The takeaway: Healthwise changed the vocabulary they use. The medical profession refrains from using the word “diet” because it is not medically advisable to restrict whole food groups or hop from plan to plan. But Healthwise finally sided with the humans who use that word all the time to refer to both a fad/fast thing and also their usual nutritional intake. Additionally Healthwise diversified the modules they created for three different audience types (thinking styles) trying to lose weight. Read More

newsletter #14  |  19-Jul-2016

On my latest client project, we experienced the typical madness around recruiting. The people we thought we set out to find didn’t define themselves the way we did, resulting in a mid-course correction. And then even with the new definition of whom we were seeking, the recruiting firm couldn’t find enough people. We had to step in and recruit for ourselves. Read More

newsletter #5  |  16-Feb-2016

Most organizationss imagine they understand the problem, and don’t take time to research it. They are content to use what they imagine as the basis for developing their solution. The problem space is where they’ll get their strongest insights and innovations, but you wouldn’t suspect this based on the amount of effort put toward exploring their solution and the people using it. Read More

newsletter #3  |  18-Jan-2016

I Want to Go to the Park!

Maybe “research” is not your core job description. But you (and your organization) believe in making informed decisions. You’ve been thinking that it’s time to hear from outside people (again). It’s time to understand their larger intentions and purposes. It’s time to map your way through the next decade of product development, rather than just looking a year ahead. Yeah, it may be time to do this, but getting started-and finished-can be doggone difficult.

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exploring an example problem space

This case study aims to encourage you to get some problem-facing research started, using practical empathy and mental model diagrams. Researching the problem (as opposed to the solution) is a lot easier than you might suspect. So here’s the example: I studied how dogs maximize their experiences of the last day or two. Read More

I spent the 2014 UX Poland conference running around doing listening sessions with attendees about what concerns were on their minds at work, while simultaneously watching as many local presentations as I could. Then I did summaries and pattern-finding to see how well the conference material matched these concerns. There were some very strong matches! This presentation covers the themes I found. (Here is a follow-up interview about the research I did for my presentation.)

why get a book signed?

When I was a new author, one of the more disorienting experiences was the first time someone came up to me with their copy of my book and asked me to sign it. I was happy to do it. I was also bemused–not that I wasn’t familiar with the behavior, but why would a person ask me to sign their copy of my book? I’m not famous. It seemed to be a habitual thing: people who have a hardcopy of the book with them when they encounter the author ask for a signature. I was curious about this decision. What was going on in that person’s mind? My curiosity grew when another fellow said sadly, “Oh. I bought an electronic copy. I guess I can’t have your signature.” (This point is probably part of the ongoing discussion out there about digital rights and value.) Read More

the future of eReaders: what goes on in your mind while you are reading?

What Can Research Help You Discover?

I’ve been experimenting with eReaders. Google’s announcement of its software for several platforms helped me consolidate my thoughts on the subject. My conclusion is that eReaders are not where I want them to be, functionally. I believe this first few years worth of effort behind eReaders represents a transparent reach by companies for my pocketbook. There’s no heart behind their products yet, no deep attempt on their part to support my reading in a better way. They merely allow me to read in an obvious, flat, linear way. I am convinced that they need to understand the things people currently do in the real world in reaction to their reading, which will open up many options for functionality that will truly bring a change to the experience of reading. Read More

Google Analytics – also a political tool

At the Emetrics Summit,on 08-May-2007, Jeff Veen finally got to talk about his work for the past year. Ever since Google purchased Measure Map from Adaptive Path, Jeff and his team have been designing the new release of Google Analytics. Jeff said the diagram helped him in two ways. First, the time it took to listen to people about the things they were trying to figure out gave him room to absorb the difficulty of the problem and understand all the perspectives, which in turn allowed him to design the right tool. Second, Jeff said that the diagram was a good political tool, “But not in the sense of ‘users said these things, so we should design this way.’ It was much more like, ‘Wow, these measure map guys have a rigorous process for something we don’t understand at all. Let’s give them whatever they need.'”

Here’s the mental model from Google Analytics that Jeffrey Veen referenced during his talk. His team explored the inner reasoning of a website owner, and recorded the things an owner wants to know. The mental spaces are:

  • Understand My Visitors
  • Analyze Incoming Traffic Sources
  • Evaluate Site and Content Performance (or, how well the content meets visitors’ needs)
  • Communicate the Findings (internally)

google analytics mental model diagram thumbnail

Here’s a peek at how the empathy that Jeff’s team built with website owners was influenced the services they designed. The last mental space, Communicate Findings, addresses the need for people who are watching the stats to tell other people at their organization about the knowledge they’ve derived from them.

The mental space "communicate findings" at the end of the google analytics mental model diagram

Below, the dotted-line boxes underneath the towers represent planned features. The solid line indicates a current feature.

Analytics features aligned beneath towers in Communicate Findings

Back in early 2007, the only existing way of supporting this whole mental space was a report that someone could give others the password to in order to go in and look at. This feature didn’t support the majority of what exists in the towers of this mental space, not to mention the security concerns about passwords. Jeff’s team recognized there was much more opportunity. They added several ways to export the data to other applications such as Excel or PDF to support the first tower. The Share Numbers tower has emailed reports and scheduled emails and talks about listing data like key performance indicators in the subject line. You get something in PDF format sent every whenever via email, where the subject line says something like 1500 unique page views. People can see things in a much better, clearer fashion.

This is a tiny peek one aspect of the vision that has come out of this mental model diagram. By listening to the stories being told by people about what they have to do in their own organization with regard to how well things are tracking on the web site, Jeff’s team could prioritize and focus their work.