We explore consciously. Top life hacks and must-knows for a novice UX researcher

User experience research, whether it is conducting in-depth interviews with the user or usability testing of ready-made prototypes, requires the researcher to have serious methodological preparation, such as writing a guide with questions, a test script, designating and prioritizing hypotheses for testing. At the same time, a beginner may miss such important aspects as the psychology of the interviewee, the influence of context, cognitive distortions, and other similar factors.

In this article, I will share life hacks for conducting research through the prism of my own research experience.

Attention: focus groups. Soil for socially approved behavior

We have heard time and again that people tend to make more “socially approved” decisions when they are surrounded by other people. A person’s behavior can be completely different when he is left to himself and acts independently. As a researcher, remember that the answers you get during an interview cannot be taken for granted, because test takers often give the answers they want to hear from them. The influence of social approval is shown even when test participants in reality think completely differently. Try to observe users in conditions that are as close as possible to the real conditions of using your product, this will help reduce social pressure on the validity of the results of the study.

In my research practice, there was a case of conducting a moderated usability testing focus group of two people. I noticed that it was difficult for one of the respondents to open up, he did not answer the questions posed, if I did not contact him personally. I understand that he was able to tell me more about how he would use this application one on one.

Focus groups are often chosen by companies for cost-saving reasons, but there are many pitfalls in this type of research, so I am personally very cautious about the results of such research. We need to face the truth: would you say in the presence of an outsider that “I’m not kicking what they want from me on this screen”? The answer is obvious. No one wants to appear stupider in the eyes of an outsider, so the best research results can only be obtained through face-to-face interpersonal communication between the researcher and the user.

“Is the company that works for important to you?” Framing effect

People react differently to the same information depending on the words used to present it. This phenomenon is called the framing effect. For example, when you ask the question: “Do you Like this feature?”, you frame a person around the word “like”. Having received such a question, the user is more likely to think about the positive properties of the product experience. In general, try to avoid such framing questions in favor of the standard open-ended questions “What do you think about this feature?”. Such a question will allow the user to consider all possible facets of his user experience when answering the question.

Consulting company Nielsen Norman Group shows interesting examples framing. The researchers were asked whether the site should be redesigned based on the results of the received usability testing. At the same time, the data on testing were presented to the researchers in different ways. Some researchers received information that 4 out of 20 users could not find the search function on the website. Another part of the researchers found that 16 out of 20 users found the search function on the website. Try to guess the results… I think it will not surprise you that 51% of the researchers who received the interpretation in a negative light advocated a redesign of the site, while 39% of the surveyed researchers who received a positive interpretation of the results believed that a redesign was not needed.

A case from my research practice. We launched a survey to collect feedback for the company’s customers. In one of the multiple choice questions, the respondent had to choose characteristics that motivate them to buy a product. And it seems that all the descriptions are logical and neutral, but suddenly I see a wording with an evaluative positive word “expert”. Time to reformulate! You can write “employee”, “teacher” – depending on the product in question. But we do not evaluate what we study by any characteristics. Otherwise, this bright emotional word will induce people to choose a criterion with this word, although it might not be important for him.

novelty effect

All people tend to attach more importance to their most recent experiences. Researchers subject to the recency effect—read, all human beings—are more likely to form their opinions based on the latest information they have received. To overcome the recency effect, simply write down typical user behavior patterns after each study and watch for these patterns to be repeated across all studies, mentally aware that the most recent data has a particular impact on you. Don’t focus only on them.

“This once again confirms my innocence”

People tend to pay more attention to facts that support their assumptions and at the same time underestimate data that does not meet their expectations. This phenomenon is called confirmation bias. This is one of the strongest cognitive biases that will shape how you feel about UX design. Because of this prejudice, researchers cannot be open to new ideas, and when they receive confirmation that their assumptions were wrong, researchers can further strengthen their position.

In my experience, confirmation bias is especially evident when discussing ideas and prioritizing features in a research team. Everyone believes that the insights they found are important and that the solution to the pain of users, which they found, is extremely important for the development of the product. My life hack for such situations is to act on the principle of growth hacker’s sprint, when the discussion leader (chief UX researcher, growth master, etc. depending on the structure of the company) listens to the position of everyone, enters insights and experience results into a common knowledge base , for example, on the board miro. Then a vote is held on the most important features after the presentation of the research results.

Another life hack why you can present features in the world — there you can vote for decisions using reactions on stickers. It is good practice to designate several reactions in advance as separate characteristics, such as “hygiene” or “must-have” – ​​something that simply must be in the product, because this is the norm, “time to market” – something that can be implemented and released on the market is already tomorrow, the “wow-effect” – and here you can dream about what will give the product a special vibe.

The team and I prioritize features with reactions
The team and I prioritize features with reactions

Don’t talk, listen

During usability testing, sooner or later you will have an interviewee who will not be able to complete the task according to your scenario and will look at you inquiringly “how is it right?”. There will also be those who want to know your opinion on a particular feature, get answers to their questions about the product. Don’t give in. Follow your research scenario, let the user speak and watch their steps while using the interface. You are asking clarifying questions, not him. If there is an awkward pause, be patient to listen to the silence and not put in your two cents. Sometimes a person needs a few seconds to think, who knows what other valuable insights he is about to tell?

What can you listen to and what is useful to listen to? It is very useful to listen to criticism during usability testing and interviews, if a person is dissatisfied with something, then I am more likely to learn valuable information that will make the product better. In general, it is a great success if it is a person who is dissatisfied with the service that comes to you for an interview, because very often dissatisfaction is hidden and you can only guess and build hypotheses what is wrong with the product. But what about compliments? Following the canonical commandment from Rob Fitzpatrick in Ask Mom, I can safely ignore them because most of the time they don’t provide any useful information and are pronounced to please the researcher. This also includes strained phrases “I could use the application if …”, “it might come in handy for someone”. We listen, but do not attach much importance to such hypothetical phrases.


Conscious exploration begins with the awareness and recognition of both one’s own cognitive biases and those of the respondent. For greater objectivity in conducting the study and interpreting the results, evaluate the data through the prism of cognitive effects. Assess not only what the respondent said, but also why they might have said it. Under what conditions was the interview conducted? What questions did you ask and did you use value judgments in the conversation? Did it seem to you that the person embellished his answers to show his disposition towards you? Did you pay attention to all important aspects or only what was said last?

PS Explorers are the most beautiful creatures on the planet, they know about their cockroaches. And they can call each of them by name. (With)

Illustration: https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/mental-health-awareness-concept_8398928.htm?query=mindfulness&collectionId=1294&&position=31&from_view=collections

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