World Usability Day: attend and win the $10,000 Prize Package

We’re excited to be sponsoring another exciting usability event called World Usability Day (WUD), taking place on November 13, 2014.

WUD is a single day of events occurring in over 25 countries that brings together communities of professional, industrial, educational, citizen, and government groups for our common objective: to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use.

The topic of this year’s event? Engagement.

We’ll be exploring critical questions like:

  • How can you engage people to use technology products and services?
  • What kind of design thinking needs to be incorporated to keep people engaged?
  • How can you engage those outside our field to understand the importance of a good user experience?

Find a World Usability Day event near you >>

Because we believe in this event and want to support the discussion around increasing engagement, Loop11 is sponsoring WUD by contributing 1 free user test, a $350 value.

The World Usability Package will include leading tools for Usability, Marketing & Project Management professionals, with a total value of more than $10,000 in prizes.

To enter the contest for a chance to win, you simply have to upload a photo of the most engaging thing you’ve seen today (online or offline) and then write a short explanation of why the subject is engaging.

Make sure to check out this post for more details on when to enter the contest and follow @optimalworkshop so you can catch the competition start date.

Small words make a big difference: how to ask incisive usability questions for richer results

When it comes to usability research, it’s not really about the method we employ to collect insights. Nor is it about the design we’re testing, although that plays a major part. It’s about the questions. Simply put, questions are the secret sauce to any research dish.

But how do we ask the “right” questions to garner results? There’s a lot to consider, like the environment we’re in (physical or digital?), the manner of the research (formal or informal?), and the relationship we have with our subjects (i.e. the power dynamics).

While it’s difficult to judge what a “right” question is, there are certain ways to improve the impact of our queries. I personally like to use a mnemonic device - abbreviated “ASK” – which helps me to focus on crafting constructive questions. Here it is:

  • A. Avoid starting with words like “Are”, “Do”, and “Have”. Questions that start with these type of verbs are a surefire way to nip insights in the bud. It can lead to what’s called a closed question, i.e. something that can literally close a conversation with a “Yes” or “No” answer. While it may be useful to gather this sort of data at times, try instead to open it up. Using open questions, as Changing Minds notes, gives us time to think, reflect, and provide opinions.
  • S. Start with W. The 5 W’s – i.e. who, what, when, where, and why – are the building blocks for information-gathering. It’s a tool from rhetoric, historically attributed to the Greeks and Romans. Essentially, the 5 W’s help us pull out the particulars. The magic behind them is that none of them can be answered with just a “yes” or “no”, so we’re always going to get a bit more of an expressive answer from subjects.
  • K. Keep it short. As researchers, we can often let curiosity get the best of us. Excited, we may list out a string of questions, asking more than necessary. By asking more than one question at a time, we ruin the focus of a conversation. We should try to keep our questions short and sweet, so that they may be digested more appropriately.

That’s it. ASK: a simple shorthand for asking incisive usability questions.

incisive-questions

If you want to learn more about questions, check out NN/g’s “Talking with Participants During a Usability Test”, for more basic talking techniques. Also, I highly recommend David Sherwin’s “A Five-Step Process For Conducting User Research“, for more on how to choose the right “W” at the right time.

 

David Peter Simon is a consultant at ThoughtWorks, an agile design and engineering firm. Talk with him on Twitter @davidpetersimon.

Why Marketing and UX Should Test Together

For many organizations, the sales and marketing team operate within a completely separate circle to the product development teams, but they are closely linked by the financial/budget calendars as well as the product release cycles. In the majority of cases the sales and marketing activities tend to dictate the initial business requirements and product specifications, if not the product sprint and release cycles.

Rather than proposing some radical concept or changing existing practices, here are some reasons why the UX practitioner should consider collaborating with the marketing department more closely so that the company gains the maximum benefit from its research activities and budget.

Completeness of research
Marketing research is aimed at understanding customer/user perceptions (i.e. their ‘wants’), which is an important component of the overall user experience. Complementing this is the user study and research on the customer experience of the products and services (i.e. their ‘needs’). When you can align the customer perceptions with their experiences then you will have a much better chance of meeting their expectations, or go one step further by exceeding them. Unfortunately, we often see business requirements created from market research and products designed based on user research as a result of the marketing department and the UX team failing to align their goals and objectives.

Efficient use of time and resources
In the current age of shrinking budgets and limited resources, it makes sense to streamline and maximize the resources available on hand. Creating two separate processes (and potentially using completely different tools) for conducting research within the company means having to duplicate the efforts of recruiting users, running research studies, not to mention the time and effort spent analyzing the results, managing the information and having extra personnel/staff to do the work as well as co-ordinating and scheduling the activities involved. It also means having people from the UX area chasing up data from marketing and vice versa rather than sharing and integrating the customer information knowledgebase.

Sharing/transfer of knowledge
A large number of UX researchers and designers are primarily focused on the observed or recorded behaviour and responses of users in the context of the product or service that they are trying to deliver. However, having access to information about user perceptions on a wider range of subject matter can reveal valuable insights about how to create better product or service for the user. Traditional marketing research techniques and consumer database contain a wealth of knowledge that UX researchers can tap into for creating better personas and user profiles. Conversely, a better grasp of user behaviour studies can also help the marketing team create surveys and studies that tailor to their target audience more than generic or standardized survey questions.

Last, but not least, in this day and age when many of the key business decisions are being driven by companies competing on the basis of understanding and delivering on customer expectations, isn’t it time for companies to start sharing a vision for what they want to achieve for their customers, rather than how to achieve KPIs that may or may not reflect if their customers are truly happy and satisfied? This means that marketing teams should not being seeing UX as a blackbox, and the UX teams should stop thinking about marketing research as secondary to the product design and development process.

Only by understanding the benefits and values of customer research and testing across the organization can research and testing activities create the maximum value. And that is the best reason for marketing and UX teams to start testing together.

 

Michael Lai is a freelancing and consulting UX architect specializing in infographic and data visualization design. He has worked and consulted in various industries (hospitality, retail, IT, science, and engineering just to name a few) and covered many UX related roles (including user research, copywriting, training, graphic design, business analysis, and information architecture) to make sure he understands the important UX issues first-hand.

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