Thursday, 2 February 2017

Creative innovation and entrepreneurialism, working with the BBC, Session 2.

Thinking and reflections on notes taken at the BBC, creative innovation and entrepreneurialism Lecture, Wednesday 2nd February:
This part of the talk provided an overview of the design research and reflective practice together with user experience and design methods conducted by the BBC.
The conference was given by:
 Kelly Lothbrook-Smith, Senior Design Research Consultant;
together with Tina Connolly, Senior UX Designer, CBeebies;
and also Laura Fletcher, UX Designer, BBC content discovery.

Kelly started the lecture by explaining that the "user experience" (UX) is a very overused phrase within contemporary media which just about means anything you want it to be regarding how people perceive things!

Kelly's background is in psychology, having studied the subject through university and as a therapeutic practitioner. She was then invited to join the BBC to assist them particularly with design research on the BBC iPlayer.

The first task but we undertook was a little icebreaker where collectively we were asked to record each of the presenters and their interaction with how they engaged in the simple act of eating yoghurt. This was to (or “intending to”) potentially redesigning the packaging of this product, and to try and articulate how the product taste is better than anything else on the market. From a consumer's point of view, this would include recognising, choosing, buying and consuming this "revolutionary taste experience".

Kelly's explanation of marketing reminded me of a story that I have heard before and the idea that "when it is not yours, don't say that your baby is ugly". In other words, Kelly was touching on the idea of Confirmation Bias. This is a direct link to the psychological concept that there is a tendency to favour information that confirms an individual's belief and hypotheses.

Therefore, it is essential that whenever we are conducting research, it is of particular importance that unedited research results are fully presented. We need to ensure that we never inadvertently inject our confirmation bias into research results.
A phrase that is often used is

"design like you are right…
                           But test it like you're wrong."

Use research as inspiration!
A useful meta name or abbreviation when approaching research might be considered as "what is the P.O.I.N.T.!"
Problem:         is defined as a problem with the current approach and what it is you're looking to investigate.
Opportunity:  how can we change our approach by using appropriate research?
Insight:          what we know already, how do people behave normally?
Needs:           what are the specific requirements of the research? What are our intended outcomes?
Themes:        through which themes can we engage with the general public or the target audience to carry out our research?
[We then conducted the yoghurt test, where each of the conference speakers individually went through the procedure of selecting a yoghurt, peeling back the lid in various ways, and then eating the contents. This was completed with different ways in which to dispose of the packaging.]

Part one: Research Fundamentals.

1) what do people need?
2) what people want?
(If we think of these as desirables.)
3) can they use the things that we give to them? Furthermore can we "delight" our users, without overwhelming them?
We can conduct research of user experience (UX) usually through the following interventions;
  • User interviews
  • focus groups
  • ethnographic studies
  • diary studies
  • email surveys
  • competitor analysis.
Also, there are further research models that we may choose to use, such as;
UX blueprint diagram; journey mapping; user stories; personas;
analytics review; expert reviews; web surveys; system user acceptance et cetera et cetera.
Research is always useful, but it must always be balanced against:
cost: time; the stage of the project; user availability; the questions that you are asking!
There is a theory by the NN group that suggests that you only need to use five people to test the product to get approximately 85% of the expected failures and answers. If one was to draw a graph of user problems found: versus number of test users, the optimum number of test subjects at 85% can be shown as follows;
See the website HTTP://
Active research is valid only when
  • you are asking the right questions
  • you employ active listening
  • you engage with efficient problem-solving
It is simply wrong to test ideas in silos: however, it is imperative to contextualise things. Beware of Digging into a Rabbit Hole.

Part two: Listening!

One of the fundamental qualities of effective research requires the researcher to be an active listener. Questions, right questions are what is important.
We listen to some examples of radio interviews; some are good, and some are bad! The good ones tend to employ the following steps;
Step one) establish rapport; get down/get up to the respondents level. Talking a secure manner and make the interviewee at ease.
Step two) Ask reasonable questions that are open! Use Rudyard Kipling's classic aide memoir, I had six honest serving men they taught me all I knew, they are what and how and where and when and then finally why and who.
Step three) allow the respondent to go off on tangents and talk about what they want to talk about, but gently give them time to answer.
Step four) steer the conversation back from any tangents they may wander down, steer them through the context as a guide, but do not force answers.
Step five) everything is useful. Record what the respondents have said and how they say it. These sometimes have insights into what the respondents might be thinking, even though, at first, some statements might be confusing.
Step five) be interested in listening. Lean forward and make eye contact. Nod your head regularly, try to mirror the respondent's mood and body language as appropriate. Overall you're trying to convey a sense of warmth and engaged interest.
Step six) replay some of the sentences the respondent has given, this helps with mutual understanding and shows that you are listening. Qualify and ask for further meaning if there is an unusual word that may be used. In this case, only ask "what do you mean by that word XYZ". It is important to ask these questions with a sense of warmth, gentle enquiry. Do not intimidate the respondent by exclaiming "what do you mean by that" on its own, as this can be misconstrued. Ask specifics.
Leading questions that are closed (that is issues that usually have an answer of yes or no) are extremely dangerous as they not only close down respondent if asked to quickly they become intimidating. The interviewee is likely then to give answers that they think you as a questioner wants to hear, rather than their true feelings or desires et cetera.
Keep questions open.
And finally make sure that the languages appropriate to the respondent, regarding intellectual capability, age groups, context, and avoid eccentric or esoteric questioning that might be difficult to understand.

