Participants experience various emotions as they begin a listening session with you
ask the UXperts empathy & active listening
The practice of note-taking is heavily ingrained. Throughout school, students take notes as a way of remembering things and as a sense-making tool. This carries over into people’s professional lives. There is a time, however, when taking notes is contraindicated: during a listening session. I encourage participants in this UX Mastery community chat to put […]
q&a with UXbookclub melbourne
George Cockerill hosts the UXBookClub in Melbourne. In June 2015 he organized a morning meet-up so that, half a world away, I could chat with the group by Google Hangout on Air. There were some great questions about Practical Empathy, and George did a fantastic job of editing everything together for this 35-minute video of […]
a practical type of empathy
I was excited to be invited to present to DevOps and engineering folks at the O’Reilly Velocity Conference in Santa Clara, 2015. I opened the talk with an example of bringing someone in to give you a different way of seeing your problem. A Practical Type of Empathy (27 minutes) Transcript below.
how to use empathy to build software products
Poornima Viyashanker runs Femgineer, a education company that teaches innovators to build software products. Her series, FemgineerTV, explores different things that affect the software you build and the teams you work on. In this episode, Poornima interviews Indi about mental model diagrams and about cognitive empathy.
rosenfeld media conversation with indi
Lou Rosenfeld interviews Indi about her book (which he published), Practical Empathy. The theme covers how … “We aren’t taking the time to do proper discovery of how another person is thinking before we go out and make designs for them … we aren’t necessarily doing the depth that we could go to … It’s […]
generalizations get you nowhere
Much of the time, people default to generalizations when describing how they approach things. It’s habit. Generalizations unfortunately tend to gloss over the details of thinking and reacting and instead focus on explanation. When developing empathy, you want to get beyond explanation to the details, so you will want to ask a person to describe […]
balancing science with person-focused research
O’Reilly webcast Balancing Science with Person-Focused Research (60 minutes). O’Reilly changed their registration process a bit, and you will be prompted to login to your O’Reilly.com account before launching the presentation. (You will need to set up an account if you do not have one.) You will be prompted to complete a registration form and […]
python script update
Several people have developed scripts to render a mental model diagram in a browser, based on data formatted in a spreadsheet. However, none of these scripts has been released to the public; all of them are internal to different organizations. I’m working on freeing some of them up, because their authors are certainly interested in […]
marking a box as an “opposite” within a tower
Sometimes you have a summary that stands all by itself–there are no other voices like it, yet there are several voices saying the exact opposite. In this case, go ahead and group the solo voice with the others and label it “opposite.” It represents a summary that is the opposite of the intent of the […]
The organizers at UX Lausanne run a little conference I highly recommend. They have made my 23-May-2014 presentation, Practial Empathy, available. (38:05) Transcript below.
UX poland 2014 conference summary
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! […]
interview: what is UX?
In this interview posted on Medium Artur Kurasinski asks about UX, my second book, and my workshop at UX Poland 2014. (Photo by Florian Klauer)
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 […]
design inspiration? deep listening.
In this 5-question interview, with Marcin Treder of UXPin I share my thoughts about inspiration, social change, and what one thing I’d like to redesign. What would your five answers be?
recruiting across behaviors
I received an enthusiastic, but bewildered cry for help from a UX designer in South Africa, Jeanne Marias. She wrote, “I am pioneering a service design project, part of which I’m wanting to do a Mental Model of ‘The New Member Journey.’ I’ve charged ahead and gotten the whole team excited about mental models, but […]
journeys, experiences, & mental spaces
The other day a university student named Maria Hernando wrote to ask me my opinion about the relationship between User Journey Maps, Customer Journey Maps, and User Experience Maps … and how a mental model diagram might relate to any one of them. I told Maria that I think of the maps as the same, […]
the cast of personas
Behavioral audience segments can become personas if you assign a name and a face. However, they are not necessarily one-to-one. You might want to make a couple of personas to represent different demographic or purchasing aspects of one behavioral audience segment. In this JohnnyHolland post, The Cast of Personas, I describe how some of those […]
recognize when your organization is engineering driven
Many products are still technology driven. Your organization invents something no one else does. The rest of the process goes like this: I have this tail. I put it on the donkey. I spend money testing and fixing the tail to get it closer to what the donkey wants it to do. In Most Products […]
your leader’s perspective
Leaders don’t want to waste resources. They want to know the organization has done everything possible to ensure success and done everything possible to discover concealed opportunities. Notice the focus on the organization, almost forgetting about the people the organization serves. Originally published as a JohnnyHolland post, Bosses Seek Confidence and Avoid Risks, suggests taking […]
picking out guiding principles
Picking out an actual “guiding principle” from a transcript is difficult. A guiding principle is a sub-conscious philosophy that guides how a person makes a decision. When you look at a transcript, the words “I believe,” “I think,” or “my philosophy” sometimes trick you into thinking that you’re looking at a guiding principle. But this is […]
re-using existing data
Sometimes you just need to get started fast. One way to spin up is to skip the listening sessions and try to derive the same knowledge out of data that has already been collected in the past. This article, Re-Research: A New Picture of Existing Data, was published on JohnnyHolland in December 2010. Reprinted below.
