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UX Bites #1 ‘Getting UX research right’ – Video and Q+A

UX Bites #1 ‘Getting UX research right’ – Video and Q+A

On 20.05.2020 we ran the first lunchtime webinar in our UX Bites series, beginning with ‘Getting UX research right’. You can watch the full recording of Webinar #1 below or by visiting our YouTube channel, where you’ll find some more of our talks and insights about UX and service design.

Getting UX research right

In Webinar #1 we explored the importance of UX research in the design process, covering the research landscape available, through to the most effective research methods for the right problems to be solved.


Some great questions were sent in from among the 75 people who attended. We’ve published the questions below along with answers from our hosts: Fathom CEO Gareth Dunlop and UX Researcher Emma McCauley.

Q1. I want to know more about my customers’ behaviours. Where would you advise I start?

A1. All good research seeks to answer questions, so you need to start by asking good questions and being crystal clear on what you want to learn. As we discussed on the webinar, we feel Christian Rohrer’s research landscape offers an excellent model to map what a researcher wishes to learn to the research methods most suitable to learning it.

So if your interest lies specifically in behavioural understanding, everything above the horizontal access is observational and thus researches behaviour. Common techniques are:

  • Analytics
  • A/B and multivariant testing
  • Usability testing
  • Field studies
  • Contextual enquiry
  • Eye–tracking

Q2. How do I convince my boss that we need to invest in customer attitudes and behaviour research? She thinks she knows what customers want because she talks to them a lot. Should we just go with her insights?

A2. We lecture and consult all over Europe and when we are delivering training, the most common question we get asked across ten countries is “how can I enthuse my boss about the importance of UX, research and evidence–based design”. It comes up so regularly we blogged about it last year, with the key recommendations in the blog being:

  • Speak their language
  • Highlight the impact of bad experience
  • Excite them about the possibility of good experience
  • Understand and embrace your role (the science of influence)
  • Play the long game

Q3. How do you deal with a client with bias? As in: they will not budge on their opinion for the better of the product.

A3. I’ve been involved in agencies for over 20 years and I am still a long way from getting this right every time. In a spirit of humility, I would offer up some dos and don’ts:

  • DON’T get into an opinion vs opinion face off – no one wins
  • DO get the user’s voice into the discussion – not yours
  • DON’T assume that you are right and they are wrong – you are likely to be carrying your own biases
  • DO try to show first–hand user feedback – using artefacts such as interview transcripts, audio and video
  • DON’T use hackneyed designer phrases – e.g. “best practise”, “mobile first” and “low–hanging fruit” are bland, unhelpful and dreadfully misused
  • DO lean on data – we didn’t get a chance to speak about the role of data during the webinar, but ultimately data tells you if a design decision is right or wrong

Q4. Hi, as a graduating designer, sometimes I find that getting so involved and invested in research can block a feeling of creativity to design. It’s hard to raise your head as such. Any thoughts on this? Very valuable talk so thank you.

A4. This is only a personal view but I actually think that constraints bring out the best in design. They make designers really work hard and they force us to design for the real world. The history of bad design is the history of designs which looked beautiful in the boardroom but were completely ineffectual in the real world. Think about how architects embrace the constraints under which they work:

  • The laws of physics
  • The materials that are available to them
  • Local planning regulation
  • Environmental considerations
  • How the building will be used by those in it
  • Where the sun rises and sets relative to the building
  • They wrap all of their decisions to do with form, texture, structure, light and shape around these constraints.
  • Design without research and the direction it provides isn’t design. You might kindly call it art, but more realistically call it self–aggrandisement.

(Conor thanks for the kind feedback on the webinar.)

Q5. The pandemic is changing how we work and what we seek. What do you advise a business does if we find that user needs have changed? Do you optimise for the shrinking market or change market? Or both?

A5. I think you can and should do both. There will be trade–offs around use of executive time, and competing priorities balancing the current vs the future. I don’t pretend that this is easy, but then optimising for today while investing in an unknown future is at the heart of what leadership is.

Q6. How would you identify that you are experiencing bias?

A6. The starting point is that we are all biased all the time from our heads to our toes.  This isn’t a bad thing – bias exists because the world is too big, noisy and complex for us to know everything we need to know to make decisions. So, we take short cuts. However, in the context of a design process, or a software or digital project, there are some tell–tale signs:

  • The project team stops talking about the data
  • The project team stops talking about customer insights
  • Interminable discussion about aesthetic and functional preferences
  • An unhealthy fixation with the actions of a close competitor
  • An unhealthy desire to mimic the actions of a close competitor
  • Senior project members sweep in for the interesting aspects of the project and sweep back out for the critically important heavy–lifting yet mundane aspects

Q7. As a student, what is the best way for me to practise, demonstrate and find as much benefit as possible from user research as someone who is studying UX/UI design (specialising on the UI side of the discipline)? I feel like I don’t have access to the types of data resources we’ve explored today. I’m a Graphic Designer transitioning over to UX and hoping that once I’m on a UX team it will be part of our workflow. Thanks for the awesome webinar today!!

A7. If the webinar has lit a fire then brilliant – and keep learning.

The seminal books which influence this include Norman’s “Design of everyday things” and Krug’s “Don’t make me think”. I find Gothelf’s “Lean UX” really useful as it explores how UX can be introduced pragmatically and efficiently in both start–up and established business.

As well as running fortnightly webinars, Fathom runs a two–day UX Foundation course twice a year in Belfast so keep an eye out for that later in the year. We hope to run it again in the autumn. And our friends and partner at the UX Design Institute offer an online Diploma if you want to dive a bit deeper.

But whatever you do, get started!

(Thanks for the kind feedback on the webinar Victoria.)

Find us on YouTube

You can watch more of our webinars and talks about UX and service design on our YouTube channel.

By Andy Robinson

Andy was a UX Researcher with Fathom until July 2021, when he moved on to take up a role at Rapid7.

View more insights by Andy

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