Active listening;
shut out distractions, pay undivided attention, lean forward and observe the respondent body language.
Start with open questions, such as; "tell me about…" Or perhaps "could you explain a little bit about…"
Provide effective prompting; especially when the respondent is stuck for words

  • Flow-explain introductions, warm-up, context. A logical order of themes. And on a positive note.
  • Depth-include key prompts and probing questions at the appropriate time.
  • Layout-keep the conversation uncluttered, well spaced, and for written enquiries, make it understandable at a glance.
  • Focus-ensure that the key research objectives are covered.
Make sure you have a plan!

Guerrilla Testing: this is a phrase that is becoming more popular, and relates to direct approaches to people when you find them within their natural habitat.
Get into the user's domain, a cafe or the street; into their office's, garages and workplace if it's permitted. Another useful place to find respondents is in areas where they are waiting and don't have much to do, such as stations, bus stations, clubs, queues for events and so on.
Catch people when they're killing time.
It works well when you work in pairs together.
Always give the respondents and incentivisation as a thank you, something simple such as a bar of chocolate or sweetie: but never use this as a bribe to influence.
Guerrilla testing is a good way to get "quick data".

Lab Testing: - this is testing in a controlled environment.
-The best way to achieve "lab" interaction is through the use of multiple cameras, with facilitated prompts. It is necessary to observe respondents in great detail, seeing their manner of address, body language and overall movement: et cetera. Watch their every pause, every utterance. With the proper reflective analysis, a whole brain dump of ideas can come from this work.
Learning should be then applied to future lab tests. Any sessions of lab testing should then include iterations of what has been learned from previous meetings. The objective here is to keep improving the quality of the research.
However in lab environments exercise caution, particularly be on the lookout for "double negatives" or "double positives" which can blind your results. These are often seen when interviews are being conducted where there are additional people, superfluous to the exercise within the room. The respondent is psychologically influenced by what they perceive those other people might want to hear.

Remote Testing: - This is dependent on the technology that is available to you and is often a way of helping a researcher find "the journey" that the user might have when interacting, especially with a piece of software.

There are many models of remote testing that are available on the open market to the researcher such as for example:
  • Userzoom. 
  • Optimal Workshop: 
  • loop 11: 
  • user 
  • WhatUsersDo
One of the latest forms of research for visual feedback is a method known as "Eye Tracking" which is a new type of analysis in which users can be critically observed.

Top tips:

Always remember that research is not a test! Any answers are right! There is no right or wrong answer from a respondent.
Silence is golden! Listen to the Focus!
Avoid all bad language! Equally, don't mirror or replay bad words!
Plan! Make a structure.

Good intentions:
  1. Avoid recruiting experts. There will just only tell you a narrow band of answers.
  2. Test small, test early, test often.
  3. focus on what needs fixing (or what needs refining)!
  4. Rotate the order of tasks and questions. This keeps people fresh and stops the effect of priming.
  5. Your prototype's fidelity is what matters, but it is not critical. When creating a prototype, it does not need to be perfect. Anything can be a prototype, providing that it just needs to be representative. It is a model.
    Prototypes can be remade, readjusted and re-formed. Get as much "representation" as possible into a prototype, rather than just features. When using whiteboards or display walls, use colour coded sticky notes to help navigate.
  6. Isolation; be aware that the presence of other people can influence the outcome, even if they don't speak or give answers at the time. People sometimes give answers because they think they "should" choose appropriate solutions, based on social hierarchy and other influences when in the presence of other people.
  7. Never take notes on what people are saying, but take notes on what they are doing!
Where to next?
Note taking: cover key themes and research objectives.
Why does one observe? What people say and do are very often different. Observations actually see what happens in reality, rather than relying on self-description, which is often biased (remember confirmation bias?).
  • Analysis: there is no magic or science in research.
  • Organise your findings and issues into key themes or further research questions to answer.
  • Take
  • Include background details, methods employed and so on.
  • Provide coding: create verbal tags; metadata tags to group research together.
  • Create themes: use the metadata tags of coded data to develop ideas.
  • Theorise: -build a hypothesis to take forward for further work so that new ideas can come out from your research.

And finally…
Always remember accessibility and colour blindness. Always consider the disability discrimination act in your activities, but also bear in mind that there are other motor based limitations, that are sometimes hard to qualify and quantify. For example, consider mums with babies! Invariably they only have one hand free to facilitate tasks if they are carrying a baby!

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