Notes on Erika Hall and Jared Spool’s Cultivating Shared Understanding from Collaborative User Research podcast

From Erika and Jared’s 9/11/15 podcast, link here. Be sure and listen to it–my notes only cover the first half! Erika will be running a workshop at the UI20 conference in Boston in Nov–sure wish I was going!

Traditional, rigorous user research sometimes just ends up in a binder, not really read and not utilized in a substantive way

Your customers for research are the folks on your team who will use the knowledge to improve the design and experience for their customers

Research success can be measured by how well your team was able to utilize it throughout the dev lifecycle

  • Think of the researcher as a point person or facilitator
    • They lead the planning and the documentation
  • Involve the whole team in the research–devs, PMs, everyone
    • They gain and share insights via their involvement
    • This helps keep the data humanized, understandable by all
    • The team is more likely to read the results and utilize learnings as the process continues
  • As the learnings bubble up during the research phase:
    • All of the team is exposed to them
    • Major knowledge is directly discovered almost immediately
    • This much more likely to influence the entire project
    • This also reduces the likelihood that the validity of the overall research conclusions will be challenged–everybody experienced the research so the conclusions can’t be dismissed as just a subjective conclusion by a single person
    • It also helps the entire team look beyond their own bubble of experience and see what potential customers want and need

The technique of actually observing people using products, rather than asking them to speculate about how they would want to use it, still holds true

Things change so quickly, you’re not looking for the “right” answer, you’re looking for how the question is answered today–which may be different than 6 months earlier or later

  • Create a culture where you keep asking the same base questions again and again so that over time you can evolve your solutions
  • The goal of user research is now to create a shared understand of what the team’s goals are
    • The report with the final results is now of secondary importance

Actual time spent experiencing a product with actual users creates an empathetic understanding for the entire team–and might prevent some team members from dismissing research they weren’t involved with as inconsequential or not representative of real users

Again–check out the podcast, there’s lots more about collaboration and the assumptions around data etc.

Erika Hall Author of Just Enough Research from A Book Apart. Co-founder of Mule Design. Guardian of Rupert (from

Jared Spool is an American writer, researcher, speaker, educator, and an expert on the subjects of usability, software, design, and research.[1] He is the founding principal of User Interface Engineering, a research, training, and consulting firm specializing in website and product usability, and the largest usability research organization of its kind in the world.[2] He is also an amateur magician. (from Wikipedia)


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