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Over the past couple of years, the concept of triangulation related to end-user research has gained a lot of traction on the interwebs (here's Patrick Kennedy's excellent Johnny Holland article on this exact theme). As it turns out, most of the end-user research I've done on enterprise scale projects over the past 7+ years does fall quite elegantly under this definition, even though I never thought of labeling it that way until recently. My goal for approaching user research in this manner has always been to eliminate bias as much as possible, and use different datasets to justify research findings.
While this post covers my own approach, I won't waste any virtual ink on the theory of user research triangulation, Patrick Kennedy's article referenced above does it more justice than I ever would. Also, my approach is in no way prescriptive, it is simply a three-step research methodology that I personally find particularly useful when it comes to working with samples of large user populations, more often than not scattered across multiple geographical locations. I've settled on this pattern based on a number of trial-and-error attempts to combine various user research methods, in some of the larger projects I've been involved with. In most cases, I was either working in tandem with another UX professional or I was leading an entire UX team.
2010 happens to be the 20th anniversary of Improving a Human-Computer Dialogue, the ACM paper by Jakob Neilsen and Rolf Molich that introduced the concept of employing a list of heuristics when assessing the usability of human-computer interfaces. Four years later, Jakob Nielsen made history again with his famous 1994 heuristics, which are heavily used in usability evaluations even today. In the past decade, additional lists of heuristics related to various aspects of typical UX methodologies have been compiled, yet Nielsen's original list continues to defy the usual laws of longevity that typically constrain the web world. Most likely, this has happened due to the generic nature of the 10 heuristics, which provide largely general statements and consequently, most usability problems can be easily molded to fit the items on Nielsen's list.
Early in my 10 year career as a UX professional, I've used Nielsen's 10 heuristics as the de-facto standard whenever I've performed usability evaluations. As time went by, I gradually went away from Nielsen's original list and I've gradually started employing additional heuristics that are less general and allow to clearly identify modern usability / user experience pitfalls of web-based systems. While the number of heuristics I typically use for an expert heuristics evaluation now stands north of 60 and because I believe that some of them are more relevant than others, I've decided to choose my own top 10 as an homage to Nielsen's timeless original list.
Like most people who have chosen a career path as consultants on large projects, I've spent a lot of time in hotel rooms. Until recently, I shared an outlook on travel, loyalty programs and living on the road with George Clooney's character in 'Up In The Air'. Luckily, my job was a lot more interesting :O)
Spending years living out of a suitcase also meant that every other week, or in some cases every other night, I would sleep in a different hotel room. At the advice of a fellow UX professional, I've decided to write this post about my thoughts on the user experience of these rooms. I'm not an interior designer, so I know nothing about building codes and I will make no reference to Feng Shui. This post is about the business traveller and the little things that can be done to make the hotel stay experience much more enjoyable for people like me.
I typically flew out every week on Monday morning, went straight to work after I landed, put in an full day's work, and then finally made my way exhausted to the hotel. This means that by the time I was about to check it, it was nighttime about 99% of the time. I arrived in front of my hotel room door, keycard in one hand, luggage roller in the other. One of the most frustratings moments when checking into a room is not being able to immediately find the light swich beside the entrance door. I'm not picky in terms of which way the door opens, as long as on the inside of the wall, beside the lock, I can feel the light switch in the dark right away. Having the switch on the opposite side (which means I have to get my luggage inside, close the door, and then keep searching in the dark, is not an option. Neither are multiple light switches unintuitively budled somewhere inside the room, an even worse as it forces me to prop the door open with my luggage so I can find a light switch, any light switch, that I can turn on in order to orient myself through furniture maze of a room layout that I am not yet familiar with.
The April 11 edition of the Ottawa Citizen published a story called PS must embrace Web 2.0 tools citing Clerk of the Privy Council Wayne Wouters’ call for "collaboration, innovation and better use of technology" in the Canadian Public Sector. If anyone bothered to read the (mostly negative) comments of the story, they would realize that such ‘call to arms’ articles simply do not resonate with the Canadian public, especially in difficult economic times for those currently underemployed or unemployed in the private sector.
Is His Clerkiness (my term of endearment for all things Wayne Wouters) right? The answer is 'Absolutely!' (although based on his usage pattern of social media tools to this point my own evaluation would be that His Clerkiness himself still doesn’t have a clue as to what to do and how to engage, but hopefully he’s learning and that is commendable in its own right). But when it comes to the public, I think they are sick of impersonal press releases and newspaper articles that do not bother to do any research or provide relateable information. This type of article and press release may work internally because someone who is essentially the CEO of Federal Government employees pushes down a communication piece to his team, but at the end of the day, this only means a waste of printing paper when it comes to the public at large. I would make the argument that the public would likely respond much more positively to case studies or examples of how web 2.0 and social media tools used within the public sector are directly or indirectly improving the lives of public servants and citizens.
As a private person, I use social media tools (almost) daily. It makes sense for me to do so, mainly from a networking and research point of view. The internet is a huge repository of valuable information and I need social media users to point out the more popular resources that I may be interested in. I also am able to connect with thought leaders in my domain without having to fly to San Francisco, New York and LA and introduce myself during a professional conference. Social media saves me time and money, and it helps expanding my professional network.
First of all, let me start off by saying that I don't really have an idea why I was extended an invitation to attend TEDxCarletonU last night. Now that the event has passed, it somehow feels even harder to justify my presence there. I'm not a decorated authority in my own field, like the presenters. My definition of being a changemaker is most likely restricted to influencing the lives of the people who are in my life. Hell, I don't even know if the expression I used in the title of this post is gramatically accurate in Latin. So no matter which angle I look at this, TEDxCU was not the typical geek gathering that I normally attend. It was not a meetup, tweetup, bootcamp, democamp, book club or UX conference, though elements from all of those types of events surfaced in various instances during the presentations.
The best way (well, the only way) I can describe it is sharing a room with visionaries, people with big dreams and overpowering desires to do something different and make significant contributions their professional field of choice. You can call them creators, innovators, brainiacs, entrepreneurs, changemakers, but the title itself is irrelevant. What matters is the fact that their work has the potential to improve our human condition. A fact so very few of us can claim.
I'm also not going to attempt to describe the presentations from last night or try to prove that I belonged by quoting some of the inspiring ideas that were unveiled. I wouldn't do them justice and the very presence of the speakers was one of the key ingredients to being immersed in those new exciting realms that mesh science, technology, art and social responsibility. What I can promise you is that if and when the video recordings finally surface on the interwebs, I'll make sure to anchor them to this post, in case some of you are interested in a time-delayed virtual experience of the evening's official events.
accessibility branding business canUX community conference design GoC CLF marketplace ottawa privacy project management public sector research security standards TEDx thoughts usability user experience user interface UX tools UXcamp wireframes
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