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 […]
audience segments as characters
I was recently helping a few people create audience segments for their projects. It’s so hard to get outside the normal way of thinking about people by title or role or demographic. As a way of getting past that, and additionally as a way of emphasizing that audience segments are merely a way to help […]
tips for listening sessions
Jeff Parks asks me to explain the most important parts of non-directed interviews. I cover scope, sensing your way forward, and explaining to your boss why this technique is important. (… and the joy of really connecting with another person.) I also explain what to place in the recruiting screener instead of the non-directed interview.
design research panel discussion at IxD10
This panel discussion took place during the Interaction Design Conference 2010 in Savannah, Georgia, USA. (IxD10) It was not on the program, but filmed separately as a part of The UX Workshop.tv series, sponsored by mad*pow. Design Research Discussion panelists include: Indi Young, Daniel Szuc, Eric Reiss, Steve Baty, and Chris Avore.
examples of tough combing labels
You wanted to test your combing/labeling skills … right? You wanted to hone your ability to grab the most descriptive verb possible, and pull out the implications of what the person is really trying to say? Here is a set of examples with a little discourse about why I suggest the label I suggest. The […]
support intentions, not existing workflows
This week I was chatting with someone who works at an organization that does not yet recognize the value of generative research before defining products. She said to me, with exasperation in her voice, “The product managers here still go around collecting needs from our customers and giving us lists of features to implement.” She […]
mental model of australian public radio/TV contributor
Jeremy Yuille has been working with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on a project to give viewers and listeners around the country a chance to upload their own content. Why would people upload their own content? The most cited reason for doing such a thing is, “it’s a place to display my work,” followed by […]
combing vs. grouping
“What is a task, exactly?” This question came up in conversation today as the team at the University of Buffalo starts to comb some of the 47 interviews they conducted. It is an unfortunate choice of words on my part, which may lead people astray during combing. The word “task” is leftover from the practice […]
conversation instead of an interview
I’ve been guiding the fabulous folks at the University of Buffalo (and the team at their design partner mStoner) through the interviewing process this week. One of the university stakeholders for the project wanted to be interviewed as a participant–as someone who keeps track of what an organization is doing and crafts his decisions based […]
updated python script to generate the mental model diagram
The Python script used to generate mental model diagrams has been updated to allow for added flexibility in output. Originally, box labels greater than about 48 characters would render outside the margins of the box, requiring close monitoring of the label length and often caused the label to be rewritten awkwardly or with abbreviations.
granularity & repetition of task labels
In the first five months of 2009, I’ve guided four teams through making their mental models. We have combed transcripts, labeled quotes, and grouped the labels from the bottom up to create the structure of the mental models. We have made 11 different models together. What has come up again and again is the difficulty […]
go the more nutritious route
At nearly every presentation and workshop I give, someone comes up to me and asks, “Have you tried (insert tool name here) with your method? It’s really cool.” I shake my head no and politely ask them what they think the tool would do. Every explanation boils down to this: it would automate the analysis […]
write differently for different audiences
Stop producing one product for the masses and start producing three or five products for the conflicting personalities and goals of different groups. In this post from my Adaptive Path tenure, Message to the Masses, I encourage writers to think from multiple audience’s perspectives. (This post was originally published at Adaptive Path. Since Adaptive Path […]
group the intent
I just finished my Australian Road Show with the Web Directions folks. It was really illuminating doing the workshop three times in a row. I conduct five classroom exercises in each day-long workshop, and one thing really stood out for me this week. When workshop attendees tried their hand at grouping data (represented by a […]
atomic tasks vs. tasks — the explanation
First the small print: I use the archaic term “task” to mean any behavior or motivator or reasoning that a person mentions. “Task” is limited in definition, but it’s simpler to say than any other combination of words that I actually mean, like “Behavior, Belief, and Emotion.” Just wanted to point this out … During […]
pay close attention to the words you use in labels
The words in the labels will make or break the mental model. Here is some advice to bear in mind. First, start each label with a clear, present tense verb. I often see things like “worried” and “manager” and “needed” as the first word in mental model labels. Ix-nay. Verbs have power. Use them. Second, […]
towers with only a single task
Frequently, you may find yourself with a task box in your mental model that does not belong to any of the other towers in a mental space. This task box becomes a tower of it’s own, with just the one task box in it. Although I’ve said that the height of the tower is not […]
what do I do with vague stuff I combed from the interview?
