IXD302 Week 10 Proof of Concept & Initial Research

This week we looked at how to verify whether your ideas are good or not. A great way to start this process is by completing a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis is a cost-effective tool that allows you to quickly identify and see the risks relating to a project. (See diagram included in this weeks lecture below)image of SWOT analysis

As shown in the diagram above a SWOT analysis allows you to assess Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. I love how the above diagram includes extra clarification on each of these items:

Strengths = Attributes of the organisation/product that are helpful to achieving the objecting.

Weaknesses = Attributes of the organisation/product that are harmful to achieving the objecting.

Opportunities = Attributes of the environment that are helpful to achieving the objecting.

Threats = Attributes of the environment that are harmful to achieving the objecting.

The above outline of exactly how to identify these items in your product, organisation or whatever it is you’re analysing with this approach is really helpful. For me, it provides additional clarification on the differences between strengths and opportunities and weaknesses and threats. This is great as it is something I have struggled with in the past when completing a SWOT analysis. When it comes to proof of concept this can be a very effective tool as it allows you to way up all of the positives and negatives about the product and consider how these items can be overcome. This is particularly true of the opportunities and threats column however we were advised if the product did not have very many strengths and did have lots of weaknesses that this might be a sign that the product concept we have come up with is lacking and needs to be improved or perhaps thrown out altogether. Therefore it is advisable to not delay completing a SWOT analysis once we have chosen a concept for our product.

Another way to verify your concept is to ask people if the product needs to exist. There are a number of ways to go about this however the primary condition is that you pitch it to your potential user group. This can be done via interviews and concept testing, surveys and questionnaires, look at forum responses, competitor reviews and published data.

Qualitative vs Quantitative

To help me gain a further understanding of the area I looked up what the Norman Nielson Group has to say about qualitative vs quantitative research and found the above video. It outlines that in UX we often use qualitative research to gather insights or observations about users and products and services. Popular qualitative UX research methods include:

  • Interviews
  • Qualitative Usability Testing
  • Field Studies

It was interesting to note how in the above video the intent of qualitative research is outlined as attempting to discover problems/ opportunities for improvement in the user experience. This makes qualitative research in UX sound more like an investigative tool that helps you to find and fix problems. It is also mentioned that for qualitative research you only need 5 participants to get useful insights.

Qualitative research is described as gathering numbers that describe an aspect of the user experience. Popular quantitative UX research methods include:

  • Analytics
  • A/B testing
  • Surveys
  • Quantitative usability testing

Instances, when a quantitative methodology would be preferable, are when trying to identify the scale of a problem or compare alternative design options. Here you can use data to inform your decision. Quantitative research can also provide a benchmark of the UX of a product or service. However, with quantitative research larger sample sizes are often required to ensure results are reliable, there are minimum recommended sample sizes depending on methodology. This is something that needs to be considered when carrying out the research approach.

Qualitative vs Quantitative

The difference between attitudinal studies vs behavioural studies is summed up by the Nielson Norman Group as what people say vs what people do. Both attitudinal and behavioural studies can be founded in either quantitative or qualitative research methodologies, see examples above provided in this weeks lecture. The purpose of attitudinal studies are to understand or measure the users stated beliefs while behavioural studies (clues in the name) observe the users behaviour. On that basis, I could use an attitudinal study to help make projects about whether people believe they would give to the homeless through a card payment and carry out an observational study when the card payment method is in place to observe their behaviour and see if it matches with their belief.

User Research

The basic steps of User research were outlined this week as follows:

  1. Define primary user groups
  2. Pick techniques for involving users
  3. Conduct research
  4. Validate definitions and analyse research
  5. Generate user requirements

There are a number of considerations that can be made to help you define your user group, these include:

  • Create a list of attributes that will help you define different users and prioritise this list.
  • Consider who are the stakeholders?
  • Look for existing information (surveys/documents)?
  • Look for representatives that can help at this stage?

In order to help me identify my user group as well as create a product that actually helped the homeless, I have reached out to a number of homeless charities. From these charities, I want to get an understanding of how effective the card system approach would be in helping the homeless and if there were any identifying factors that could help me target users that would be most likely to donate to the homeless. Unfortunately, I have not been successful in finding someone to speak to me on this topic however I am still pursuing this.

