How do you design the user research so that you can be more flexible for unexpected questions? These unexpected questions may come after you have done your research work, but while you are still on the journey to make your product. This talk, given in UX London 2014 conference is based on my own reflections from various projects, rather than any academic framework.
The increasingly blurring line between user and creator means that understanding and gathering people’s feedback on what you are making also needs to evolve – regardless of the size of the organisation you are in, or the nature of the work you are doing. Products are becoming more interactive in nature, therefore passive feedback from unengaged, remotely plausible ‘users’ recruited temporarily in a one-way mirror room may not give you any meaningful insight.
Having said that, I also argue that the need for the user research requires a more critical assessment. And the very ability to assess the need should be one of the qualities of experienced designers and researchers. More often than not, big corporations rely too much on consumer research results to make decisions. While it makes sense for some issues, it tends to create the faulty dependency that merely acts as delaying or delegating the power to make the decision. If you have expert designers and researchers in their domain, they should have the ability to tell you a lot about the user behaviours without having to do an extensive consumer research every time you launch a new product or change the design.
If you have the opposite issue of not having any time or budget to spend on user research, I would like to add that the user research does not need to be expensive and time-consuming – especially if your target users are not super rare species of human beings. When I was hands-on interaction designer developing mobile applications & services, my regular source of quicky user research was my colleagues and their family and friends. And there was no need to rely on any external agency to run your paper prototype or scenarios of use through with them to evaluate your own design ideas.