Good Design for Better Living

In the rapidly dynamic and increasingly self-structured environments, it is clear that traditional user experience research methods will be of limited use, and even then only in the most structured areas of the user experience continuum. As more users move into the more self-structured environments, a new paradigm for user experience research is required to fulfill the promise of richer, usable user experiences.

Research methods that involve direct observation provide more accurate data than methods that rely on users to recall and self-report their behavior. When non-observational research methods like surveys, focus groups and interviews are used to assess the user experience, a variety of factors can affect how accurate participants are in reporting their own behavior:

"Respondents encode and interpret...questions; they place the questions in the context of their general knowledge and their knowledge of the...subject matter; and they gauge the expectations of the interviewer and the social desirability of their answers."

Therefore, assessing user experience through direct observation undoubtedly produces more viable results precisely because it eliminates many of the factors that contribute to the inaccuracy of self-reporting methods. However "You can never accurately measure the usability of a software product. When you drag people into a usability lab to watch their behavior, the very act of watching their behavior makes them behave differently."

The new paradigm must include research methods that allow organizations to capture the experience whenever the user is interacting a given artifact and the interaction is unmoderated and asynchronous with the researcher's schedule - even in the middle of the night, and from any time zone and independent of the delivery channel - cell phone, PDA, laptop, kiosk and any operating system.

UMO2010 features various methods and practices pertaining to Usability Matters across the User Experience continnuum. The methods and practices include structured, semi-structured and unstructured strategies resulting in both quantitative and qualitative study of User Experience.


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