Avoiding Biases

An important note to consider when it comes to picking a technique for involving users in your user research is considering how best to avoid user bias. User bias can happen in multiple forms so it is definitely something to look out for. Cognitive bias encompasses eight different forms of potential bias that can take place when carrying out user research. Cognitive biases can form when the brain creates mental shortcuts to help reduce cognitive load. In research, if you trigger these mental shortcuts in your user group it can lead to incorrect assumptions. As stated in How to Overcome Cognitive Bias in User Research by Nick Babich there are 8 forms of cognitive bias these are:

  1. Confirmation bias– people place more emphasis on evidence that confirms their assumptions. This can prevent you from being open-minded and can cause problems during ideation and brainstorming sessions.
  2. False-consensus bias-the assumption that other people will think the same way as you.
  3. The recency effect- the tendency to place more importance on your most recent experiences. An example of this is a UX researcher forming a bias towards observations found in the most recent usability test session.
  4. Anchoring bias– Being biased by the information you have before user research rather than placing equal importance on what you learn before, during, and after user research.
  5. The peak-end rule– This can be a bias caused by measuring an experience by how they felt at the most intense point of the experience and how they felt at the end rather than evaluating the sum of the whole experience.
  6. Social desirability– the tendency to make more socially acceptable decisions when they are around others
  7. Clustering illusion– Data clustering can be a great way to organise lots of data however particularly those new to the field can fall into the trap of making false clusters and then have the tendency to see patterns when there are none.
  8. Framing effect- People react differently to the same information depending on how it’s worded. An example of this could be biasing your user sample by asking leading questions.

Other forms of biases such as selection bias, (when those included in a study are not an accurate representation of the entire user base) or groupthink, (when an individual member of a group has a tendency to accept a viewpoint or conclusion of the rest of the group) can also lead to inaccurate finding in user research and should be avoided for as much as possible.

Another important note to consider is that you may not always be included in your target user group. I believe it is a good idea with all projects to right out your assumptions as you will have them based on your experiences and actively try to disprove them through testing as this helps to avoid assumptions creeping in and impacting your analysis and outcomes.

 Selecting a technique

There are multiple techniques to choose from when carrying out user research. Some of the most popular research techniques include:

  • User interviews
  • Contextual Inquiry
  • Surveys
  • Focus Groups
  • Card Sorting
  • Usability Testing

I have carried out user interviews, surveys, focus groups and usability testing in previous projects. So I am interested in looking at how contextual inquiry and card sorting can be helpful in gathering information about the user.

Contextual inquiry

This is an observational technique that takes place on-site with participants to learn how they operate in their normal environment. As stated in A Project Guide to UX Design this approach can be useful when a project team has little information on the user base, the user works in a unique environment and is working with complex user flows.

Card Sorting

In this technique, participants are asked to sort items e.g. on cards into groups that they find meaningful. This approach seems to help with deciding how best to categorise information. This is an important area to consider and gain lots of insights on as individuals depending on experiences, prior knowledge of an area or culture may categorise information differently. This approach can be particularly helpful when working on content source sites that require information to be organised into effective structures for the user base.

Conducting research

Interviews & Observation

When carrying out interviews and observational studies you should always attempt to challenge your assumptions. You should also attempt to find out what the user requirements are for the product or service you’re working on. It can also be helpful to “get out of the building” this means getting out of your normal work environment and getting into the environment you are designing for to make observations take notes, take pictures etc. This gives you the opportunity to get a better understanding of what the users goals are when using a product, as well as how, when and why they use the product. Another thing to consider is the users and stakeholders motivations and needs. This is important as once you have identified the stakeholder’s motivations e.g. they want to boost engagement. You can then assess what will encourage the user to engage more with the app through user interviews.

Online Survey

Online surveys can be a very effective way to gather user research quickly. Online surveys can be powerful due to the scale at which they operate as well as giving clear cut answers making them unambiguous (as long as the questions are posed correctly). They can also be carried for free making them very cheap. Both quantitative and qualitative data can be gathered in your research e.g. you could ask the participant to state their least favourite aspect of the product and why.

Points to remember: People are not data points, avoid leading questions and jargon. Use plain English!

Card sorting

As stated above card sorting can be a great way to understand how people think and categories information i.e. it helps to define structures. It can also help give valuable insights on how the prioritise items and what the users expectations are in relation to all of this. The benefits of the approach are that it’s quick, cheap and quantifiable.

