Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bite-Sized UX Research

Best bang for buck with UX research ...

"It’s not uncommon for projects to lack the time, money, or resources to conduct ideal user research activities. There are many reasons why this occurs:

* Sometimes we’re brought onto a project late.
* Perhaps we’re new to an organization that doesn’t really get UX.
* Maybe a company is rushing to bring a product to market for some reason—and there are plenty of good and bad reasons this might be so—and there simply isn’t time to “go big”.
* Perhaps your client or organization is following an Agile development methodology.

At such times, it can be tempting to just throw up our hands in dismay and do nothing or lament the fact that everything isn’t perfect. But the simple fact is that, as UX professionals, we can always add value, at any stage in a project—even if a project team can’t act on our advice straight away.
Focus on Winning Small Victories Often

Regardless of the cause for your company’s resource crunch, focus on getting small wins as often as possible throughout your involvement in a project. This is a fairly common piece of advice that crops up time and time again, but it’s very much worth repeating. And it applies just as readily to both situations where time is short and those when there’s just not enough of you to go around.

This advice is equally valid for UX professionals who find themselves in new positions as the sole user experience person. It’s common for new hires to ask: “How do I sell the benefits of UX?” The answer is generally something along the lines of: “Focus on small wins.” In other words, don’t waste your energy putting together a series of case studies on how other people have created value at other organizations. Instead, do something positive and tangible—however small—and it’ll carry a lot more weight.
Go for Impact

Concentrate on getting bang for your buck. Depending on your circumstances, you may not get many opportunities to demonstrate the value of UX, and when time is short, there can be a tendency to just do something—anything. It’s an urge you should try to resist. If you want to have a greater impact, ask your project team—the project manager, the development team, and the business stakeholders—a few pointed questions before you get started:

* What are the critical features of the Web site or application?
* What features would be hardest for the developers to change once they’ve developed them?
* What are the areas of greatest ambiguity in terms of user requirements, audience groups, or competitive offerings?

And then ask a few more questions:

* How can I best document my user research findings, so the project team can used them?
* Do we have time for iterations? And if so, how many?

With this information, you can start planning some activities that focus on the most important elements of the project—the critical features for success; the features that are hardest to change; or the gray areas of the project—and deliver some real value.

It’s all very well to say “do something small,” but what, exactly, can you do?"    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

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