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The AYCL Blog

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Thinking In Metaphors

February 4, 2017
by Jared Spool

Metaphors have a knack of encapsulating a feeling or experience, and for this reason, they stick. User researchers gathering data can find the essence of a customer’s experience and communicate it effectively by looking for the metaphors that people naturally use to describe their experiences.

The qualitative datasets that researchers collect as part of user research are often full of metaphors – and not just the things that people say. Cyd Harrell notes that researchers take while observing participants often contain rich insights into user behavior. Metaphors humanize the data we retrieve and can become a powerful part of the larger design and product conversations we have.

Finding Amazing User Research Participants

January 28, 2017
by Jared Spool

User research informs the work that we do and is a critical piece to the success of the customer journey maps and buyer cycles we define for products. As Nate Bolt tells us, research shapes the success of our work, and illuminates the why, when products fall short of expectations.

There are a variety of ways that teams can recruit testing participants, from simply finding people on the street, to targeting specific audiences.  Each approach has pros and cons. The method you use for gathering participants should be informed by the type of user research you do, and the product or concept you are testing.

Eight Categories For Recruiting Research Participants

  1. First person you see
  2. Someone in your office
  3. Friends and family
  4. Craigslist, or another community
  5. Recruiting Agency
  6. Panel
  7. Facebook Ads/Twitter
  8. Live User Intercept

Getting Unstuck

January 21, 2017
by Jared Spool

You’re crunching under a deadline and your brain is jelly. Synapses are fried. You can’t surface a creative thought for the life of you. You’re stuck. What do you do?

Dan Saffer has a practical prescription for getting unstuck, unblocked, and energized. Here are his tips for how to build a creative habit that sustains you through those dark days when ideas run dry.

  • Prepare: Build a creative habit. Schedule a small block of time and show up every day.
  • Find a ritual: Artists often create a ritual around the work they do to get them in the right headspace. It could be listening to music, arranging pencils, what-have-you. Find what works for you.
  • Keep a list of your top three big questions: Hang them in a visible place in your workspace so you can think about them.
  • Walk: If you are feeling stuck, get outside. Why? Because even Nietzsche thought it was a good idea.
  • Be boring: If you are out and about, resist the urge to look at your phone and other digital distractions.
  • Time: Spend as much time as you can with the problem you are trying to solve.

Solutions tend to come to us when we aren’t thinking very hard about them. Give yourself the space to ruminate over ideas, ideate, and percolate.

Unearthing Themes In Research Data

January 14, 2017
by Jared Spool

Cyd Harrell tells us that user research data often contains metaphors that describe the overall experience that participants have. Researchers can surface these metaphors in data, and in their notes, by taking a closer look at the language that participants use to describe their experience. Language that falls within the following thematic groups is particularly interesting, because it represents powerful human desires and needs, and can provide insights into the overall user experience.

  • Attraction: Love, sex, and friendship. Participants might express emotion in these areas toward a product or concept. Attraction represents deep human needs, but it can also represent repulsion — for example, participants who feel discomfort with a product or experience.
  • Food and Shelter: Language that describes the feeling of home and safety, or lack thereof.
  • Status & Competition: This is another deep human connection that can result in the use of interesting metaphors. What kind of competition are people trying to win? What is important to them?
  • Places: Language that describes a place or context.
  • Animals: What creatures show similar behavior?

Know Your RACI

January 7, 2017
by Jared Spool

Stakeholders can be incredibly helpful to teams—or problematic, depending on how you look at them. As Kim Goodwin says, we can’t expect busy stakeholders to bend to our way of working and communicating, but we can create a constructive environment for their feedback and the way we respond to it.

A good place to begin is with a team meeting that explores the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved: who will be responsible for doing the work, who will be accountable (the people who will approve the work), who should be consulted, and who should be kept informed. The acronym for this approach is called RACI and seasoned project managers are familiar with the process.

Streamline Your Design Efforts

December 17, 2016
by Jared Spool

When in the thick of a project, the small, day-to-day decisions we make as designers can get away from us. As Dan Mall tells us, that’s when an interface inventory can make a difference.

If you take an inventory of button styles, for example, on your project or site, you may find a variety of styles, typography, and subtle design variations that were not intentional. Design teams can review an inventory, and all of the decisions that were made, and use that information to create an overall style guide that streamlines design decisions and can be applied in the future. This approach will result in cleaner code, and reduce the cognitive load on users.

Crafting Product Stories That Engage

December 13, 2016
by Jared Spool

Your product must communicate its unique value to stand out in a competitive marketplace. Stories shape the way customers interact with products, and provide purpose and meaning to their experience. When customers respond well to product stories, they attribute value and desirability to the product and brand.

Begin by asking yourself what the story of your product is.

  • Who is the hero?
  • What is the hero’s goal?
  • What is getting in the way of that goal?
  • How will your product meet the hero’s goal? What is its value?
  • How will you get your hero to use the product?
  • How will you sustain interest in the product?

Our goal, says Donna Lichaw, is to create the best product stories that we can for customers. Successful product stories shape the way customers interact with the product. We create a world in which customers can see how our products enrich their lives.