Julia Shalet explains about user research at the Mobile Academy

Last night, I attended another great class at the Mobile Academy. Julia Shalet, Course Director at the Mobile Academy, talked about how one can do user research (and do it well).

Julia started by stressing the importance of choosing the right research method to suit the corroboration of one’s assumptions. She talked about the difference between quantitative and qualitative research methods. This was followed by live sample group discussion which Julia ran.

I’ve seen Julia run these live sessions before, and she’s great at bringing things to life by actually running sample focus groups or short one to one interviews in front of an audience. Based on this live demonstration, people asked questions like “why did you give the rewards first” or mentioned that they liked how Julia started the focus group with an icebreaker. Julia then talked about good practice for running these kinds of group sessions (see Fig. 1 below).

Julia then ran a live usability test with one attendee. Again, it was great to see Julia do a one to one usability session there and then. It was interesting to hear Julia talk about asking user expectations about a specific task before asking them to do the actual task (see Fig. 2 below). She also talked about aiming to have at least 5 users in the same target segment when doing an usability test.

The next topic that Julia covered was the “Net Promoter Score” (‘NPS’). Julia started off by asking attendees to give an anonymous score of how likely they would be to recommend the Mobile Academy course to a friend. She then explained about advocacy and explained the difference between advocacy and being satisfied; satisfied customers are less likely to spread the word about a product or service. Julia outlined how to calculate an NPS score (see Fig. 3 below). An NPS score can be good way to set context (benchmark) and provide businesses with a tangible customer-based measure to strive for.

Julia finished the class by talking about “Tips for Creating Successful Surveys” (see Fig. 4 below). She gave the class a bunch of practical pointers on how to best do surveys. People then asked her questions like “Do you give people a reward?” or “Would you share survey results with respondents?”.

Main learning point: Really liked the practical nature of Julia’s session on user research. It’s make user research sound very complicated and onerous, but Julia succeeded in providing the Mobile Academy class with a lot of practical suggestions and tools to apply.

Fig. 1 – Good practice for group discussions:

  • Create the right environment
  • Don’t mix up target groups in the same session
  • Rewards up front, neutrality and set out what will happen
  • Use introductions to break down barriers
  • Get them talking by engaging all members of the group
  • Active listening: repeat and summarise
  • Never answer a question – bat it other respondents
  • Record, listen back and review for bias

Fig. 2 – Usability: Good Practice

  • Intro: rewards up front, neutrality, set out what will happen & scenario
  • Natural habitat is best
  • Don’t do anything until I ask you to
  • If you find some something difficult it needs improving, it’s not you
  • Watch them and record it
  • What are you testing? List user flows? Function?
  • Structure the questions accordingly
  • If the user has difficulties, record a fail, then prompt
  • Works well in pairs
  • Invite developers to table

Fig. 3 – Calculating NPS – Taken from: https://www.checkmarket.com/2011/06/net-promoter-score/


 Fig. 4 – Tips for Creating Successful Surveys

  • Design it back to the front
  • Less is definitely more
  • Avoid leading questions
  • Avoid making assumptions
  • No jargon / plain English
  • No double barreled questions
  • Think carefully about anonymity
  • Always test out with friends first

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