Question about User Research core activities


From what I understand you shouldn’t just rely on user interviews for research as it isn’t too accurate due to users not knowing why they might do certain things. So we also do observation-based research, correct so far?

I am going to start a new portfolio project soon on my own(fictitious project) and was wondering how will I approach observation research if the project is something brand new from scratch and not an existing product?


User research interviews are about current habits, whether they use the product or not. It works for things not invented yet. :grinning: That is called discovery research. You are in search of a problem. Don’t have a solution and then try to find a problem for that solution.


Hey thanks for answering. I was reading a Nielsen Norman article that says this which confused me a abit:

Interviews are a quick and easy way to get a sense of how users feel, think, and what they perceive to be true. Do them, but complement them with observation-based research to attain an accurate and thorough sense of what users really do and a higher feeling of confidence with the information you collect.

I also was going to approach my project with interviews but you see how they say to complement it with observation based research in the last paragraph? (Conclusion)


Yes, that’s usually true, but not always possible. You could observe people doing the actions now that you aim to fix.


And by that you mean looking at users use similar products and observe them?


Not necessarily similar products, but that can help, similar actions and situations. Does that make sense? Like if you were doing something about cooking, you would observe people in their home kitchen, maybe a restaurant kitchen, or cooking school, etc.

Does that help?


Yes. Also what about this approach? I do user interviews to find a problem and then I come up with an idea and then test it. Testing is considered observational research correct? And after the testing I go back to make the improvements based on that user test session. What do you think about that approach?


Testing isn’t actually observational research. There is Discovery or Generative Research, which is observation, interviews, etc. Then there is Evaluative Research, which you do after you have a design. Testing falls under that.


Ok. Earlier when you said it’s not always possible to do both, can you give me examples where it isn’t possible?


If you were doing something totally new, such as going into space, flying cars, science fiction kinds of things. You can still observe habits and behaviors related to those things, but not directly observe them.


Ok thanks. My idea is a boxing scoring app so I can do user interviews for that?


Yeah, be careful with your questions. Don’t ask out right if users want that and don’t make them imagine using it.


Ok thanks. For user interviews I should have big topic questions and then smaller questions related to each of them correct? I need to decide what I want to learn? Also user interviews are about insights in general and not strictly pain points correct?


Correct. Feel free to send me your questions to review.


For pain points I understand that you need to find patterns to find a problem, what about for general insights? Do I look for patterns there too or should I still consider it useful if it wasn’t said by the majority of users?


You want to capture everything and then you’ll find patterns or outliers afterwards using an affinity diagram.


Right, but should I only be looking for patterns?

Also question about insights. For example if I see that 4/5 users said that they take notes for certain rounds if something specific happened, then that is something I use to inform my design correct?


Look for patterns and outliers.
Yes, if 4/5 say something, that informs your design.


If I ask questions through a survey does that count as a user interview as well?


No, only face to face interviews counts as user interviews. A survey is a different technique. Usually, you shouldn’t write a survey until after you do your interviews.