User Research London 2018 – a whirlwind round up
We were delighted to go along to the second User Research London conference this week. The first conference in 2017 was small, but it sparked an interest and this year it has grown. Researchers love to research, and that includes learning about how others are doing it and thinking about it. So this conference saw many more come together to listen, watch, talk and learn.
The day offered a mix of longer and shorter talks from speakers from around the world, from huge organisations and tiny consultancies. A common thread that came up again and again was deliverables. Not just what we deliver, but how we deliver it and how we shape our research to deliver it in order that we make the most impact we can from our research work.
What we should deliver was answered concisely by Tom Ablewhite from Foolproof. He gave us a checklist of assets liked and valued by different audiences – product managers, designers, developers and reminded us we should shape our message to the audience. To do this, we need to understand not just who they are but work harder at understanding them and how best to bring the message to them.
Laurissa Wolfman-Hvass from Mailchimp zeroed in on the value of research: “Research provides insight that reduces uncertainty and empowers people to make better, more informed decisions”. But it’s up to us to ensure that we communicate this well, so it can both empower people and help those informed decisions. She gave us permission to think about learning about our audience using the skills we already have and apply when we go about learning about users. Develop empathy, observe, ask good questions, notice what is important to them and what stresses them so you can help them with your answers from research. An alternative approach came from Cyd Harrell who talked about metaphor for analysis but also using it to communicate research insights to help it resonate better with our audience.
As researchers and as businesses we all want to see the impact of our work and understand how it has added value. Christina Li and Dr Tim Dixon both addressed impact in their talks. Christina drew on her long career in Government digital services to argue that we should become more comfortable with mixing qual and quant together to both improve the outputs, and to measure impact of our research and ensuing designs. Flipping around the norm, she says that quant enriches the qual. In Tim Dixon’s short talk he have an intriguing introduction to the Digital Impact Framework that Nomensa are building to shape research and measure the impact. The framework gives us a structure to measure impact externally through social and economic metrics and internally to the organisation through process and innovation metrics.
Our work is not over when we deliver the research. As researchers we want to see changes made and user experiences improved. Ana Roji talked about transforming our typical research outputs into different forms to provide tangible assets that people can revisit and reuse to keep them engaged. In her talk, she shared the story of creating cards containing insights and case studies to inform people and opportunities and activities to inspire them to take action and make changes.
On this topic, Paul Andre of Facebook took a step back. He talked about expanding ourselves as researchers – not just learning more methodologies and tools – but developing our knowledge and thinking about the world so we can create a compelling vision of the future to empower and engage stakeholders to make changes.
The day wrapped up with the wonderful Meena Kothandaraman of Boston consultancy Twig+fish. Meena told us it’s our job to socialise the research, to get non-researchers engaged so they can become better consumers, and contributors to research. She shared the Ncredible framework they use for planning and shaping a research project and how it can be used to engage and communicate better with non-researchers through making research processes more transparent.
The day finished with Meena calling us to action to stand up and repeat the researchers vow. It was a great end to a great day.