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RE: [agile-usability] Best methods for user feedback before release

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  • Larry Constantine
    Nick, On user feedback techniques, two quick comments: one plus, one minus. Scratch focus groups. Whether in waterfall or agile, focus groups have a long
    Message 1 of 16 , Jul 7, 2008
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      Nick,

       

      On user feedback techniques, two quick comments: one plus, one minus.

       

      Scratch focus groups. Whether in waterfall or agile, focus groups have a long record of yielding user feedback that is too often spurious and unusable.

       

      Consider collaborative usability inspections. They are fast, involve both users and the development team in a highly structured walkthrough, and yield rich results.

       

      --Larry Constantine, IDSA, ACM Fellow

      Director, Laboratory for Usage-centered Software Engineering (Lab:USE)

      Professor, Department of Mathematics & Engineering

        University of Madeira | Funchal , Portugal

        Chief Scientist, Constantine & Lockwood Ltd

    • Todd Zaki Warfel
      ... Unless you have a stellar moderator, focus groups tend to produce unreliable and near useless feedback. This is one tool I d recommend dropping from your
      Message 2 of 16 , Jul 7, 2008
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        On Jul 5, 2008, at 5:23 PM, Nick Gassman wrote:

        Focus groups
        Get a number of users together, and talk about concepts and features. Maybe put together some pictures to show them.

        Unless you have a stellar moderator, focus groups tend to produce unreliable and near useless feedback. This is one tool I'd recommend dropping from your toolbox (unless you have a really, really, really great moderator). 

        Paper prototyping
        Run an interactive session with typical users, where one person is 'the computer' shifting bits of paper around.

        We've used this method quite a bit with Agile and in fact, I'll be teaching a workshop on Paper Prototype for Agile at the agile 2008 conference this year. Cost is low and you can get some really valuable feedback. Additionally, there are a number of techniques I teach for simulating AJAX interactions using paper. Most of the exercises in my workshop are 4-5 minutes long and end up with fully functional paper prototypes. 

        Remote testing in various flavours
        - Morae, observe and interact with individuals using a prototype
        - Put up static images somewhere public and ask for feedback
        - usertesting.com, where you put up 'stuff' and a specified demographic gives you feedback

        We've found remote testing to work well when you have a geographically dispersed group. In one case, we had a client who's employees were located in 32 countries. We used remote testing to observe their current workflows with 48 participants across several of these countries. Then used the same technique to review PDF wireframe prototypes. 

        My only caution against something like usertesting.com is that they use "professional testers," which kinda makes me wonder how "real" the feedback will be.

        Interview based 1-1 usability sessions
        Sit down with individual users and set them tasks, see what usability issues come up with your development

        We've used this method quite a bit in an Agile process. Our testing cycle is about 3-4 weeks to recruit, develop a script, prototype, test, and provide feedback. So, if done correctly, you can stay one cycle ahead of the sprint and provide feedback for the upcoming sprint. We used this method this past year for about 6 cycles for a project with a large media/telecom company and it worked quite well.

        Eye tracking
        See what people look at on a screen, and how long for

        Tells you what, but not why. The why is most important.


        Cheers!

        Todd Zaki Warfel
        President, Design Researcher
        Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
        ----------------------------------
        Contact Info
        Voice: (215) 825-7423
        Email: todd@...
        Twitter: zakiwarfel
        ----------------------------------
        In theory, theory and practice are the same.
        In practice, they are not.

      • Larry Constantine
        Nick, On user feedback techniques, two quick comments: one plus, one minus. Scratch focus groups. Whether in waterfall or agile, focus groups have a long
        Message 3 of 16 , Jul 7, 2008
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          Nick,

           

          On user feedback techniques, two quick comments: one plus, one minus.

           

          Scratch focus groups. Whether in waterfall or agile, focus groups have a long record of yielding user feedback that is too often spurious and unusable.

           

          Consider collaborative usability inspections. They are fast, involve both users and the development team in a highly structured walkthrough, and yield rich results.

