Reading Reflection: Qualitative User Research

What are the goals of user research?

The first goal is to to understand users’ goals and motivations. According to Cooper, goals alway go first, and tasks second, but the UX book emphasizes the particulars of the work practices more. I feel every time I do the reading, Cooper and the UX book often have some seemingly contradictory philosophies at the beginning, but they converge somehow as I proceed. They just have the different approaches.

Second to the first is to undertand the users’ work context, work flow, and work practices, in order to better design the products to fit their needs.

What are some available tools (research methods) for conducting user research?

Ethnographic interviewing (user observation and one-on-one interview), contextual analysis, card sorting, task analysis (can be one type of the ethnographic interviewing), marketing strategies, etc.

What are some big mistakes (pitfalls) to avoid when conducting user research?

Avoid leading questions (This is a good reminder for me. I feel I would do that if I couldn’t think of any good questions, and the users seem do not have much more expectations than what he/she already has now. )

Avoid making the users a designer (should not expect them to be a designer, or visionary at the beginning, let alone “making”) .

Avoid discussing technology.

Avoid being lost in detailed questions without knowing the bigger goals (Again, from Cooper).

Distinguish users and customers (I wasn’t quite aware of this before. Now I see the difference between the customers and users. Customers are the ones who buy the products, and users are the ones who use the products. The one who buy it is not necessarily the one who use it.)

A Common Vision

An overall take-away is that terms like “usability”, “user experiences”, and “user-centered designe”, are misleading in a way since the whole process of design is actually not only about studying the users. One important thing is that different departments of the organization who commissions the product have to have a common vision at first, and they should see much further than the users can see.


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