Everyone is a researcher. They just don’t know it! by Lucille Harvey

In her latest blog, Senior UX consultant Lucille Harvey explains why every team member is a user researcher. You just need to ask!

User research is an essential part of the design process that shouldn’t be overlooked. Author Mike Kuniaysky describes it as “The process of understanding the impact of design on an audience.” At Triad, we use it to understand the user’s needs, behaviours, experience and motivations. It helps us create an optimal product for users.

When done, user research is typically conducted behind closed doors as an isolated activity without any input from the development team. For some time now, I’ve had a theory that there is a better way. And I recently had the chance to prove it.

Lucy at a team stand-up (third from left)

A different approach – My theory

It is part of a user researcher’s role to tell the user’s perspective and to give the user’s viewpoint. But if you get the whole team involved, you are cutting out the middleman (me!), and the entire team can see the user’s perspectives only for themselves.

I have wanted to involve the entire team in user research for some time now, but on this project, there was a practical element that gave me the push to do it. The testing was extensive and complicated. We needed more people and more hands-on deck. And involving them would help me test successfully and enable the whole team to see the rationale behind any changes that would result because of the testing. Win-win!

User research – Bring in the Cavalry

I arranged a research session where we had the developers in, observing and helping to facilitate the user testing sessions. One of the benefits was that they could act in the system, in the background, to help orchestrate different scenarios for the user, something that I couldn’t do with my technical expertise whilst facilitating the sessions. And another bonus, when bugs occurred, they could fix them there and then, so the sessions weren’t interrupted at all.

Afterwards, we held a collaborative analysis session to discuss things that needed to be changed or improved. Having the developers on this journey felt like a more efficient way to go from the test to the design to the solution. And it was a massive success.

The entire team now understand more about what user testing involves and how we go about understanding where changes need to be made to improve the user experience. And if we understand each other’s roles better, we will work better as a team.

A developer’s perspective

“The project is an upgrade to the legacy system, and a key metric is whether it is better than the current system. We can compare the old system to the new one, but those are technical. Only by talking to users of our new system can we really evaluate how the new system is better.  I could see why Lucille wanted to involve developers like me in the user research. We had three significant insights:

  1. Terminology – Users talked in a different language to us developers. A user may say, “Ok. I have approved or commented on this.” At the same time, we would use technical language to describe the approval process and, in doing so, miss some important subtleties.
  2. User journey – We got to observe how users navigate the system. That was fascinating. As developers, the way we design something is how we use it. The users had no manual to follow, so we understood whether they were taking the journey we designed for them or a different journey of their own.
  3. System errors – Because they chose their journey, the users were getting errors we didn’t get when we tested the system. This feedback is vital for ensuring that the new and upgraded system is more user-friendly than the old system.

My whole perspective came alive by talking to users. We got a massive thumbs up and some great learnings, and it was an opportunity to celebrate our progress. I took much heart from that. “ Navin Sadarangani, Triad Senior Consultant and project team member.

Navin in action (centre)

We hope that you have found this blog useful. If you are interested in UX or have a question for the Triad UX team, please get in touch.