           

          --Larry Constantine, IDSA, ACM Fellow

          Director, Laboratory for Usage-centered Software Engineering (Lab:USE)

          Professor, Department of Mathematics & Engineering

            University of Madeira | Funchal , Portugal

            Chief Scientist, Constantine & Lockwood Ltd

        • Nick Gassman
          ... Hmm. You and Larry Constantine both said this. We use focus groups quite a bit for different types of research, often concepts. It s not the right thing
          Message 4 of 16 , Jul 7, 2008
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            On Mon, 7 Jul 2008 09:05:52 -0400, you wrote:

            >
            >On Jul 5, 2008, at 5:23 PM, Nick Gassman wrote:
            >
            >> Focus groups
            >> Get a number of users together, and talk about concepts and
            >> features. Maybe put together some pictures to show them.
            >
            >Unless you have a stellar moderator, focus groups tend to produce
            >unreliable and near useless feedback. This is one tool I'd recommend
            >dropping from your toolbox (unless you have a really, really, really
            >great moderator).
            >
            Hmm. You and Larry Constantine both said this. We use focus groups
            quite a bit for different types of research, often concepts. It's not
            the right thing for detailed usability, but to get a reaction from a
            group about the type of features they want and to stimulate some
            discussion I think it's quite useful. Are you saying that focus groups
            are no good for any type of research, or just some?

            >We've used this method quite a bit with Agile and in fact, I'll be
            >teaching a workshop on Paper Prototype for Agile at the agile 2008
            >conference this year. Cost is low and you can get some really valuable

            See you there.

            * Nick Gassman - Usability and Standards Manager - http://ba.com *
          • Todd Zaki Warfel
            ... You can get this same feedback on-on-one during a usability session. In fact, during a usability session, you re feedback is even richer, as it has context
            Message 5 of 16 , Jul 7, 2008
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              On Jul 7, 2008, at 3:33 PM, Nick Gassman wrote:

              but to get a reaction from a group about the type of features they want and to stimulate some discussion I think it's quite useful. Are you saying that focus groups are no good for any type of research, or just some?

              You can get this same feedback on-on-one during a usability session. In fact, during a usability session, you're feedback is even richer, as it has context and doesn't suffer from group think. Not to mention that what people say they want and what they actually use are often quite different. You're better off doing some ethnographic based field research and watching for things people need, than asking a bunch of people "what they think they want." 

              They can be useful as a validation technique, but there are so many other methods, I don't personally put a lot of value in them.


              Cheers!

              Todd Zaki Warfel
              President, Design Researcher
              Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
              ----------------------------------
              Contact Info
              Voice: (215) 825-7423
              Email: todd@...
              Twitter: zakiwarfel
              ----------------------------------
              In theory, theory and practice are the same.
              In practice, they are not.

            • Larry Constantine
              Nick, You said: We use focus groups quite a bit for different types of research, often concepts. It s not the right thing for detailed usability, but to get a
              Message 6 of 16 , Jul 7, 2008
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                Nick,

                 

                You said:

                 

                We use focus groups
                quite a bit for different types of research, often concepts. It's not
                the right thing for detailed usability, but to get a reaction from a
                group about the type of features they want and to stimulate some
                discussion I think it's quite useful. Are you saying that focus groups
                are no good for any type of research, or just some?

                 

                Years of horror stories from clients have convinced me that even for investigating concepts and what features users/customers want, focus groups are dangerously misleading. First, people do not know what they want; second, what they say is often loosely related if at all with what they want; third, what they want is only weakly correlated with what they need; and fourth, group and social effects dominate over directness in focus groups, even when led by relatively good facilitators. In the end, you really have no idea what the relationship between stated or summarized “findings” and genuine needs and interests. I have literally seen companies invest millions in product and Web development based on and validated by focus groups, only to discover that they had built the wrong system the wrong way.