Are you in the middle of grouping the behaviors, beliefs, and reactions you found in the interviews? Having difficulty deciding what to do with a few of the opaque ideas? Here are some general guidelines that I follow if an idea is: Too Vague: I try to re-define it, getting at the root and giving […]
project timeline – a pictorial depiction of making a mental model
I get to work with lots of teams at wildly different organizations in the course of my practice. It never fails to impress me that the people on these teams are brilliant, driven, humorous, helpful, and plain great to be around. I am in the lucky position of being able to learn just as much […]
boxes & arrows podcast chats
“Intelligence is a poor cousin to understanding.” There is a vast difference between intelligence and understanding. Intelligence is the quantitative data you collect about your users. Understanding is the cognitive empathy you develop by listening to the purposes and intentions of people you’d like to support. Experience design is no longer a thing you do […]
In the book, I talk a little bit about the idea of asking business folks and product managers to join me for the interviews. The idea is to involve them in hearing the customer’s stories and also to get their direction if I’m exploring a topic that is new to me. Yes, sometimes the interviews […]
short and sweet research phase
I’ve finished writing my slides for my three hour workshop at Agile08. The theme behind the slides is making mental models fit within an Agile sprint. Some people’s sprints are two weeks long. Other people’s sprints are 6 weeks long. It varies. If you are living in the land of the shorter sprints, though, I […]
digging beyond user preferences
I present an hour talk to internal designers at Google that explores how you never design for everyone. If you can focus on one or two behavioral audience segments, your support for people will be much more successful. (This talk includes the example of money tracking.)
below the line – aligning other things
In my book, I talk about the bottom half of mental models as containing the ways in which your organization supports people doing the things in each of the towers. I have also mentioned aligning your competitor’s services below the line, too, just to see how you can be different from them. Two weeks ago […]
what are mental model diagrams for?
In this article, Vern Burkhardt asks Indi about the uses and value of mental model diagrams.
does tower size mean something?
The other day, Douglass Turner asked me a good question. Here’s what he asked: “One thing unexplained in your book is how to interpret relative length of the bars in the mental model diagram. In fact the vertical axis is (oddly) unlabeled. My Tufte instincts recoil in horror and disbelief in an otherwise lovely book. […]
are interviews the only way to build a mental model?
I get many variations on this question, “Are interviews the only way to build a mental model?” The answer is no, interviews are not the only way. There are many sources you can analyze, some of which are even richer than non-directed interviews. Here are some ideas. (Please comment if you have additional sources to […]
why are mental models important?
Right after the book was released, Kate Rutter interviews Indi about what led up to making mental model diagrams, and why they are important. Indi Young Tells Kate About Mental Models & Her New Book (This post was originally published at Adaptive Path. Since Adaptive Path became a part of another corporation in late 2014, […]
a mention in business week
With all the fervor behind stronger, more responsive internet-based applications, the media has gotten more interested in user centered design. Next to stories about mashups in Business Week this week, there’s a little blurb about using mental models to guide software design.
undercover mental model
Yesterday someone asked me why I thought YouTube was so successful. I said it’s because of the content. That, and of course they were “in the right place at the right time.” But really, if all those videos were films of business meetings or financial presentations, how popular would it be? Then, at the BayCHI […]
audience segmentation – making sure you don’t miss anything
Organizations fear risk, and as a response to that fear, employees dutifully try to record everything that could possibly be of importance. In audience segmentation, this means capturing hundreds of variables, which quickly becomes a barrier to actually defining and using the segments. Instead, use a behavioral perspective instead of these variables, and re-define how […]
logistics for user research abroad
Doing user research abroad doesn’t have to be daunting. Keep these logistical tips in mind; you should have no problems working with participants from around the globe. You’ll get excellent results when everyone is comfortable, clearly understood, and compensated for their time. (This post was originally published at Adaptive Path. Since Adaptive Path became a […]
get the right kind of details from a research participant
This is an early version of how to conduct a rich listening session, where you find out the thinking going on inside someone’s mind as she pursues a larger intent. For example, “I’m presenting to a class this afternoon–how shall I approach this class, and how should it differ from the last class I presented […]