IA Summit 11: Rethinking User Research for the Social Web

After lunch on the first day of the main conference I went to a great presentation by Dana Chisnell that challenged the status quo of user research based on the social nature of people entitled Rethinking User Research for the Social Web

My Notes

  • When running a test on retirement planning the participant burst out in tears, exclaiming that she needed her dad’s help, and she would never normally try to do this without him, especially now that her mother has passed.  This indicated, that outside of the constraints of the testing parameters, this participant would have realistically approached the task differently, and with a social aspect.
  • Classical testing models are old and out dated and do not account for this new social model.
    • Results aren’t viable because they aren’t authentic.
    • We are not good at getting unplanned answers.
    • We aren’t testing in the proper contexts
    • The setup doesn’t accurately mimic reality
  • How are we to test authentically?
  • We need to realize and take into consideration five important things:
    • The nature of being online is social
    • Scale is a game-changer
    • Tasks aren’t what you think – people do activities.
    • Satisfaction is correlated with task completion – but what is “task completion”  in a social realm
      • what would task completion be on facebook?
    • Users continuously redesign the way they use the UI in real-time based on their needs in that moment.
      • Designs need to adapt to these needs.
  • Social is : Context and Relationships
    • How do you text context and relationships?
  • One idea is to look to other fields, for example
    • Review online profiles of participants with them
    • Stories of how they met and why they choose their contacts
    • Multi-user sessions with participant’s friends
    • Video diaries with retrospectives
    • Experience samplings via SMS queries and random questions.
  • However, the above ideas are hard, time consuming, required deep thinking, are not proven, and require additional prep and research.
  • So, how do you get answers for information when you don’t know the questions you need to ask.
    • It’s time to re-think user research for the social web.