In Dan Saffer’s book, Designing for Interaction: Creating Smart Applications and Clever Devices, he interviews well-known researcher and speaker Brenda Laurel, PhD. He asked her what designers should look for when doing research. Her answer emphasizes the importance of shedding assumptions and precepts before asking research questions.
“The first step is to deliberately identify one’s own biases and beliefs about the subject of study and to ‘hang them at the door’ so as to avoid self-fulfilling prophecies. One must then frame the research question and carefully identify the audiences, contexts, and research methods that are most likely to yield actionable results. Those last two words are the most important: actionable results. Often, the success of a research program hangs upon how the question is framed: ‘why don’t girls play computer games?’ vs. ‘how does play vary by gender?’”
Some simple good advice which can be applicable to user interviews as well. From the video:
#1 Can it be answered quickly?
#2 Build up from easy questions
#3 Give examples
#4 Don’t ask questions you could ask Google
#5 Don’t ask broad questions
I was looking for this explanation earlier this week. I literally forget everything if it isn’t some db somewhere.
Exploratory research is an approach where the researchers are not seeking full answers or conclusive evidence. They try to find information about the research problem and to gain more knowledge about the researched phenomena. An exploratory approach helps the researchers to better understand the field they are studying. This approach gives a better understanding of the problem but it does not give the one and only solution to the research question. It leaves room for further research and multiple solutions. The researchers have to be willing to change the way of their thinking if this approach gives them solutions towards totally new ideas.
(Research Methodology, 2016.)
Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity is a study on the mobile phone gender gap in low and middle-income countries.
Mobile phone ownership in low and middle-income countries has skyrocketed in the past several years. But a woman is still 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than a man. Closing this gender gap would bring the benefits of mobile phones to an additional 300 million women. By extending the benefits of mobile phone ownership to more women, a host of social and economic goals can be advanced.
The Women & Mobile report is the first comprehensive view of women and mobile phones in the developing world. This report, sponsored by the GSMA Development Fund and Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, explores the commercial and social opportunity for closing the mobile gender gap. The report builds off of a survey conducted with women on three continents to show their mobile phone ownership, usage, barriers to adoption and preferences. The report shows how mobile phone ownership can improve access to educational, health, business and employment opportunities and help women lead more secure, connected and productive lives. It also includes ten case studies highlighting the strategies and tactics that both mobile network operators and non-profit organizations across the globe are implementing to increase the usage and impact of mobile phones around the world.
A paper by Rafael Ballagas, Jan Borchers Michael Rohs, and Jennifer G. Sheridan.
Mark Weiser envisioned ubiquitous computing as a world where computation and communication would be conveniently at hand and distributed throughout our everyday environment.  As mobile phones are rapidly becoming more powerful, this is beginning to become reality. Your mobile phone is the first truly pervasive computer. It helps you to both keep in touch with others and to manage everyday tasks. Consequently, it’s always with you. Technological trends result in ever more features packed into this small, convenient form factor. Smart phones can already see, hear, and sense their environment. But, as Weiser pointed out: “Prototype tabs, pads and boards are just the beginning of ubiquitous computing. The real power of the concept comes not from any one of these devices; it emerges from the interaction of all of them.” Therefore, we will show how modern mobile phones (Weiser’s tabs) can interact with their environment – especially large situated displays (Weiser’s boards).
The emerging capabilities of smart phones are fueling a rise in the use of mobile phones as input devices to the resources available in the environment such as situated displays, vending machines, and home appliances. The ubiquity of mobile phones gives them great potential to be the default physical interface for ubiquitous computing applications. This would provide the foundation for new interaction paradigms, similar to the way the mouse and keyboard on desktop systems enabled the WIMP (windows, icons, menus, pointers) paradigm of the graphical user interface to emerge. However, before this potential is realized, we must find interaction techniques that are intuitive, efficient, and enjoyable for applications in the ubiquitous computing domain.
In this article, we survey the different interaction techniques that use mobile phones as input devices to ubiquitous computing environments, including two techniques that we have developed ourselves. We use the word “smart phone” to describe an en-hanced mobile phone. In our analysis, we blur the line between smart phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), such as the PalmPilot, because the feature sets continue to converge.
The Smart Phone: A Ubiquitous Input Device Paper (.pdf)
Jan Chipchase is Principal Researcher at the Mobile HCI Group in Nokia Research. His personal insights can be found on Future Perfect, Jan’s wonderful photo-intensive weblog. As he says: “… if I do my job right you’ll be using it 3 to 15 years from now.”
The Convivio Network Interview
This is exactly what lead to my interest in user research and the formation of our user experience group at a former employer. The “value of user research is often to cut through the politics and convince stakeholders to make good design decisions”. (Adrian Chong)
Next time you read an article about a user research success story, ask yourself if the conclusions of that research weren’t just common sense (or at least common sense to good UI designers) to begin with. Ask yourself if a good designer couldn’t have concluded the same conclusion that the user research seemed to reach.
Then ask yourself if you could articulate your “common sense” recommendation to a person who doesn’t understand design at all. To someone who may, in fact, be hostile to your so-called “expert” recommendations?
This is one area where research can help: explaining a user interface design strategy to stakeholders, peers, and bosses who have their own agendas and biases.
The comments to the article are quite informative.
User Research Smoke & Mirrors, Part 3: Research as a Political Tool.
“Over the last decade, ‘user experience’ (UX) became a buzzword in the field of human – computer interaction (HCI) and interaction design. As technology matured, interactive products became not only more useful and usable, but also fashionable, fascinating things to desire. Driven by the impression that a narrow focus on interactive products as tools does not capture the variety and emerging aspects of technology use, practitioners and researchers alike, seem to readily embrace the notion of UX as a viable alternative to traditional HCI. And, indeed, the term promises change and a fresh look, without being too specific about its definite meaning. The present introduction to the special issue on ‘Empirical studies of the user experience’ attempts to give a provisional answer to the question of what is meant by ‘the user experience’. It provides a cursory sketch of UX and how we think UX research will look like in the future. It is not so much meant as a forecast of the future, but as a proposal – a stimulus for further UX research. ” Read the complete article. Via infodesign.
“Planning is crucial if you want your user research efforts to be effective. You need to think about what information you need to gather, and why, before embarking on any research. Good planning, well communicated to the client or project, and followed by careful implementation will ensure your research is effective.”
Planning for User Research Success