How to tell managers they’re wrong about UX research and still get hired

David Travis over at Userfocus on how to negotiate the oft-cited objections or misunderstandings about UX research.

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All the classics are in there, including ‘Market research uses hundreds of people. How come you can get answers with just 5?’ ‘Our product is aimed at everyone, so we can use ourselves as users.’ ‘Users don‘t know what they want’ ‘Apple doesn‘t do user research so why should we?’ ‘Our agency does all of this for us.’ Dave Travis counters each of these. Here is the one explaining market research:

Market research is based on opinions. Opinions vary from person to person. It would be ludicrous for a political pollster to sample 5 people in an attempt to predict an election. And even if we take a single person, his or her opinions will change over time, depending on what’s in the news, the other experiences they have, and how we phrase the question.

In contrast, user experience research is based on behaviour. Behaviour turns out to be remarkably consistent from person to person. For example, if you watch 5 people approach a door, and 4 of them attempt to pull it when the door needs to be pushed, you know there’s something wrong with the design. You don’t need to randomly sample 370 people to draw this conclusion. You observe that the door has a pull handle, and it’s probably that that’s causing the problem. So you replace the pull handle with a push panel, and see if you’ve fixed the problem.

User experience researchers can get away with small samples because they are looking for behavioural insights, not opinions.

Read the full piece over at Userfocus: How to tell managers they’re wrong about UX research and still get hired.

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Image CC-BY-2.0 by KungPauCajun

Andy Polaine

Interaction and Service Designer, Writer, Lecturer, Researcher. Follow him on @apolaine.

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