UX Mini-lesson: Surveys

A picture of a folding ruler, which I'm using as a metaphor for surveys as a measurement tool

Surveys are probably the most used but least useful research tool. It is ever so tempting to say, “lets run a quick survey” when you find yourself wondering about your customers. Surveys result in “hard numbers” to look at, and modern web-based survey tools have made surveys cheap to produce. But as anyone who has ever tried running a “quick survey” can attest, they rarely, if ever, provide the insight you are looking for.

In the words of Erika Hall, survey’s are “too easy”. They are too easy to create, too easy to disseminate, and too easy to tally. This inherent ease of creating surveys masks their biggest flaw as a research method: It is far far too easy to create biased, useless survey questions. And when you run a survey littered with biased, useless questions, you either (1) realize that your results are not reliable and start all over again, or (2) proceed with the analysis and make decisions based on biased results. If you aren’t careful, a survey can be a complete waste of time, or worse, can lead you in the wrong direction entirely.

However, that being said, I have found surveys to be useful in exactly two situations:

  1. When I need to gather demographic data that I can’t obtain otherwise
  2. When I work for a client who will send an email blast with a survey link, but otherwise wont help me recruit research participants.

If you ever find that launching a survey is the only way to move the research forward, keep these tips in mind.

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UX Mini-lesson: Storyboards

In the background, there is a storyboard describing the user-centered startup use case. Over top, it says, "UX mini-lesson: Storyboards."

Storyboards are the UX designers’ secret weapon. They can be used in so many versatile ways, but require relatively little effort to make. Storyboards are a powerful design tool because they…

  • convey the “big picture” idea in just a few frames,
  • combine many design elements (personas, requirements, solutions, etc.) into one coherent story,
  • produce assets that can be shared, tested, and collaborated on,
  • and, most importantly, they force you think through and articulate the problem you are trying to solve and the requirements any solution would have.

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UX Mini-lesson: Diary Studies

Picture of a notebook with the words, "UX Mini Lesson: How to conduct diary studies," written over top.

For today’s post I a present a “UX mini-lesson” on how to conduct diary studies. We will cover the value of longitudinal data sets, and strategies to maximize the quality and number of diary entries from your participants.

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UX Mini-lesson: How to conduct user interviews

A picture of two coffee cups and hands holding them across the table.

User interviews are, by far, the research method I use the most. They are relatively inexpensive to conduct yet provide a wealth of information that can be used to guide design. Also, user interviews are a research method that is easy to “get right”. With just a little bit of guidance, even the most novice of researchers can conduct a worthwhile user interview.

So for today’s post I a present a “UX mini-lesson” on how to talk to users. We will cover what information you can (and can’t) get from a user interview and the two, absolute best questions to ask in every interview.

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