Note: I’m going to polish this later, but wanted to get the basics down quickly.
We know that we should do user research for projects. All the user-centred design material says so, we talk about it at conferences, we put it in proposals. We just know that it is a good thing to do.
But when I talk to people about their actual projects, I find that very few people actually do user research. There are many many reasons (no time, no money, already know what users need etc etc etc).
I think that part of the reason it doesn’t happen is also that we don’t have good tools to tell us just how much research to do, and even when it isn’t necessary at all to do research.
In preparing for my Edge of the Web talk, I spent time thinking about that issue, reflecting on some of the projects I’ve worked on in the past and thinking about the factors that led me to push to do research, or to go ahead without.
The factors I came up with are:
- Importance to the business: Just how important is the project/application in meeting organisational/business goals?
- Importance to users: What will happen to users if you mess up. Will they be harmed, or will they just go elsewhere?
- $$: How much is the project going to cost? (i.e. how much will be wasted if you mess up)
- Profile/politics: What sort of profile does your project have? Is there a political implication? (e.g. is the Minister going to get hauled up in Parliament if you mess up. Will your work reflect badly on your industry?)
- Convincing others: How much work will you need to do to convince other people that your ideas are good?
- Existing knowledge: How much (real) knowledge do you have about your users?
- Ability to iterate: Can you make changes quickly if you make a mistake, or is it a one-shot deal?
- Feedback: How easy is it to collect feedback from your users?
Given each of these is a continuum, we can do this:
And then we can think about our projects, and plot where we fall on the dimensions…
Example 1: A personal blog
Example 2: A conference website
Example 3: An e-commerce shopping cart
Example 4: An enterprise-wide core business application