Lately I find myself on a mission for mass simplification. Possibly over simplification, but I’m not sure it matters.
It’s one of the things I care most about at the moment – how can we simplify what we are asking people to do so that there is nothing else they can do but start doing it, instead of following their natural inclination to make a list, hire a consultant, write a white paper, do anything but doing the thing.
It requires that I stop saying (or even thinking) one of the things I have probably said most in my entire working life – ‘it depends’. That’s hard, but I think it’s the right thing to do.
It depends is paralysing.
It is a stop sign. It tells people they can’t do anything yet. That it is complicated.
And it presents things as complicated at a time when the person asking the question usually doesn’t have the capability to understand they subtleties you are trying to explain.
Of course, most things are complex and it usually does depend (on context), but knowing what to do in the face of all of that is less important than just doing something now. Ideally something that gets you on the right track to having the ability to ask more nuanced questions, to have a more sophisticated understanding of the thing you’re doing and the context you’re doing it in.
What does this mean? For me, at the moment, this means trying to create a massively simplified message for teams across government about how they should start doing user research.
Lots of different teams, different projects, different audiences – a whole world of it depends.
Forget all of that. What’s something massively simple that all of them can start doing right now.
Here’s an idea.
- Start doing some research in every iteration (we’re all doing agile)
- Start by getting 5 or 6 people in a lab, give them the thing you’re making and a task and watch them use it. Talk to them about what they find difficult. Maybe also ask them about how they use the internet in real life, what kind of interaction they’ve had with government before. Don’t explain your thing.
- Get as many of your team as you can to observe (hence the lab). Aim for 2 hours every 6 weeks for everyone as a minimum.
- Capture what you hear and see on post it notes. Do affinity sorting to analyse research. Write down what you learned (your insights) and what you’re going to do about it. Do those things, come back and do the same in two weeks.
Now lets all start saying this to everyone, every chance we get.
It won’t be the best thing for every project to be doing all the time, but it is way better than doing nothing.
As soon as you start doing this, you will start to learn about different and better things that you can do (if for no other reason than because you’ll need a user researcher to do this and they can tell you. Before you start this, you probably won’t have that person).
Now we just need to do this for all the things…
Related: I watched this video from the ever grumpy but rather clever Russell Davies the other day. He’s scaring the pants of people who are studying to become Planners in the advertising industry and telling them that the best strategy is not the most creative one but the one that actually gets anyone to actually do something.
There’s an interesting section on the value (or not) of research as well.