 

Analysing Research

When the information has been gathered using the above techniques it is time to start analysing results. There are a number of ways to do this that we covered in this weeks lecture. These are included below.

Triangulation

Triangulation diagram

This is a method used to increase the credibility and validity of research findings. It is defined by the Nielson Norman Group as

Triangulation is the practice of using multiple sources of data or multiple approaches to analyzing data, to enhance the credibility of a research study.

There are many approaches that can be taken to carry out triangulation the image above shows two approaches. The approach on the left is using triangulation by using multiple methods to study the same activity. The approach on the right analysis different metrics related to the same activity.

By using triangulation you are verifying the accuracy of your research findings. This provides credibility and validity to findings that can be very effective when pitching ideas to shareholders.

Affinity Diagram

An affinity diagram is an organisational tool. It helps to organise information into groups of similar items and analyse the data. This approach is applied to qualitative data and observations.

This is a great form of thematic analysis that helps the researcher to find and verify insights in qualitative user research.

To create an infinity diagram you ask questions and whether all of the opinions you have found through these questions. You sort the opinions into groups and identify a theme and then rank and prioritise each of those themes.

Additional Methods

In the Pattern approach, you identify patterns and right them all down. You then identify groups and themes and use this to inform how to improve your product or service

Alternatively, you can gather observations organise the observations into insights and use these insights in design mandates.

The clustering approach is simply a matter of putting any observations or data accumulated on post-its and organising these into groups, determining what they relate to and making design choices from this information.

Prioritising features

Feature priority table

You can establish user requirements by prioritising features. This can be done using a table (see table above) that analysis a product’s features using the following categories: technical feasibility, design/UX feasibility, impact on user and impact on the business. This can then be marked out of 5 for each and the scores are tallied for each feature at the end. The first two columns, technical feasibility and design/UX feasibility focus on the ability to create the features. The impact on user and impact on the business columns focus on the impact incorporating these features in the product will have on both the end-user and stakeholder. This can be a great way to quantify which features to address first. By only allowing a total score of 30 in each column the prioritising of features is essentially done for you.

Feasibility and Impact 

Two comparable matrices help visualize items that meet multiple business requirements

Plotting a feasibility and impact char can also be a great way to decide what feature to address now and what to hold off until later. In the above examples and quadrant system is used to help make this determination. If the feature falls into the top right section of the chart it’s a definite yes, if it falls into the top left or bottom right sections it’s a maybe and if it falls into the bottom left it’s at not now or maybe even a not ever.

As shown in the above chart to the right this can be used to apply to measure features or changes by different metrics such as minimum viable product and market differentiation. Again this is a quick way to help you decide what to focus on and what can be left to later as you will not be able to do everything at once.

Generate user requirements

User Personas

Example user persona

A user persona shows that you understand your target audience and user base. It is a way to display all the information you have gathered on your target users and to present this succinctly in a user persona. User personas generally include:

  • Persona name
  • Photo
  • Demographics (gender, age, location, marital status, family)
  • Goals and needs
  • Frustrations (or “pain points”)
  • Behaviours
  • Bits of personality (e.g. a quote or slogan that captures the personality)

They give you the opportunity to present the goals and frustrations of the average user relating to your product or service. This helps to display that you understand your target audience and are actively seeking to meet this users requirement in your product or solution.

 

Empathy Map

Image of customer empathy map

An empathy map takes a person in your user group and explains what they think and feel, what they typically see and hear each day as well as what they say and do. This helps to provide a clearer understanding of what the users experiences are and therefore helps to build empathy with the user.

Things to consider are:

  • What do they feel?
  • What do they think they do?
  • What do they actually do?
  • What are the issues they care most about?
  • What are they influenced by?
  • What channels are they exposed to?

It is essentially a snapshot of what the typical users life is like. Once you have creates an empathy map to get an understanding of who the user is and what they care about. You can then look deeper and try to understand what their challenges are, what actually impacts them in a negative way and what are the solutions to these problems?

All of the above is really important to think about when attempting to verify a new product concept as they help you to establish where there is a problem/ opportunity, who is experiencing this problem, if there are any current solutions to the problem and what are the feasible options to solving this problem. If you are able to bring all of this to a product pitch and demonstrate that there is a problem/ opportunity, this is who it affects, this is how it affects them and this is how my product solves this problem or seizes this opportunity you are providing a clear overview of the value in what you are presenting.

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