                 

                --Larry Constantine, IDSA, ACM Fellow

                  Director, Laboratory for Usage-centered Software Engineering | www.labuse.org

                  University of Madeira | Funchal , Portugal

                  Chief Scientist, Constantine & Lockwood Ltd

              • Tillier, Ivor - Oxford
                Hi all, Its like the example I read recently on another list about the question asked to a fast-food chain s customers, Would you buy a healthier version of
                Message 7 of 16 , Jul 8, 2008
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                  Hi all,

                  Its like the example I read recently on another list  about the question asked to a fast-food chain’s customers, ‘Would you buy a healthier version of our burgers?’.  In the example, many people said ‘yes’ but this didn’t result in increased sales when one was produced because although people felt they should say yes, in reality they wanted the good old high fat version.  These kind of factors can of course be compounded in group situations.

                   

                  I can see some benefit of group situations though, in that discussion might encourage users to think about, and explore, issues beyond what they thought were important (OK, a researcher can encourage this in a one–to-one, but it is only after talking to a few people will they have a wide enough range of feedback to enable them to steer the user to different areas that the user might not have considered so far - but have been raised by other users).

                   

                  Ivor

                   

                   

                  Ivor Tillier

                  Senior Web Producer

                  01865 476596 itillier@...

                   

                  Please do not print this e-mail

                   

                  From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Todd Zaki Warfel
                  Sent: 07 July 2008 20:41
                  To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
                  Subject: Re: [agile-usability] Best methods for user feedback before release

                   

                   

                  On Jul 7, 2008, at 3:33 PM, Nick Gassman wrote:



                  but to get a reaction from a group about the type of features they want and to stimulate some discussion I think it's quite useful. Are you saying that focus groups are no good for any type of research, or just some?

                   

                  You can get this same feedback on-on-one during a usability session. In fact, during a usability session, you're feedback is even richer, as it has context and doesn't suffer from group think. Not to mention that what people say they want and what they actually use are often quite different. You're better off doing some ethno! graphic based field research and watching for things people need, than asking a bunch of people "what they think they want." 

                   

                  They can be useful as a validation technique, but there are so many other methods, I don't personally put a lot of value in them.

                   


                  Cheers!

                   

                  Todd Zaki Warfel

                  President, Design Researcher

                  Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.

                  ----------------------------------

                  Contact Info

                  Voice:      (215) 825-7423

                  Email:      todd@...

                  AIM:        twarf! el@...

                  Blog:        http://toddwarfel.com

                  Twitter:    zakiwarfel

                  ----------------------------------

                  In theory, theory and practice are the same.

                  In practice, they are not.

                   


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                • William Pietri
                  ... Although I am also very suspicious of focus groups, I have seen people get value out of something weirdly similar: parties and get-togethers. Here in the
                  Message 8 of 16 , Jul 8, 2008
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                    Larry Constantine wrote:

                    Years of horror stories from clients have convinced me that even for investigating concepts and what features users/customers want, focus groups are dangerously misleading. First, people do not know what they want; second, what they say is often loosely related if at all with what they want; third, what they want is only weakly correlated with what they need; and fourth, group and social effects dominate over directness in focus groups, even when led by relatively good facilitators. In the end, you really have no idea what the relationship between stated or summarized “findings” and genuine needs and interests. I have literally seen companies invest millions in product and Web development based on and validated by focus groups, only to discover that they had built the wrong system the wrong way.

                     


                    Although I am also very suspicious of focus groups, I have seen people get value out of something weirdly similar: parties and get-togethers.

                    Here in the land of startups, it's pretty common for people to have launch parties, in-office happy hours, and casual get-togethers with staff, users, and other stakeholders. There is naturally a lot of conversation around topics similar to what one might try to use a focus group to address. People seem to get a lot of value out of that conversation, walking away with ideas, background information, and a better appreciation for the lives of users.

                    Perhaps the key difference is in the informality. Nobody would think of writing up "findings" for a party; people know to treat the information gained very lightly.


                    William

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