Strategy and Planning

UX is Everywhere: Confessions of a User Experience Researcher

The Digital Essentials, Part 3
The Digital Essentials, Part 3

Developing a robust digital strategy is both a challenge and an opportunity. Part 3 of the Digital Essentials series explores five of the essential technology-driven experiences customers expect, which you may be missing or not fully utilizing.

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UX Research is not 9-to-5.
It controls you and never leaves you alone. No matter what I am doing or where I am, I analyze stuff. From learning a new app on my phone to walking into a store, I am aware of my experience as a user. The user experience (UX) mantra, “We are not the user,” is important and helps us to not overly rely on our own understanding, but when I am not at work, I am also my own user.
The height of a showerhead, aisle signs in a grocery store. Why Costco moves some things around. Did they talk with users? Have I been watched while I was in the store? Or my favorite fantasy, being stopped while I’m in the store and being asked for my thoughts. That would be a special day for me. I think about everything, I think about thinking.
I am also known to let out an audible “YES!” when I discover something that was done really well. I’m always comparing my skills. Would I have caught the problem I just experienced? Could I have come up with that bit of greatness that just caused me to say “yes”? What could be a next step to what I just experienced?
One of my favorite pet peeves: Newscasters that ask guests multiple questions before giving them a chance to answer. It makes me crazy. I find myself yelling at the TV, “Shut up and give them a chance to answer! If this was a survey question how would I know what question they are answering? How could I possibly code that kind of data?” There might be a good reason to ask multiple questions as a newscaster, but not so much as a UX researcher. Like I said, it makes me crazy.
I’m always running scenarios through my head about how would I pitch a project to a stakeholder. Questions like:

  • How can I find out what’s important to the stakeholder, so I can involve users in helping the stakeholder to make successful decisions?
  • How can I figure out what’s the least amount of research needed?
  • Am I staying impartial with my analysis of the data?
  • How do I stay flexible in my approach to stakeholders?
  • How do I compromise on some of the battles to make sure I stay in the war?

I’m sure the psychological community has a term for my condition.
I’m sure our HR department also has a term for my condition. I trust it’s “passionate-questioning-dedicated” with a sprinkle of “user advocate” for good measure. I’m OK with not knowing everything and excited about learning what I don’t know. I get more excited about being the weakest member of a team than being in the spotlight. I love learning. Every project is like an elementary school field trip. I dive in wide-eyed and excited to experience something new.
Have I put a smile on your face reading this? Has this caused you to take a second look at how you view UX research? Will you view your next trip to the store a little differently? I encourage you to be aware of your own user experiences. Consider seeking out a researcher to help you see things from your users’ perspective. User experience is anything but a 9-to-5 thing.

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