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

links for 11 August 2006

who moved my @ key?

UK Keyboard
I’m making more typos than ever these days, and this is what I’m blaming – UK keyboards. They’re driving me mad.
It wasn’t that long ago I started trying to make myself become proficient with a Wacom tablet. At first, I felt like I had the motor skills of a very young (pre-Playstation) child and struggled to bend it to my will. It didn’t take long, maybe a few hours, and I had it pretty much under control. (Although, my ‘double clicks’ are still pretty haphazard, and I’m not always 100% sure how to activate the ‘right click’).
I’ve been in the UK over a month now and using their crazy keyboards for most of that time, and for the life of me I still forget that the @ symbol is not above the number 2 (where it belongs!), but moved right across and down the keyboard where the double quote (“) should be. And where is the double quote? On above the 2.
Why oh why?
Now, I know, there is an extra ‘important’ symbol that needs to be fitted into the UK version of the keyboard – the Pound (£), of course. From my initial observations… there doesn’t really seem to be much other excuse for the ABSOLUTE WHOLESALE REDESIGN of the arrangement of the symbols on the keyboard.
Perhaps someone can explain to me what this symbol is: ¬ and why it is so important that it scores the top LH key, replacing the much more useful (IMHO) ~ symbol which is, funnily enough, now moved down near the @ (eh. I made three mistakes trying to type that symbol just now and I’m writing about how annoyingly hard it is to find… that’s not funny).
Did whoever is responsible for this design have some belief that the spot down near the LHS shift key is a more ergonomic place for frequently used symbols, perhaps? Why else would the @ and ” be swapped around like that? (and @ is, I assume, a relatively recent addition to the keyboard, so it can’t have happened all that long ago, could it?)
Not to mention the # key. Now, at least it has the excuse of being replaced by the £ symbol which seems somewhat inexcusable, but according to the source of the image above, whoever designed UK keyboards for Macs dispensed with the poor old hash key altogether! Now, that’s utter madness. Surely the # symbol is one of the more useful symbols on the keyboard (especially in these wiki editing days!). I certainly use it more than, say the ^ or {} or definitely ¬ keys!
Ironically, it was just the other day when I sat in on a discussion about the QWERTY keyboard and it’s design flaws and historical legacy. Eh. I’m quite happy with QWERTY I have to say… I can’t really think much faster than I can type at the moment anyways… but is there any chance we might all have one QWERTY keyboard… or am I being overly demanding? (and Anglo-centric?)