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how do you analyse your user research data?

Affinity diagram?

Of course I’ve just finished a week of asking users lots of interesting questions and getting a vast amount of even more interesting information in response. On this particular project we asked quite a few people (15) lots of questions over quite a broad spread of topics. So, now I’m trying to work out what I’ve learned.Over the years, I’ve used a range of different methods for analysing data. The ‘simplest’ yet least able to be reproduced/backed up is a combination of memory and gut feel (not recommended), then there are a range of more or less physical tools from Excel Spreadsheets, to Post It Notes (which seem to be in vogue at the moment), to Mind Mapping (my current pet approach).

I like Mind Mapping because I think it’s a fairly efficient way to push the data around into sensible groups and to also keep the ‘authentic’ user voice in the mix for as long as possible. I tend to type quite a bit (especially the really interesting parts) verbatim, and I like that even though the users have started to meld together in my analysis, their voices are still there – it is quite powerful in taking me back to the conversation we were having and the context in which their statement was made… something that I think can get lost in other methods.

Mind Mapping is also a lot more space efficient! Where I’m working now (more about that soon), Affinity Diagrams using vast quantities of all different coloured PostIt Notes are very popular… to the extent that wall space is at an absolute premium :)

This is a method that I’ve really enjoyed using in the past. In particular, I think it’s a strong method to use when you are working as part of a team doing the data analysis (whether that ‘team’ is you + colleagues or you + client… both useful). Mind Maps do tend to fall down in a screaming heap where you’ve got more than one person doing the analysis.

Interestingly, the IA Wiki (where I liked to for a definition of Affinity Diagrams above), includes both Post It notes and a Team as pre-requisites for doing an Affinity Diagram… I’m not expert in terminology, but that’s not my interpretation. Anyways, that’s a tangent. (I think!)

I wouldn’t call myself a MindManagerPro power user, but I can see that there are opportunities to further streamline my process (perhaps) through integration with Excel (where I capture my raw user data) and Visio (where the design solutions are ultimately outputted). I need to explore this integration with MS Office some more (unless someone out there has and can tell me what’s worth exploring and what’s not!)

Another thing that I really like about MindMaps is that they allow you to spend quite a bit of time ‘working on’ the data and starting to make some meaningful and interesting conclusions, which you can then bring to your client, and you’re then able to really focus their minds on what problems need to be worked through, workshopped and resolved – but with all the data to hand, and organised, and illustrating/illuminating the points that you’re discussing in your workshop.

Of course, my choice of tools is also heavily influenced by the fact that I tend to do a lot more qualitative style research then quantitative (I’ve never been one for maths) – so statistical applications and graphs I approach with caution and generally a fair amount of resistance… :)

I’d be really interested to hear about what techniques you like to use for data analysis and why you use them. Or others that you’d like to try that you haven’t yet…

Come on then, share with the people :)

PhotoCredit: RR and Camera @ Flickr

on learning a new input device…

so, many thanks to Rachel, I’ve got my borrowed Wacom tablet all installed. Now I am spoiled for choice with ways that I can make my computer work – keyboard, trackpad, mouse, wacom/pen – it’s definitely overkill, but I love it!

I use a Wacom tablet as though I’m lefthanded at the moment – l’m trying to teach myself to use Denim, which I’ve mentioned before, as I think it might be a fun design/prototype tool.

It’s a whole new method of interaction and there is much to learn… as much as I’m trying to learn the software, I’m also trying to capture the experience of learning a new input method.

It’s only because I’m so committed to making Denim work that I’ve put in the effort to date. If I had less incentive I probably would have thrown the tablet away in disgust … I’ve been trying to apply the mental model of mouse usage to the pen – consequently all kinds of bizarre things happen as I’m compelled to hold the button down (thinking that it won’t do anything until I ‘activate it’.

Since then I’ve had a few ‘ah ha!’ moments as my brain *slowly* gets into tune with the pen and tablet model, and I’m almost able to make it do what I want it to now.

I’ll let you know how I get on with Denim soon!

Storytelling requirements (and why most focus groups are a waste of time)

So, Malcolm Gladwell got me thinking about focus groups the other day. Actually, he got me thinking about the characteristics of groups and the way that people perform when in front of their peers, as well as perfect strangers.Malcolm was kind of talking about his recent article in the New Yorker, and gave this overview of a ‘taxonomy of reason-giving’:

[Tilly says] … We employ four kinds of explanations, he says: conventions (social formulae), stories (common sense narratives), codes (legal formulae) and technical accounts (specialized stories). And we get into trouble when we use one kind of reason in a context where another is necessary….

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mobile: user interface design – the great frontier

Paper Prototype Testing for Mobile

I was reading a great post by Russell Beattie recently on handheld stylesheets and the great implementation that Opera have launched on their community portal recently. It took me back to my (not so distant) days finishing up my Masters degree with our digital project. As you may guess, my group did a mobile project.

It was a great little project and it really allowed those of us who’d been working in web for so many years to apply our skills to a different platform and develop some really interesting learnings. For me, I was pretty amazed by what we found with regards to Information Architecture and Interaction Design.

Being a university project, of course there was a lot more research involved than you’d usually have the budget of the time to do for a commercial build. This allowed time for me to definitively show that there were very, very few ID conventions when it comes to interface design for mobile web content.

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