User experience (UX) researchers must take on the roles of a news reporter, therapist, and detective. All of those need to be wrapped up into a non-judgmental, non-aggressive, patient, empathetic, friendly next-door neighbor persona. Oh yeah, they also need to have an amazing poker face because users say the darnedest things. Most importantly:
UX researchers should guide, but not lead.
To use a legal analogy, user experience researchers should never “lead the witness.” The more they lead the witness, the less trust you can place in the data. Curiosity and elaboration-seeking should be tools that have been mastered by your researcher. Researchers should know when to verbalize their curiosity and when to hold on to it. Sometimes users aren’t completely clear with their actions or comments. The researcher needs to be able to say, “You know, when you said ‘___________’? I wasn’t exactly sure I understood what you meant. Could you help me get a better understanding?”
The User Research Interview
A moderately structured interview is one where the user experience researcher has worked out what needs to be covered ahead of time with the product owner. The researcher has refined the interview process and removed any leading questions that imply any part of a desired answer. Researchers have the freedom to pursue anything they hear or observe that might help them discover perspectives they might not have thought of. The common thread through these interactions is a desire to hear the user’s perspective. It is the researcher’s responsibility to put and keep the user at ease during the interview. The researcher should do as little of the talking as possible; there must be a willingness to allow the user the freedom to wander a little (you never know when you might discover something) and have the ability to redirect the user without offending them.
Researchers are focused on seeing everything from the user’s perspective. Understanding the user’s goals and needs. What makes them tick. What the user wants. They are hungry to understand and embrace everything shared during the user research interview. The UX researcher needs to have finesse, while also having a clear focus on the business goals.
The User Research Presentation
After the session, the researcher must be able to discern any patterns that drove the user. They must perform user research analysis to distill findings into an executive summary, if needed, or organize what was said at the micro level to support future research. Researchers need to present what they saw and heard, but without “leading” the product owner or team. They need to support with insight and guide those whose role it is to develop a solution or approve research.
User research presentations should be neutral and without an agenda. Researchers should be comfortable with stating what they observed without adding any spin. Very rarely the role of the researcher is to create solutions. The researcher’s role is to structure research and to provide user insight guiding the development team.
At Perficient Digital, a UX researcher is a team player who is both an advocate for the product owner and the user. Your researcher should be your not-so-secret, secret weapon to help you make decisions with confidence.