Monday, July 16, 2007

Embracing the Un-Science of Qualitative Research Part Two - Ever-Evolving Prototypes are Ace

More on qualitative usability testing (Part 1 above) ...

"So, earlier we were talking about whether you can or should attempt to make qualitative research more scientific, and that there are three ways you might go about doing this, being to:

1. Use a relatively large sample size (deconstructed in Part One)
2. Ensure that your test environment doesn’t change (which we’ll talk about now)
3. Ensure that your test approach doesn’t change

One of the fundamentals of quantitative research is its systematic nature. It’s about measuring stuff. And, you don’t want that stuff to change as you’re measuring it for a number of reasons - not the least of which being that it makes it very difficult to plot on a graph

Qualitative research, on the other hand, is not about numbers so much. It is about the depth of insight that you can gain from having much greater and more flexible access to your research subjects. As you are seeking insight, not statistics, it matters far less whether whatever you are testing, say a prototype, changes a bit throughout the course of the study.

In my experience, some of the most fruitful research has occurred when the prototype has changed quite a bit from interview to interview - and sometimes even within an interview.

Here’s how it works (again, using the example study I described in part one: a lab based combination of interview & a wee bit of usability which is intended to ensure that my client’s proposition is sound, that it is being well communicated, that the users understand what the service is and how it works, and to weed out any critical usability issues).

On one side of the big brother mirror you have the researcher and the participants (sometimes known as ‘users’. Urgh). On the other secret side of the mirror you have your client including a member of their technical team (or, perhaps, a gun Visio or Omnigraffle driver, depending on what stage your prototype is at) with laptop at the ready."    (Continued via disambiguity)    [Usability Resources]

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