02 April, 2018

The Big Three Questions .... and User Research


This article was originally published on Linked In.

So, Life happens. I took an unplanned break from writing for past few months. The good news: I am back :). Without further ado, let us get started. I'll touch upon my experience of doing user research over past few years in this article.

What is User Research
User Research is the process of understanding the *impact of design* on an audience with a focus on users’ behavior, needs, and motivation.

Why do we need User Research?


1. To create designs that are truly relevant to people

2. To create designs that are easy and pleasurable to use

3. To understand the return on investment (ROI) of your user experience (UX) design

What is Wrong with User Research
We humans think that we are driven by rationality. Yet, we are far from it. How we behave is based on the heuristics and biases we have. These, in turn, influence the decision we make and the problems we solve. This is precisely why conclusions from user research may not improve the experience of the product. It is not that user research methods are faulty. It is because what people say about their motivations and behavior is far from what motivates them to behave in a real environment. Hence, observations about them during interviews may not capture the whole story.

How to Fix it
Jeff Gothelf talks about The Big Three Research Questions in his book, The Lean UX.

1. Is there a need or opportunity? 
Identify a strong need or opportunity as this is critical to successful user research. This can be done through Observations and Interviews.

2. Do people value my proposed solution? 
Today, products suffer from feature bloats. Asking if the proposed solution for the identified need/opportunity is something people value. The value of the proposed solution can be measured using interviews. If people don't value the solution, there is no point building the solution. Just discard that need and move on to the next one.

3. Can people use my proposed solution? 
Building a solution without validating if people can use that solution is a waste of time and money. A good alternative is to build a simple prototype of the solution and watch people use it by performing usability testing and interviews.

The above research questions apply not just for user research, but for any problem you are trying to solve.

Next time around, when someone seeks user research, ask them what value are they looking for?


29 January, 2018

Flight Maps and Natural Mapping


This article was originally published on Linked In.
Interactive flight maps are a great way to kill time on long-haul flights. Few In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) systems get the geography wrong on these maps. Take a look at this one, I happened to be in last year.


On a standard world map, we know that Auckland is far far away from Kuala Lumpur to its right. On this map shown above, representation shows that Kuala Lumpur is to the right of Auckland, and the flight is flying from Auckland to Kuala Lumpur.
As you may notice, a natural mapping is missing on the interactive map since the location of Auckland and Kuala Lumpur are reversed.
Mapping is a technical term meaning the relationship between two things. Consider the steering wheel in a car. To turn the car to the right, one must turn the steering wheel clockwise, so that its top moves to the right. This mapping is easily learned and always remembered while changing directions of the car. In fact, turning the car to the right maps naturally with our right arm turning to the right, as a mental model. This is natural mapping, natural because it naturally maps to how humans use their body and mental models. The human mind is trained for natural mapping.
Natural mapping takes advantage of physical analogies and cultural standards (Another example — red traffic light means stop; green means go).
Great products apply natural mapping to design enchanted experiences.