UX research on tour
I was watching an episode of Grand Designs this evening and a pretty revolutionary method of building a house was adopted. You’ve all seen houses where parts of the house are built in a factory and then shipped to site where they’re all put together. These guys took a different approach to this. They built a factory into a shipping container, sent it to site and then built all the house parts on site. No doubt saving thousands on transport costs.
The developers took a traditional manufacturing process of building the product in a factory and then shipping to customer and spun it on its head. If you have an easy to package factory it’s a “how did I not think of that” moment.
How can we apply this to UX?
This week I worked on my first design project that benefited from on-site stakeholder interviews. I knew this would be a powerful asset in the research and it allowed for some seriously brilliant product development - as I predicted. I was however surprised by the reaction from real users when we tested the site. I’d clearly underestimated how much value these interviews could add and how much users appreciated the features developed souley due to stake holder interviews.
The Grand Designs episode got me thinking though. Stakeholder interviews are great, but they happen and then we go off work out what they mean and start work on the design. Wouldn’t it be awesome though if we could get stake holder input much more easily and much more regularly. Logistically at the moment that couldn’t happen, it would be far too time consuming and cost far too much.
But what if we could?
What if instead of sitting in our office we took the entire UX process on tour? What if there was a way we could take the entire process and do it on the move, traveling around talking to users constantly. Seems very impractical. But is it?
Here’s how we could make that happen.
First off, buy a coach or bus and we’re going to need to do a bit of modification. Essentially what we want is a fully-fledged UX studio on wheels. We could have a couple of testing labs on the lower deck and maybe a meeting room.. The top floor would have all the desks, whiteboards, sticky notes and all the other bits we’d need to our job.
Then we can take the bus and start our tour. Maybe starting in the client office car park, run interviews and workshops to gather requirements. Maybe spend a few days here. Then we’d get on the move, working as we drive. Arriving at various locations around the country or continent. Coming into contact with users all the time, so we can pop downstairs, quick bit of on street recruitment and we can quickly run through ideas, concepts and prototypes with real users. Then move on to a different location in search of a different customer groups or to help understand user requirement variations through geography.
Lets apply this concept to a real project.
Imagine you’re commissioned to develop a new site for a cinema. It needs to show all the films, allow bookings and all that normal stuff. We jump on the UX bus and ride over to the clients’ office. We run some research there and then move on. As we drive we do some work, and then park up outside a cinema. We’re talking to cinema goers getting some seriously valuable research work done. We’ll then go in search of more potential customers, maybe parking up at a school, office block, town center to talk with more people. As we travel we’ll get on with some work developing ideas, putting together quick prototypes.
Anyway you get the idea.
Clearly it’s not going to work for all projects and wont fit all budgets, but could be a unique method to gather valuable research.