Monday, December 03, 2007

The Repertory Grid: Eliciting User Experience Comparisons in the Customer’s Voice

The sensitivity of interview questions ...

"Chances are that, if you do user research, you conduct a fair number of user interviews. When conducting interviews, our training tells us to minimize bias by asking open-ended questions and choosing our words carefully. But consistently asking unbiased questions is always a challenge, especially when you’re following a participant down a line of questioning that is important, and you haven’t prepared your questions ahead of time. Also, if you do a lot of interviews, you might fall into a pattern of asking the same types of questions for different studies. This might not bias participants, but you can bias yourself if you always investigate the same types of issues. Finally, are you sure you are asking the right questions? Your interview questions might be relevant to you and your project team, but are they the questions that will get at important issues from a user’s perspective?

In an effort to address some of these considerations, I’ve experimented with the Repertory Grid method—an interview technique that originated in clinical psychology and is useful in a variety of domains, including user experience design.

Personal Construct Theory

The Repertory Grid is a data extraction and analysis technique that has as its basis the Personal Construct Theory, which George Kelly developed in the 1950s. The central theme of the Personal Construct Theory is that people organize their experiences with the world into conceptual classifications that we can differentiate and describe using attributes of those classifications called constructs. Often, these constructs manifest themselves as polar opposites on a scale, so we can easily classify the elements of our world. For example, based on our experiences with people, we know that some are shy and others are outgoing. When we meet new people, we may consciously or subconsciously categorize them according to that construct.

An important element of the Personal Construct Theory is that each individual has his or her own unique set of constructs that are important to that person. Taking my example further, whether a new person is shy or outgoing might not be important to you in your categorization scheme, but it might be very important to someone else. George Kelly hypothesized that people are constantly challenging and growing their construct systems, but those systems remain unique to the individual, and the sum of each person’s experiences shapes them. In addition, the differences in people’s construct systems contribute to our different perceptions of the world and our behavior in it."    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]


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