Preface

Assumptions This Book Makes

This book is written for the user experience practitioners, designers, and managers being asked to conduct product research. It is written for the individuals who will be doing the research and need a quick reference on the rationale and process, as well as for the managers who are looking for a common language to discuss and ultimately sell research.

There is often mystery around product research, and an assumption that you need to be a Zen master of research methods to gather insights. This book intends to pull back the curtain on that assumption. Anyone can conduct product research. While nothing replaces practice and experience, those who read this book will be armed with a common language and set of tools to conduct research in an informed and productive manner.

Contents of This Book

This book is organized into four parts. Within each chapter, we provide the perspective of a professional working in the industry and we close with a short exercise (5–15 minutes) to practice the ideas presented in the book. We will reference documents and artifacts, and our companion website aims to provide sample templates of many of these documents for your use.

Part I, Introduction (Chapter 1)

Offers a brief introduction to UX research by exploring where research has come from and the various fields that impact our work.

Part II, Planning and Preparation (Chapter 2Chapter 7)

Shifts to understanding the breadth of research available to practitioners. Chapter 2 defines the most basic element of any research initiative: a good question. After defining what makes a good question, we look at the two types of research in detail. Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 introduce quantitative and qualitative research methods, respectively. Having distinguished between the two methods, we then discuss how you might choose the appropriate one in Chapter 5. Next, Chapter 6 explores the logistics and often-overlooked details of coordinating a research session; this includes timing, technology, and maintaining your own well-being. Chapter 7 closes Part II by discussing how you recruit participants to conduct research with.

Part III, Facilitating Research (Chapter 8Chapter 12)

Having clearly outlined the planning and preparation phase in the previous chapters, this part moves on to the making and doing phase. Chapter 8 looks at the fundamental skills needed to make research happen. This addresses many other logistics not covered in Chapter 7, including honorariums, practicing your session, and maintaining a professional approach to research. Chapter 9 focuses on the most important part of any research: your first impression, or warm-up. As research takes a lot of practice and often changes as it happens, Chapter 10 explores improvisational acting techniques as a tool to support and inform our research practice. Still, no amount of preparation, planning, and hard skills can prepare you for all aspects of research. The human element is the greatest challenge, so Chapter 11 looks at some human variables to be aware of. We close Part III with Chapter 12, which discusses debrief sessions and the importance of and approaches to keeping your team and business stakeholders informed.

Part IV, Analysis and Reporting (Chapter 13Chapter 15)

Looks at how your hard-earned research can be analyzed, organized, and ultimately communicated. The first step is to analyze your findings, and Chapter 13 provides common tools and approaches to taking raw data and uncovering meaning. Chapter 14 takes these unformed insights and provides a framework and structure for communicating your findings. We close the book with Chapter 15, which looks at the value of research throughout a product’s lifecycle and highlights additional resources and opportunities for growth.

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Acknowledgments

From Brad

It’s never easy writing a book, but doing so with a great partner like David Farkas has made the process both pleasant and seamless. He has been a wonderful partner throughout this endeavor, and this book wouldn’t be in your hands without him.

There are three other people I owe the world to: my loving wife Kim, my son Tristan, and my daughter Payton. I am blessed to have their presence and their support in my life. My wife is truly a superhero for all the support she’s given me during the writing of this book and for shouldering way too many bedtimes solo. My children have been that random distraction and laugh when I needed it the most while bogged down with the latest chapter.

I owe everything to my family, especially my mother and father for showing me the importance of the written word by teaching me the wonders available to me through the act of reading. This debt extends to my in-laws, who have always supported my endeavors and offered guidance when I needed it the most. Also, thank you to my sister and brother, who are always there for me when I need them.

A special note of thanks goes out to Olivia Saldaña for taking time out of her life to help us with this book by producing the lovely illustrations you’ll find throughout, Tom Greever for suggesting that this was a book we could write, and Russ Unger and Dan Willis for showing me how to write a book in the first place without losing my mind.

I am grateful to my many friends and professional peers who’ve provided me with advice and mentorship over the years: Diego Pulido, Eduardo Ortiz, Chris Avore, Jared Spool, Lou Rosenfeld, Christina Wodtke, Lis Huburt, Andrea Mignolo, Andrew Hinton, Carol Righi, Dana Chisnell, and many more who have chatted with me over drinks while sharing ideas and letting my voice be heard. My life would not be where it is without so many great people being part of it. And finally, my career would not be what it is without the help of both Whitney Hess and Jonathan “Yoni” Knoll—these two took a clueless Midwesterner coming to New York City for the first time and introduced me to a world of wonderful people, ideas, and challenges.

From David

First and foremost, I want to thank my parents for supporting me in everything I do and even encouraging me to literally draw on the walls. And many thanks to my grandparents, my brother Ben, sister Lisa, and niece Hannah, for always being there and giving me reason to smile. And of course a special thanks to my coauthor Brad for taking me on this amazing ride with him.

While I’ve had many teachers and mentors over the years, I want to thank four in particular: Jim Hunter and Tom Wyroba, my high school art teachers from New World School of the Arts for taking a chance on me (this book stands in honor of your memory), and Mark Mentzer and Mark Baskinger of Carnegie Mellon University for fostering an environment to ask the right (and wrong) questions.

I wouldn’t have completed this project without the support of my colleagues at EPAM and their willingness to pose for numerous photos. And to everyone else I have collaborated with, from other organizations to the group of knucklehead practitioners across the map that I call my friends, thank you. And thank you to the local PhillyCHI community and the broader community as a whole, who have given me advice and support over the years. This includes, but certainly is not limited to, Eduardo Ortiz, Debra Levin Gelman, Jonathan “Yoni” Knoll, Tracy Kroop, Scott Weidman, Russ Unger, Jamie Thomson, Diego Pulido, Whitney Hess, Jared Spool, Lou Rosenfeld, Chris Avore, Amy Silvers, John Yuda, Ian Smiles, Abby Covert, and Fred Beecher. Lastly, to my friends and family from home, may this book provide some insight as to what it is I actually do for a living.

From Us Both

We must first thank Angela Rufino and Nick Lombardi for inviting us to join the O’Reilly family. Our many thanks to Steve Portigal for the gracious foreword and to Olivia Saldaña for rendering our chicken scratch illustrations beautifully.

For providing an editing eye to our words, thank you to Lis Hubert, Dan Brown, and Adriana De La Cuadra.

To all those who contributed their voice, a huge thank you: Amber Case, Colin MacArthur, Matthew Wakemen, Sara Yachter-Boettcher, Kevin Richardson, Ron Strawbridge, Jeremy Canfield, Emma Lawler, Lis Hubert, Adam Polansky, Kyle Soucy, Bibiana Nunes, Abby Covert, Dan Brown, and Ofer Deshe.

And thanks to those who helped contribute themselves or their work for reproduction in the book: Jamie Thompson, Andy Scott, Eduardo Ortiz, Russ Unger, Josh Soldiers, Jesse Szygiel, Shannon Patrick, Molly Brennan, Kate Carney, Crystal Irvin, Sarah Etter, Kyle Bruley, and Rebecca Deery.

And thank you, our readers, for choosing to spend your time reading our thoughts on research. We hope you enjoy.

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