5 UX resolutions

Usability | December 2016

fireworks signify ux resolutions

Prepare your UX resolutions for the next 12 months

Here are 5 things we’ve learned that you can apply for more productive user experience research – at New Year, or at any other time…

1.    Prepare

Note taking whilst facilitating is something that many UX researchers have different opinions on. Some say that the facilitator is able to gather information from the users that no one else can pick up on. They are able to read the body language of the user and notice a pause or look of confusion that those watching on camera may miss. Others argue that note taking whilst facilitating is impersonal and can lead to the user holding back information or offering only positive feedback, for fear that they are being tested.

In our experience, note taking whilst facilitating works best if pre-designed checklists have been created. Preparing ahead can save time and allow you to spend longer engaging with the user, rather than talking to your papers. If you are lucky enough to have note takers watching, trust that they will pick up on the words, whilst you concentrate on asking the right questions.

2.    Get the balance right

balance your ux resolutions

Whilst facilitating, it’s important to ensure that you balance your emotions and actions: what you say and do can make a huge impact on participants’ responses. Many facilitators think that because they deal with people all day long, they know what to say and how best to act to engage with them.

However, confident and animated people may come across as opinionated or overbearing, and more subdued personalities may come across as less empathetic and judgmental. Either way, the participant has to feel as though they can voice their opinions and explain them freely. Don’t let the participant know what you are thinking, ensure your verbal and body language embody neutrality, and remember it’s their opinion you are interested in, whether or not you agree with it.

3.    Make a good first impression

coffee froth smileParticipants are often nervous when taking part in user testing. The best participants are those who have not participated in testing before, but as a consequence they may not know what to expect, or feel as though they are being tested – no matter how many times you tell them otherwise!

Participants may also want to please the moderator by giving responses they perceive as correct. This is known as the Experimenter Effect and can lead to false or less valued responses. To try and counteract this, you need to make the participant feel comfortable: smiling and joking in the first few moments can help break the ice.

Helping people feel at ease really helps the session run more smoothly, so before you start a heavily scripted intro, take a few moments to talk to the participant as a person, and not just another participant.

4.    Take control

traffic controlThe aim of any user testing session is to get useful feedback, and to do this you have to take control. This means dragging out information from shy and quiet participants – and preventing those with an opinion on everything from taking over. You can run out of time before you know it, missing the valuable information you were after.

In situations where the person is less willing to voice their opinions they are likely to be more nervous and it may not feel natural for them to give a running commentary on what they are thinking. One word answers may be more common in this instance, and it is up to you to draw out the information.

Getting people to explain why they thought or did something are ways to get further insight. Asking  for their suggestions for improvements can also help them expand on their responses.

At the other end of the spectrum, you may encounter a participant that loves to talk. The key here is to make them talk about things that are useful to you as a facilitator. Try to minimise distractions and bring them back to the session if they go off at a tangent. Acknowledge their stories and seem interested, but then gently interrupt them and ask them about the session to change the topic.

4.    Don’t be so polite

good mannesr helpWe often find ourselves saying ‘thank you’ after things that don’t necessarily need it. Saying ‘thank you’ is often a good way to end a topic and move on to the next, especially during user testing where the participant has just given some valuable insights. However, saying ‘thank you’ at the end of every task may be misinterpreted, and participants may think that you are offering praise for any positive things they have said. As a consequence, they may become hesitant to say negative things for fear of not pleasing you – the Experimenter Effect, again.

5.    Get involved

mother and child getting involvedWhen you have a consultant running a user testing session, get involved!

Asking them to lead a workshop at the end of a day of testing will help involve you in the process, build better working relationships, and enable you consolidate your own thoughts. It will also give you a clearer expectation over what the final report will contain.

Good luck with your user experience resolutions: whatever you commit to, we hope they help you to understand, engage and interact with users, ultimately solving problems and improving interactions.