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User Research Via Forums

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  • brett.christenson
    Has anyone tried to use a Users/customer forum as a tool for UX research? I was thinking that this could be a good tool for obtaining quick feedback. Please
    Message 1 of 5 , May 12, 2008
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      Has anyone tried to use a Users/customer forum as a tool for UX
      research? I was thinking that this could be a good tool for obtaining
      quick feedback.
      Please share any experiences good or bad you may have had.

      -Brett
    • kfj_98
      ... I ve worked on a project where we had a private forum created and moderated by a dedicated researcher. It lasted 2-3 days we used the forum as more of a
      Message 2 of 5 , May 12, 2008
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        --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "brett.christenson"
        <bchristenson@...> wrote:
        >
        > Has anyone tried to use a Users/customer forum as a tool for UX
        > research? I was thinking that this could be a good tool for obtaining
        > quick feedback.
        > Please share any experiences good or bad you may have had.
        >
        > -Brett
        >

        I've worked on a project where we had a private forum created and
        moderated by a dedicated researcher. It lasted 2-3 days we used the
        forum as more of a focus group rather than for specific "feedback".
        For this purpose, it was really quite useful. The moderator was able
        to pose questions each day and keep the discussions going as though it
        were a live focus group.

        To me, the biggest pros were: Ease of gathering a large sample group,
        lower cost (vs. renting physical space), relatively well thought out
        insights through written responses and a written transcript.

        The only significant con was losing the "live" element when observing
        a focus group. I missed being able to see how emphatic certain
        participants were and how many seemed to agree nonverbally.


        -Kev
      • John Schrag
        Hi, Brett. quick feedback is a little vague --- can you be more descriptive of the kind of information you d like to collect? You can certainly use a
        Message 3 of 5 , May 12, 2008
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          Hi, Brett.

          "quick feedback" is a little vague --- can you be more descriptive of the kind of information you'd like to collect?

          You can certainly use a customer forum as a way of soliciting opinions, if opinions are what you want and you don't mind the self-selection bias.  (That is, people in forums might be the more technical users, and the early adopters, possibly not representative of the majority --- depending on your market, the product, yadda yadda yadda).  Also, if you don't mind the conversation running away on one little point, or being very visible to your competitors.

          User forums can also be a good place to recruit participants for later usability testing.  And you can ask forum members to forward the invitation to others they know not on the forum.  I've done this (but never as the sole method of recruiting) and it's worked well.

          If you provide prototypes to a forum and ask for feedback about usability, what you will get is opinions about the usability of the prototype -- which is not the same thing as measuring the actual usability of a prototype.  This is a very important distinction, and often lost among junior practitioners.  If you are trying to measure the actual usability of a prototype, then you will have to observe people trying to use it.  Relying on self-report is not sufficient, and frequently misleading.

          -john


          On 12-May-08, at 5:06 PM, brett.christenson wrote:

          Has anyone tried to use a Users/customer forum as a tool for UX
          research? I was thinking that this could be a good tool for obtaining
          quick feedback.
          Please share any experiences good or bad you may have had.

          -Brett 


        • William Pietri
          ... Hi, Brett. I agree with everything John says, and wanted to add two more cautions. If you don t have an existing community, then starting an active forum
          Message 4 of 5 , May 12, 2008
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            brett.christenson wrote:
            > Has anyone tried to use a Users/customer forum as a tool for UX
            > research? I was thinking that this could be a good tool for obtaining
            > quick feedback.
            > Please share any experiences good or bad you may have had.
            >

            Hi, Brett. I agree with everything John says, and wanted to add two more
            cautions.

            If you don't have an existing community, then starting an active forum
            can take a while, and should be done by somebody familiar with online
            communities, and hopefully with previous experience starting one. If
            you're starting from scratch, don't expect a lot of response right away.

            If there is an existing community, and especially then you should be
            careful to manage your interactions with the community. If you are not
            an experienced forum person, get someone with that experience to guide
            you until you settle in.

            As an insider, you'll have some instant status. That's helpful, in that
            people will listen. But it can be a problem in that they may put more
            weight on what you say than you expect. If you've ever had some random
            encounter with a famous person, you know that the interaction sticks in
            your mind much more than theirs. In a forum, you could be on the other
            side of that.

            You'll also have to do some follow-up to provide narrative closure. If,
            for example, you show them some mockups and ask their opinions, make
            sure to come back when the decision gets made, especially if you've
            chosen something other than what the community liked.


            Depending on the product and the community, I think you can get very
            valuable feedback and suggestions, and just asking for participation can
            improve community relations a lot. But definitely tread carefully, as it
            is surprisingly easy to send things unintentionally awry.

            William
          • brett.christenson
            Thanks everyone for the input. I am fortunate as we already have a rather active community which is why I thought forums may be a great resource. I was
            Message 5 of 5 , May 13, 2008
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              Thanks everyone for the input.
              I am fortunate as we already have a rather active community which is
              why I thought forums may be a great resource. I was thinking that I
              could use the forums during and after a sprint as a way to get
              opinions. Similar to Kev's experience we could present questions
              focused to current sprint and possibly upcoming stories on backlog.
              This way we might be able to avoid run away conversations. I was also
              thinking that the user input can be helpful to define user stories.
              I guess we can start small and see what feedback we get.
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