Active observation: lean forward, write lots

User research is a lean-forward activity: you have to remain actively engaged. It's very different from watching TV: a lean-back, passive activity. 

Different UX books for enthusiasm, advice or skills

UX books have to serve many purposes. Here are three lists aimed at making people enthusiastic, giving them practical how-to advice, and teaching them the research skills they will need.

Online tools for user testing

Online testing can give you fast feedback for very little financial outlay. The results might be less trustworthy than face-to-face sessions, but the technique fits well as a complementary tool. 

Cheap, fast, reliable: you can have all three

Cost-effective, quick research techniques don't always inspire confidence in your data. Perform many small incremental studies to build reliability over time. 

Usability testing competitor products

Don't be shy - run studies of your competitors' products to learn how well their software supports users' tasks.

Stay user-focused during development

You kicked off the project with a Design Thinking session. Now you've started development, run fast, cheap tests to stay user-focused.

So you want to "run a study" ... the cheat sheet

Your team decides they need to "run a study." They don't know what that means, and they are relying on you to set it up. That's a good problem to have. Use this cheat sheet to help you out.

Cognitive Walkthroughs put you in your user's shoes

Stepping through your UI and asking two deceptively simple questions at each stage can give you great insights into the problems your users will face.

Heuristic Evaluation - no users required

Check your product is following simple rules of interface design. It's fast and finds potential UI issues before your users do. 

One week to a user centered design

Spend just one week to get the information you need to build your product right first time. Use these techniques to plan your sprints or even to work out what product to bring to market.

Paper prototype user testing

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. He's working frantically to find the next sketch to show to the study participant. He might even be drawing it as we wait.

Paper prototype to get the right design

The cheapest, fastest way to mock up your interfaces is with pen and paper. The creation process involves the whole team, and the unfinished feel means you're less attached to any one idea.

Surveys - good for reinforcing biases

It's hard to create a good survey. Even if you can write non-biased questions, it is the ones that you don't think of that will get you into trouble. Make survey results actionable by focusing on behavior, not speculation.

Revolving door studies validate designs each sprint

Design validation is not a phase, it's a continuous part of the process. Testing your designs tests your assumptions and lets you make quick course corrections.

Focus Groups - what do they tell you?

It's hard to uncover behavioral qualities during a focus group session, so the technique suffers from "what I say isn't what I do" syndrome. 

Thumbnail personas make users real

"The user" is a nebulous term. Everyone on the team has a different picture in their head when they say those words. Thumbnail personas use site visit data to focus the whole team on the same key individuals.

Scenarios are your product ideas

"Turn that frown upside-down" - Take the pain points that you discovered in your user research and re-write them as positive experiences for your customers. These scenarios provide you with new product ideas.

Design Charrette

Get everyone on the team involved in interface design and be prepared to be surprised with the creativity you unleash. You are guaranteed to uncover better design ideas than if you did it all yourself.

Experience Mapping

Quickly turn a pile of site visit observations into a visual story about users' tasks and pain points. Use experience maps - affinity diagrams on steroids.

Getting to intent - root cause analysis

Users will make lots of feature requests during research sessions. Listen, Probe and Validate to make sure you solve the underlying issue.

Work backwards to create good research questions

The way to create good study questions is to work out what you want to be able to say before you even think about the methods you'll use to find the answer.