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Topic: User Research

How do we know that we’re creating the right enhancements for the web, at the right time, for the right audiences? The ins and outs of qualifying and quantifying just who we are designing for, and what they want—from data mining and analytics to email surveys, from lab-based usability studies to one-on-one interviews, from ethnographic field studies to eye tracking, from card sorts to desirability studies, from message board mining to A/B testing.

  • The Distance to Here

    by Rian van der Merwe ·

    The people who determine product strategy move through a world of analysts, media, division leads, shareholders, stakeholders, monetization, and marketability. They seldom get a chance to come back to the corner where users and designers mingle. Rian van der Merwe suspects that increasing the communication distance between the decision makers and the product’s builders and users leads to a loss of perspective—and the results are products with marketable features that no one really needs.

  • Sharing Our Work: Testing and Feedback in Design

    by Jessica Harllee · Issue 426 ·

    Showing your in-progress designs can be scary, but there’s no better way to keep your product in line with your users’ needs. Research and testing aren’t just boxes to be checked off; they’re methodologies to be integrated into the entire design process—and the more, and the more diverse, the merrier. Jessica Harllee explains how Etsy shares their work with users every step of the way—and the benefits (and surprises) that follow.

  • What Really Matters: Focusing on Top Tasks

    by Gerry McGovern · Issue 418 ·

    Every piece of web content is important—or so every stakeholder insists. But what happens when dozens, even hundreds, of different tasks battle for space on your homepage and in your navigation? It’s time to make some hard choices about what does and doesn’t belong. Gerry McGovern demonstrates how to zero in on the tasks that matter most to your users.

  • The Illusion of Free

    by Laura Kalbag ·

    The number of predictions that algorithms can make about us from even minimal data is shocking. Although we’re offered privacy settings that let us control who of our friends sees what, all our information and behavior tends to be fair game for behind-the-scenes tracking. We simply don’t know everything that’s being done with our data currently, and what companies might be able—and willing—to do with it in the future. Laura Kalbag believes it’s time to locate the exits.

  • A New Way to Listen

    by Indi Young · Issue 414 ·

    Empathy can have an enormous impact on how we work. By learning to better understand others—what they think, how they feel, what guides their decisions and behaviors—we add balance, clarity, and depth to our business practices. In this excerpt from Chapter 4 of Practical Empathy, Indi Young explains how listening intently can lay the groundwork for developing empathy.

  • Managing Feature Requests

    by Rachel Andrew ·

    You’re proud of your product, and welcome user suggestions on making it even better. Will you be able to make everyone happy? Should you even aim to accommodate them all? Before you start coding, think about how to prioritize feature requests, and even say no to some.

  • Collaborative User Testing: Less Bias, Better Research

    by Alla Kholmatova · Issue 405 ·

    We all want user research that provides reliable guidance for our teams. But bias is tricky—it’s often introduced unknowingly. How can we be sure that the results of guerrilla user research sessions are as impartial as possible? Alla Kholmatova has the answer: getting more collaborative in how we plan, lead, evaluate, and analyze our user research.

  • Persuasion: Applying the Elaboration Likelihood Model to Design

    by Victor Yocco · Issue 397 ·

    Persuasion isn’t a slick ad pitch or a campaign promise. It’s inherent to the content, style, and delivery of our messages, for better or for worse. Everything we say, do, and design has an impact on how our message is perceived—so why not put that power to work for you on the web? Victor Yocco shows us how to incorporate a deeper understanding of the psychological underpinnings of persuasion into our designs, allowing us to better reach—and win—the hearts of our users.

  • Interviewing Humans

    by Erika Hall · Issue 382 ·

    The humble one-on-one interview is the basic unit of ethnographic research. The price is right for even the most cash-strapped team, and with practice (plus a few principles) you can gain the knack for it—even if “researcher” is the one title that doesn’t appear on your business card. The great myth is that you need to be a good talker. But conducting a good interview is actually about shutting up. Learn to coax good data from willing humans in our excerpt from Erika Hall’s new book, Just Enough Research.

  • Connected UX

    by Aarron Walter · Issue 381 ·

    Your inbox overflows with customer emails suggesting features and improvements. Instead of benefiting, you feel overwhelmed by an unmanageable deluge. You conduct usability tests, user interviews, and competitive analyses, creating and sharing key insights. Yet within months, what you learned has been lost, forgotten, or ignored by someone in a different department. What if you could sift, store, and share all your customer learning in a way that breaks down silos, preserves and amplifies insights, and turns everyone in your organization into a researcher? MailChimp’s user experience director Aarron Walter tells how his team did it. You can, too.

