This week we looked at two topics: user research and mobile design.
We started out looking at different ways to do user research like surveys, interviews or ethnographic research. I think ethnographic research (where researchers observe users in their own environment) would be fascinating to carry out, although I can see it might be hard to keep it structured and useful. Also it’s the most costly way to carry out research.
A friend of mine, who is an speech therapist working for the NHS, told me about a time a consulting firm came in to observe them work for several weeks and the only thing they suggested was moving the bathroom, as staff were spending too much time walking there. I think she found that frustrating, as it seemed like quite an irrelevant thing to her, especially when you consider all the more complicated issues the NHS has. Perhaps the consultants were right and they could have saved hours by moving the bathrooms but I think it is quite natural for staff to feel resentment towards researchers coming into your workplace and deciding what’s wrong. Listening is the main component of user research and I don’t think my friend felt like she’d been listened to.
We got into groups to do a user research exercise. We came up with some simple questions and headed outside to collar passers by and ask them about their online shopping habits.
I was keen to keep the questions as open-ended as possible but found it was quite hard to get people talking that way. I had kind of imagined that just asking “what problems do you have with online shopping?” would be enough, but some people just said they didn’t have any problems. I doubt that’s really the case; almost everyone who has shopped online has struggled with deliveries, or returns, or confusing check out procedures. I need to get better at drawing those stories out of people. I guess the inclination is just to talk less, especially in a cold street when accosted by three students with notepads
It’s hard to draw out real stories from people. We could have said “what about returns?” to jog their memories but that is a leading question. Also, in this case, we were asking people about something that we also have experience of (online shopping), so its easy to come up with suggestions. If I was questioning speech therapists, I wouldn’t really have the option to guess at their problems.
Once back in the classroom, we wrote down the things we’d been told on to post it notes and sorted them into four areas: Demographics, Behaviours, Pain Points and Goals/Needs. Then we affinity mapped them to find the common problems and build a picture of the average user.
I was a bit concerned about mixing up the different people’s answers. I feel like in some cases it would be important to know that, for example, it’s people over 50 who struggle with a certain pain point, while people under 20 care about something else. I discussed it with Sarah (TA) and Joe (teacher) and in this case, we were being quite general, so a pain point is a pain point. It was enough to know that the problem exists, it doesn’t matter which type of user specifically it happens to.
We collated our post it notes into a persona of the average of the people we spoke to. Our group spoke to mainly men, and we named our persona “Jacob” after one of the people. It’s important to remember that the persona represents a group of people, not any one user. It’s just a communication tool, which summarises what we know about users, and keeps us focused on what they want.
After the break we looked at some of the pros and cons of using an app versus a mobile website. I think it really depends on the situation but it does seem like often a company or client will get carried away with the idea of “having an app” when actually a good mobile friendly website would be a better choice. In some cases though, an app is definitely the right choice – like if there is a lot of functionality involved in the site (such as Facebook)
Homework for the week is to carry out some user research for our project idea and create a persona. I’m going to chat about this in a separate post!