mini-film 'Pure Reversal' the blocks were created and used for a limited-edition print run. Designed specifically for digital and mobile devices, the 'pure' typeface is expected on Nokia devices and in advertisements beginning this year.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Defend Your Research: Imitation Is More Valuable Than Innovation [Harvard Business Review] – [Shenkar makes some bold statements. Bringing discipline to "imitation" and surfacing it as an form of innovation is intriguing. However, aspects of this phenomena are integrated into most robust innovation initiatives now (competitive analysis, landscapes, reverse engineering). They also occur quite naturally in human behavior (mirroring, transference) and culture (trends, memes). In art, it's known as appropriation and is perfectly acceptable; it may be a more apt analogy for this process than imitation. I do question his characterization here of imitation as taboo.] Q: If copying is so effective, why isn’t it embraced more? A: We’ve been socialized from a young age to treat imitation as undignified and objectionable, something done by those who are unoriginal. Even in companies that embrace imitation, many executives are reluctant to use the “i” word because of its stigma. The result is that imitation is done in the dark without the strategic and operational attention it deserves.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Oh, Etsy. How could you? [Authentical] – [Smart take on process failures in Etsy's recent misstep. User research can make a big difference] It's hard for me to believe that if Etsy had conducted user research and even informal but realistic usability testing on the idea that they would not have quickly seen the privacy violation. They could have avoided the damage control they now have to deal with because of the breach of trust they've had with buyers who already love the experience of shopping there.Etsy could have avoided the problem and discovered a possibly great idea for engaging buyers even more. Where was the business plan for allowing search of users? How does having social "circles" support the business model, exactly? How would the social media strategy be supported on the back end? More than all that, let's look at others who have gone before us: Beacon on Facebook and Boden USA come to mind. What happened there? What could the Etsy team learn from those mistakes? Oh, and, why duplicate Facebook in any way?
  • [from julienorvaisas] The Art of the Police Report [Utne Reader] – [Collett provides a fascinating exploration of one cop's ability to achieve expression while governed by the formidable constraints of police report writing.] Writing is the one constant in a cop’s daily life. As with everything in the department, strict rules govern report writing, and as with any dangerous undertaking, the department will train you to do it properly. The most despised class at the police academy is the one that teaches writing. The incident report he’ll learn to write is the factual narrative account of a crime. Every event a cop responds to generates a report. Crime reports are written in the dispassionate uni-voice that’s testament to the academy’s ability to standardize writing. They feel generated rather than authored, the work of a single law enforcement consciousness rather than a specific human being. So how can I identify Martinez from a single sentence? Why do his reports make me feel pity, terror, or despair?

Join me at Lift11 in Geneva

I’m very excited to have been invited to speak at Lift11 (with the tagline “What can the future do for you?). My talk is titled Discover and act on insights about people. I was interviewed by Nicolas Nova about our approach to understanding people in order to drive innovation.

I’ve got one free registration to share with a reader here.
If you think you might be in Geneva in early February (the conference runs Feb 2-4), let me know you’re interested via the comments.

Hope to see you there!

Portigal Consulting year in review, 2010

2010 has been an amazing year for us. While we can’t talk about many of the incredible experiences we had doing fieldwork and working with clients, below are some of the highlights that we can share:

You can also see previous summaries from 2009 and 2008.

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