UXIM: Doing Pocket Research

by Luke Wroblewski April 7, 2014

In her Doing “Pocket Research” talk at the UXIM conference in Denver CO 2014, Cyd Harrell talked about how we can research deeper service design questions using mobile devices. Here are my notes from her talk:

  • Potential product research questions: do people understand hamburger menu icons, are font sizes big enough on tablets? Will people buy on mobile?
  • Classic usability methods will get you answers to these kinds of questions.
  • Find the right participants: people who care about your tasks and have the right kind of device. Get between 5-8.
  • Recruiting is 99% finding the right participants.
  • How to recruit using Twitter: search for a relevant user. Let them know you are looking for participants for a study, about topic, on dates, and provide incentive. Edit your profile to mention your study or that you are a researcher.
  • Offer them a task. On phones, you can use live prototypes or paper ones. Ask remote participants to spin a laptop around and hold a phone or tablet in front of the laptop's camera.

Designing Deeper Studies

  • When are people happy, how often do people check social media, accomplish tasks using more than one app? These are more complex research tasks.
  • Our phones are highly personal devices. We can research these kinds of deeper service design questions on them.
  • Mobile devices are now widespread. Over 58% of US consumers have a smartphone. Many are mobile-only users that were previously unreachable for research.
  • Most of the research gear that needed to be brought into the field, are now in people's hands. This changes how you can do research.
  • Two hardest things about research: providing the prompt, collecting the response. Mobile phones provide great ways to solve both of these.
  • Dscout: mobile diary studies application allows people to provide data in the moment with simple inputs and images.
  • Mobile makes it easy enough for people to provide feedback.
  • If the first question is simple, it is easier to ask more complicated questions after. This allows you to use SMS to kick off research studies.
  • Mobile forms are getting way better but keep in mind these rules: keep it short (5 questions), ask a pithy open-ended question. These are different from surveys.
  • If you are looking for more than usability data, use less prescriptive tasks. Make sure people have a connection to what they are doing. Allow participants to fill out a task with personal needs.
  • UserTesting.com is a great way to pre-flight a deeper test to make sure it's working.