UXPA – Collaborating with Clients during Research and Design

uxpa-logoThis unusual (and very informative!) event-tour took place at the offices of Eaton Golden – a local User Experience consulting firm.  We toured the lab and listened to a couple of presentations on collaborative research and design.

EG-4The office is located in a very beautiful place – a “garden” area of Bloomington most of us did not know existed.  The office is also filled with many beautiful and unique decorative items, which probably aid creativity.  I thought eh colorful bud lighting feature in the lab area was particularly unique.

A few points from the event:

  • The usability lab was deliberately designed to be a beautiful room with natural light and view of a secret Bloomington “garden” – typically, most labs are hidden in the dark and can create a rater depressing impression of a “solitary confinement” where the research participant is expected to work on web tasks.


  • The usability lab also has additional screens in the viewing area behind the mirror, which are synchronized with the monitor of the participant and his/her activity.  This arrangement allows each observer to follow the activities on the screen.
  • EG-3Interesting point on eye-tracking – it is not that beneficial for transactional web sites.  Eye tracking setup also requires calibration that can be distorted by person’s movements or just a glance to the researcher.  General usability research, when the participant navigates the web site trying to perform different tasks and explains his or her actions to the researcher seem to be sufficient.
  • The company’s approach is “not to prove or disprove, but to improve.”  Customer’s objective must be reasonable for qualitative research method; if the customer is asking a question requiring statistical validation, the qualitative research would not be useful.  Qualitative research answers the question”Why?”  rather than finding which color of the button is more effective (the territory of A/B split testing).
  • The company is trying to help optimize the user experience, to take the client on the next step of the web site/tool, that currently exists.  To accomplish that, one of the most important conditions is understanding constraints – political or technical – in advance of the project.  It is possible to work around the constraints if they are known in advance.
  • EG-2Ideal “customers” for the project are the people who actually work on the site, know the current product, and can make needed changes in the future.  Higher-level management commissioning the research may not have sufficient involvement in the project to be the effective partner in the research and design phases.
  • The purpose of the research also need to be understood; if the goal is to make changes quickly, the report can take one form, if the objective is to use the research results to request funding for the future site overhaul, the report will take different form.
  • Recommendation: only do as much research as actionable.  If resources will be available in the future, the research will need to wait also.
  • Observation: what a typical client thinks user objectives are often are not user objectives.  
  • Analysis is a “team sport” – clients participation helps to understand some elements of the behavior that might escape the researcher due to lack of intimate understanding of the industry.
  • Prototype scathing: low-fidelity scathing avoids a situation when the “suggested prototype” wins only because it looks better than other ideas – the person or a group had an opportunity to spend more time on the prototype creation.
  • Another interesting point of prototyping/scathing:  marking with one color what on the page needs to be de-emphasized and marking with another color what needs to be emphasized.  Interesting!  My guess, this is an excellent approach to resolve feature battles…. 😉

EatonGolden maintains a blog with quite interesting information and offers email subscription to the posts.  I subscribed 🙂