Wednesday, November 08, 2006

User Research: Subjectivity and Objectivity in Practice

The role of subjective and objective decision making in user interface design ...

"There has been an interesting dialogue on the IxD Discussion mailing list in recent months, in which some participants have questioned the need for and benefits of doing user research rather than relying on the experience and intuition of designers. These comments led others to voice concerns about the actual quality of the user research companies are undertaking and the validity of any conclusions they have drawn from the resulting data.

Vox Populi
Three articles or posts have been particularly influential in sparking interest in and debate on this topic. The first was Christopher Fahey’s excellent five-part series “User Research Smoke & Mirrors,” which laid out some of the problems that Chris sees with user research and discussed where UX professionals go awry during research and analysis. Of special interest to me was the following statement in Part 1 of the series:

“Many Web designers and consultancies, however, feel it’s not enough to use research to inform their design process. They go further: They try to make “scientific” user research the very foundation of their design process.”—Christopher Fahey

The second was a post to IxD Discussion by Maria Romera titled “On research,” in which Maria proclaimed:

“I do think that if more people had an understanding of quantitative and qualitative statistics and what inferences you can and cannot draw from them, there would be far-reaching consequences not just for research and design, not just for science, but for society and politics as well!”—Maria Romera

Third, I again came across a March 2004 article by Jakob Nielsen recently, “Risks of Quantitative Studies,” in which Jakob sets out some of the pitfalls of conducting quantitative usability studies. Starting with high-level concerns about numerical analysis, Jakob moves on to more concrete examples:

“It’s a dangerous mistake to believe that statistical research is somehow more scientific or credible than insight-based observational research. In fact, most statistical research is less credible than qualitative studies.”—Jakob Nielsen"    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

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