An Introduction to User Interface Design

User Interface Research 01

Over the past few weeks I have been given a bit of a crash course in UI/UX research. The product required qualitative testing, but before we could jump into usability it was necessary to learn the principles of Lean UI, in order to know why this was necessary.

As it was explained to me, Lean UI is an iterative process based on a cycle of build - measure - learn. The initial product that is built should be a minimum viable product (MVP), a product that consists of nothing more than what it requires to be deployed, that can be tested to measure user behaviour that will reveal usability issues which can be learned from and subsequently applied in the next building stage.

In the testing, or measure, phase it is important to approach usability through ‘why’ questions. Why are users ignoring a certain function, why is one form of onboarding more successful than another, etc. These questions will set the framework for the kinds of tasks and exercises your testers will be carrying out.

As it turns out, my background in social anthropology is quite relevant for qualitative usability testing. Ethnographic interviews involve the same need for carefully formulated questions that have a specific ‘why’ in mind, but refrain from leading informants to what might be a desired response. Keeping this in mind I applied a basic ethnographic strategy to the questions I asked while users were performing tasks, that being, address your ‘why’ by asking the informant a ‘how’. For example, asking someone ‘why does this functionality matter to you’ implies that it should, in some way, matter, but asking ‘how much does this functionality matter to you’ makes for a more open ended question whose response can vary from not at all to very much, all the while leaving room for a ‘why’ explanation.

A team of three of us carried out the first stage of testing over the last two weeks. Diana, our community manager, Safwan, another intern, and myself started out by trying out a number of testing tools, and fine tuning our own methodology. Our first set of testers consisted of friends, who came into the office to participate and were recorded on Silverback, and three users from the Usertesting.com pool who carried out the test remotely.

The results have been invaluable and very exciting for us, and we hope to carry out more rounds of testing in the future with existing BraveNewTalent users. I will be writing another post on the subject once we have had a chance to closely analyze our results and formulate our next course of action.

Samantha Rosenthal on Twitter@SammiRose90.