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Kay Corry Aubrey <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Kay Corry Aubrey <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 7 Mar 2006 22:02:43 -0500
text/plain (156 lines)
Thanks to the folks who offered very thoughtful responses to my Feb 23
posting. What follows is a summary of the messages I received. 
Hi - 

I have a follow on question from the posting Anuj made today. The company I
currently work for is considering expanding the user research role within
our group. We are in the process of building the infrastructure to increase
our remote and in-person user research(e.g., creating a large,
differentiated, and current database of potential participants). 

I am wondering if people on this list have set up formal user research
programs within their companies. If so, can you offer some practical advice
on areas to include or how you expanded this function?

Currently, we run usability studies, surveys, card sorts etc online, in
person, and over the phone. I am trying to think of ways to make research
even more valuable to my organization. Certainly having info to support
design decisions at your fingertips would be hugely valuable (i.e., indexing

I'll summarize people's responses and post them to the list.  Thanks!

Kay Aubrey
When I was hired at Texas Instruments as an info architect, I took time over
the next two years to convince the web team that market research was not the
same thing as formal user research.  It was a slow process. But among the
things I did were:
1. Create a table of all kinds of research (including ethnographic and
qualitative research) that could be used in conjunction with projects.  I
actually outlined many different forms of research and explained where they
were most effective in the project process, approx. costs, advantages and
disadvantages, etc.  I also included approx. time to conduct, number of
people who should be involved and anything else I could think of.
2. Then I created a training session for the project managers, so that they
could understand the benefit (and ROI) of the various methods.
3. I created a user research team that included our team lead, a couple of
other IAs and one business analyst who worked with the tech team.
4. Then we (as a team) looked at different kinds of research that would
benefit the entire organization -- including satisfaction measures, and
tools that could measure what they came to do on the site and their success.
We looked and tried a number of different tools over the time that I was
Getting managers and project sponsors to buy-in tool a while -- as did
getting the project estimators to include funding for research when the
projects were being considered.
By the time I left, it was a heck of a lot better than when I had started,
but they still had a long way to go.
Make sure that you have an executive champion... it is probably the most
important piece of this. Without that support, the going is slow and
Good luck,
Elisa Miller
[log in to unmask]
Glad to see your post.  I'm for any methods applied to the madness of UI
This is a reference to an old report but a good one.  Check it out.
Pernice, K. and Butler, M.B.  Database support for usability testing. 
Interactions, Jan., 1995, 27-31.
Pernice and Butler (1995) described a good example of how this information 
might be stored electronically.   They reported on a Lotus Notes' database 
for sharing usability test information among project teams.  The database 
stores usability test reports, bitmaps of past designs, videotape 
narratives, task scenarios and user profiles for test participants.  A 
system like this will surely increase the efficiency of a usability effort.
Arlene F Aucella, PhD
AFA Design Consultants
49 Railroad Ave. #2054
S Hamilton, MA 01982
978 468 6221
978 468 4328 fax
Ideas like customer visits, focus groups, web conferences, and interviews
are very valuable tools that aren't used as much as they should be. From
what I have seen, usability testing is used a lot, everything else is hardly
used at all.
I understand your issues with stressed out users, and ones who don't have
much time. You are right, its not easy.
But we were able to get time with both primary care doctors, emergency care
doctors, and radiologists, to do customer visits.
These are also highly stressed individuals. One of the keys was our promise
to share with them what we learned from others, and our desire to create
something that might make their lives better.
Just some thoughts. Good luck!
[log in to unmask]
Vision & Logic

This was a few years ago,  but my company had a group of senior UX
consultants dedicated to user research. We adopted a streamlined version of
Holtzblatt and Beyer's Contextual Design methodology. If you aren't familiar
with it, check out their book of the same name, or visit their company
website: InContext. The good thing is that it is very thorough and based on
solid usability practices, plus you get specific deliverables out of it that
any client could understand. However, we seldom got the chance to "do it
right," mostly due to compressed timeframes and constrained resources.
Still, it was very useful and I'd highly recommend attending one of the
training sessions they offer. 

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