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…
My name is Leisa Reichelt. I am the Head of User Research at the Government Digital Service in the Cabinet Office.
I lead a team of great researchers who work in agile, multidisciplinary digital teams to help continuously connect the people who design products with the people who will use them and support experimentation and ongoing learning in product design.
If you're interested in working with me or would like to talk more please email me