A little research post

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Research is a considered activity that aims to make an original contribution to knowledge. (Dawson, 2005).

The trick to successful user research is, “to know what role user research plays, which methods of research to utilise, and how it benefits your team each step along the way.” (Hayes, 2015).


Triangulating popular research methods and plastering a wall with sticky notes does not assure a delightful user experience although Towsey (2014) supports:

“Sticky notes, images, screenshots, survey results, analytics and team photos…are an important and constant broadcast signal. A well-tended wall keeps research insights and user needs constant in the collective ‘mind’ of the project team.”

The quantity of research (and sticky notes) isn’t the problem. The quality of the research and its analysis is–when avoiding:

  • Credulity
  • Dogmatism
  • Bias
  • Obscurantism
  • Laziness
  • Vagueness
  • Hubris (e.g., “Look at my data! Look at how beautiful it is!”)

 (Travis, 2014).

Involving our team

Shah (2014) believes, “research is a team sport” when criticising teams where the UX researcher is the sole user advocate – as does Travis (2014). All project team members should, “experience at least two hours observing users each six weeks”. How many users may be debated (Spool, 2011). Designers are otherwise all biased and, “can only see the World through their own eyes” (Smashing Magazine, 2015).

This falls considerably short of my own inclusion of our whole team within a 100% UX process: everyone owns the UX. (Godfrey 2017).

Hay (2013), describes a multidisciplinary team approach to design eliminating specialty silos and obtaining user data from across the enterprise: user research is not solely the designer’s responsibility (Bell, 2002).

“Involving everyone in user research also helps to mitigate researcher bias, give less dominant team members a voice, and resist uninformed interference from stakeholders.”

(Waterworth, 2015)

And not everyone in the enterprise loves data. The challenge then is to, “turn data into information, and turn that information into insight.” (Travis, 2014).

Involving team resources and participants’ in research requires planning. Morrison (1993) in Cohen, Manion, and Morrison, (2000, pp. 73) describe four stages of research useful to the inexpert practitioner when planning:

  • Orienting
  • Design
  • Analysis
  • Report

Morrison appears to have missed out an enabling stage; perhaps, Actioning the research methods?

Planning research

Cohen, et al., (2000, pp. 73) claim research has no blueprint: that it needs only be fit for purpose rather than directed on caprice. Research aims and objectives must translate to practicable research.

Collecting and collating data may be constrained by resources and the amount of time available. Cohen et al., (2000, pp.73) state that we must harmonise planned possibilities and workable and coherent practice and ideals with reality.”At the end of the day, research has to work.”

Our research must be planned and deliberate if it is to be valid and reliable (Bell, 2001). Reliability is not the preserve of quantitative research (Brock-Utne, 1996, pp 612. In Cohen et al., (2000). Validity is, “a matter of degree” (Granlund, 1981. In Cohen et al., 2000); there are different kinds of validity.

This may challenge low-resourced UX research. For example, Morrison (1993) in Cohen et al., (2000, pp. 93) believes the minimum sample size for statistical analysis is thirty participants. That’s thirty of any one sub-group. If we need 5% of our sample to be Group X, then using their math we need to sample a minimum of six hundred participants (30/0.05 = 600) including the thirty Group X.

“Defining the right approach in terms of timelines and resources – and ensuring you’re able to stick to it – is one of the main skills of running research projects.”

Lang and Howell (2017).

Additionally, whether our research is to be classed quantitative or qualitative (from Berndtsson, et al., (2002) in Dawson (2005)), then we must plan for accuracy versus probability (Cohen et al., 2000, pp. 93). In short, there are more dimensions to user research than methods and sticky notes before even investigating ethics, consent, methods, statistics, or data analysis our reports.

So what?

The complexity of valid and reliable research may characterise the paucity of peer-reviewed research in our UX industry? Thankfully, research starts with questions (Nunnally and Farkas, 2016, pp. 215) and UX designers are always curious (Chen, 2014).

Reference this post

Godfrey, P. (Year, Month Day). Title. Retrieved , from,


Bell, J., (2001). Doing your research project. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

Chen, K., (2014, October 6). Characteristics of a User Experience Designer. Medium. Retrieved October 10, 2018, from https://medium.com/kenny-chen/characteristics-of-a-user-experience-designer-25e032f6f264.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., and Morrison, K. (2000). Research Methods in Education (5th Edition). New Yor, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.

Dawson, C., (2005). Projects in Computing and Information Systems. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education Limited.

Godfrey, P., (2017, July). Applying a UX Design Workflow. Experience Learning Too. Retrieved November 23, 2018 from https://www.learningtoo.eu/portfolio/ux-design-workflow.htm

Hay, S. (2013). Responsive Design Workflow. London, UK: Thames & Hudson.

Hayes, R., (2015, September 2). The three phases of user research in product design. Medium. Retrieved October 10, 2018, from https://medium.com/@therobhayes/the-3-phases-of-user-research-in-product-design-1db8539f2477.

Lang, J., and Howell, E., (2017). Researching UX: User Research. Collingwood, Victoria, Australia: SitePoint.

Nunnally, B., and Farkas, D. (2016). UX Research: Practical Techniques for Designing Better Products (1st Edition). Sebastopol, CA, USA: O’Reilly Media.

Shah, D., (2014, August 6). Have you had your recommended dose of research? User Research in Government. Govt.UK. Retrieved November 10, 2018 from https://userresearch.blog.gov.uk/2014/08/06/have-you-had-your-recommended-dose-of-research/

Smashing Magazine eBooks, (2015). A Field Guide To User Research. Freiburg, Germany: Smashing Media GmbH.

Spool, J. (2011, March 30). Fast Path to a Great UX – Increased Exposure Hours. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from https://articles.uie.com/user_exposure_hours/

Towsey, K. (2014, September 3). Vertical campfires: our user research walls. Govt.UK. Retrieved November 10, 2018, from https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2014/09/03/vertical-campfires-our-user-research-walls/.

Travis, D. (2014, December 1). The 7 Deadly Sins of User Research. User focus. Retrieved November 10, 2018 from  https://www.userfocus.co.uk/articles/7-sins-of-user-research.html.

Waterworth, J., (2015, January 21). User research for government services: 8 strategies that worked for us. Govt.UK. Retrieved November 10, 2018, from https://userresearch.blog.gov.uk/2015/01/21/user-research-for-government-services-8-strategies-that-worked-for-us/ .


Lead photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels.


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