Design Research with Sam Ladner

On Radio Johnny we talk to interesting people in our field to get their thoughts and insights on the field. View all our shows.

Listen to this show

Show time: 47 minutes 57 seconds

Download as m4a | Download as mp3 | Subscribe

Today on Radio Johnny 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.

Sam also talks about what designers can learn from sociologists, particularly when designing for social spaces as well as the value of ethnographic research for mobile experiences.


Generally speaking, you use a qualitative method when you really don’t know a lot about what is going on…[In a qualitative study]… it’s not appropriate to report percentages, it is only appropriate to report how many people did this or that… but you cannot generalize using those figures because it’s a qualitative study. .. If you on the other hand you wanted to do a quantitative study, and wanted to generalize to the population at large… how many people can complete this application form, you’re basically doing a prediction model, in which case you have to use probability sampling methods, which are very expensive, and difficult.

The hottest word these days is “social” – “social business,” “social networking,” “social surfing,” etc…. 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…

I recommend getting a dictionary of sociology… You can actually look up a “Social Network,” it’s actually in there… because it’s a pretty old phenomenon. You can look up “Social Network Analysis,” you can look up “Presentation of Self,” and you can just browse through it and it gives you these really quick hit summaries of social ideas. If you want to design for the social space, I recommend that you know a little bit about social theory…


Sam Ladner share her insights about Design Research, and what the Interaction Design community can learn from social research. Sam discusses the difference between quantitative and qualitative research, and why one might choose one method over another.

Sam also discusses how to uncover your stakeholders true research questions, and how to offer deep insights, even when there doesn’t seem to be enough time. She covers various approaches to research, shares insights that sociologists have studied for hundreds of years, and how designers can use them when designing for social spaces.

Show Notes

* Follow Sam Ladner on Twitter.
* Follow MobileWorkLife. Sociological research study of work/life balance and mobile phones tweeted by Sam.
* Follow Jill Christ on Twitter
* Follow Andrew Harris on Twitter.
* Contexts Magazine, American Sociological Association
* Sociological Images (Blog)
* Everyday Sociology (Blog)
* Rosenfeld Media’s Mental Models by Indi Young
* Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills


Thank you very much to our sponsors. If you would like to promote your organization on future episodes, please drop us a line!

Jill Christ

Jill Christ is a User Experience Researcher for Citrix Online, where she has been coordinating and conducting usability studies for the past three years. Before joining the Citrix Online UX Team, she received her Masters in Information Studies from UCLA, with an emphasis in Informatics.

4 comments on this article

  1. Pingback: All This ChittahChattah | ChittahChattah Quickies

  2. Vicky Teinaki on

    Great listen. I especially like the tip to ‘trojan horse’ in research in with the ‘need it now or yesterday’ deliverables, and repurposing any existing research given to you. The sociology blogs are also a bit too good — I lost several hours following links on them!

  3. Irith on

    Really enjoyed this podcast. Very rich, would like to understand more about the ‘trojan horse’ metaphor though…

  4. Pingback: » Radio Johnny: Design Research with Sam Ladner Johnny Holland – It’s all about interaction » Blog Archive | Design Research Masters Module