  • Seeing the Elephant: Defragmenting User Research

    by Lou Rosenfeld · Issue 381 ·

    Silos: good for grain, awful for understanding customer behavior. Just as we favor the research tools that we find familiar and comfortable, large organizations often use research methods that reflect their own internal selection biases. As a result, they miss out on detecting (and confirming) interesting patterns that emerge concurrently from different research silos. And they likely won’t learn something new and important. IA thought leader Lou Rosenfeld explains how balance, cadence, conversation, and perspective provide a framework enabling your research teams to think across silos and achieve powerful insights even senior leadership can understand.

  • Improving UX Through Front-End Performance

    by Lara Hogan · Issue 371 ·

    Adding half a second to a search results page can decrease traffic and ad revenues by 20 percent, says a Google study. For every additional 100 milliseconds of load time, sales decrease by 1 percent, Amazon finds. Users expect pages to load in two seconds—and after three seconds, up to 40 percent will simply leave. The message is clear: we must make performance optimization a fundamental part of how we design, build, and test every site we create—for every device. Design for performance; measure the results.

  • Looking Beyond User-Centered Design

    by Cennydd Bowles ·

    User-centered design has served the digital community well. So well, in fact, that I'm worried its dominance may actually be limiting our field. The terms “user experience design” (UX) and “user-centered design” (UCD) are often used interchangeably. But there's an important distinction.

  • Translation is UX

    by Antoine Lefeuvre · Issue 366 ·

    We—the people who make websites—now study almost every aspect of our trade, from content and usability to art direction and typography. Our attention to detail has never been greater as we strive to provide the best possible experience. Yet many users still experience products that lack personality or are difficult to understand. They are users of a translated version. While good localization boosts conversion rates, bad or partial translation may ruin a user experience, giving people an uneasy feeling about the whole company. If we care equally about all our users, it’s time we start thinking of translation as something slightly more complex than a word-to-word job. Antoine Lefeuvre shares why translation matters, and what it takes to get it right.

  • Being Real Builds Trust

    by Steph Hay · Issue 359 ·

    Tons of products and services are the best, easiest, simplest, smartest things ever. They also all increase profits, decrease costs, and save you time. And as a result, they all sound the same. These kinds of qualifiers overrun our content because we’re constantly looking around at what everyone else is doing, rather than being honest about who we are. But trust inspires confidence, and it’s confidence that compels decision-making. Steph Hay shows us how to win customers by being real with our content.

  • Beyond Usability Testing

    by Devan Goldstein · Issue 357 ·

    To be sure we're designing the right experience for the right audience, there's no substitute for research conducted with actual users. Like any research method, though, usability testing has its drawbacks. Most importantly, it isn't cheap. Fortunately, there are other usability research methods at our disposal. The standouts, expert review and heuristic evaluation, are easy to add to a design and development process almost regardless of budget or resource concerns. Explore these techniques, learn their advantages and disadvantages, and get the low-down on how to include them in your projects.

  • Product Management for the Web

    by Kristofer Layon · Issue 357 ·

    Whether we prototype, write, design, develop, or test as part of building the web, we're creating something hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of people will use. But how do we know that we're creating the right enhancements for the web, at the right time, and for the right customers? Because our client or boss asked us to? And how do they know? Enter product management for the web, bridging the gap between leadership and customers on one side, and the user experience, content strategy, design, and development team on the other. Learn to set priorities that gradually but steadily make your product (and the web) better.

  • Audiences, Outcomes, and Determining User Needs

    by Corey Vilhauer · Issue 345 ·

    Every website needs an audience. And every audience needs a goal. Advocating for end-user needs is the very foundation of the user experience disciplines. We make websites for real people. Those real people are able to do real things. But how do we get to really know our audience and find out what these mystery users really want from our sites and applications? Learn to ensure that every piece of content on your site relates back to a specific, desired outcome , one that achieves business goals by serving the end user. Corey Vilhauer explains the threads that bind UX research to content strategy and project deliverables that deliver.

  • A Primer on A/B Testing

    by Lara Hogan · Issue 333 ·

    Data is an invaluable tool for web designers who are making decisions about the user experience. A/B tests, or split tests, are one of the easiest ways to measure the effect of different design, content, or functionality, helping you create high-performing user experience elements that you can implement across your site. But it’s important to make sure you reach statistically significant results and avoid red herrings. Lara Swanson shows us how to do that.

  • Designing Web Registration Processes for Kids

    by Debra Levin Gelman · Issue 323 ·

    Designing websites for kids is a fascinating, challenging, rewarding, and exasperating experience: You’re trying to create a digital experience for people who lack the cognitive capacity to understand abstraction; to establish brand loyalty with people who are influenced almost exclusively by their peers; and to communicate subjective value propositions to people who can only see things in black-and-white. Fortunately, it’s possible to create a successful registration process for these folks with an understanding of how their brains work. Debra Levin Gelman explores how to design effective registration forms for kids based on their context, technical skills, and cognitive capabilities.