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Research Plan Visual

Example of Discovery Phase Steps

Diagram of a proposed project's discovery phase

Heuristic Evaluation & Report

One marchFIRST customer was AlphaDog, a procurement management company. As part of their evaluation I performed a heuristic evaluation and then compiled findings into chapter 2.

Heuristic Evaluation Report

Contextual Enquiry

This form of research combines the techniques of ethnographic research and interviews. More focused and limited than ethnographic research or interviews, contextual enquiry takes the designer and other team members into the user's world to see a day-in-the-life of the user and to hear what they are thinking and hear explanations of their actions.

The second Clarify project (ClearSupport) I managed as the UX lead included extensive research before the design process began. The staff researcher and I visited three customer sites where we made observations of the users in their environments, watched participants work while taping, and interviewed each participant after their work session. The data collected was instrumental in shaping design decisions and provided backup for decisions during debate with engineering teams.


Audience Segmentation

There is almost always more than one user type or role we must design for. Segmenting users into logical groups allows teams to better understand who they are designing for and the dynamics of task flows and touch points. Sometimes a simple list is enough information for the team to do their job, while larger projects require more complex and formal documents.

Business Analysis: End to End Flow

Company:Yahoo!; Project: End to End Flow of Ad Systems process.

Example of Discovery Phase Steps

Task Flows

Company: marchFIRST; Customer: Clarify; Project: Task Flows for Clear Support Web Application conversion.

Task FlowTask Flow

Guerilla Testing

To ensure solution viability, usability testing of paper or digital prototypes should be conducted before development begins. Even if testing can not be conducted with outside participants using in-house participants can be invaluable.

Before development of the Bizgenics collaboration tool I completed guerilla testing of four paper prototypes with 8 participants recruited from inside the company as well as from customers who happened to visit the office. Three initial variations were tested, each with a slightly different organization of collaboration objects. Results from testing showed statistical preferences for particular designs, as well as consistency of errors by participants. The fourth design was based on feedback and tested well during the second round.

Setting Up Research Protocol for Staff Designers

At the time I was hired at SuccessFactors there was no researcher on staff. Part of their interest was my research history. Besides the lead designer for several modules I was asked to set up a protocol for designers to do their own testing.

The 2008 SuccessFactors User Conference in San Francisco provided the impetus to create the structure and implement. The goal was to recruit test participants from the conference and present them with one to three tests to them in thirty minutes or less.

Working with the UX team managers I created a process to request and vet functionality and designs to be tested. After UX managers prioritised the test topics I evolved a process for writing test scripts that was used by the designers whose functionality would be tested. At the same time I pulled together the technology for administering the test and recording data. The test system included two laptop computers, Techsmith Morae, plus a video recorder and cassette recorder as backups. Finally, the technology and tests were themselves tested by the user experience team.

The SuccessFactors user site was leveraged to recruit subjects before the conference. During the conference subjects were recruited from the vendor exhibit floor. The two day event was successful with 12 subjects and over 30 tests given.

After the event transcripts were made from the Morae recordings and clips of each test's salient moments were turned into a video. Analysis of the test results were gathered into presentations given to cross-functional team members.

SuccessConnect testing (L) and equipment setup (R).

Remote Testing

Following the Successfactors user conference I expanded the team's testing repertoire by creating a remote testing protocol using simple web conferencing tools. Low cost or even free, these tools provide recordings of user's screen activity and voice. The resulting files can be viewed by team members for analysis. Another benefit of using web conference tools is the opportunity for other team members to observe.