Interview with Lisa Duddington, Research and Usability Expert at Keep It Usable

Lisa Duddington is Cofounder and Research and Usability Expert at Keep It Usable, an award-winning UX agency. You may connect with Lisa via Twitter and keep up with her blog, Usability Gal. Check out Keep It Usable’s Blog and Twitter as well!

So, tell me a little bit about your background in usability and user experience and your work at Keep It Usable.

Well I first started my path into the world of usability back in 1998 when I thought it would be really interesting to study people and their interaction with computers. Back in those days you couldn’t even get an interview in what’s now called UX without having a Masters degree (the standard of UX professional was incredibly high) so I went onto study human factors and ergonomics and was immediately offered 2 quite different jobs – ux designer for Xerox or usability specialist for Sony Ericsson. Of course I chose the more sexy option and went onto enjoy life in the world of mobiles! I’m quite glad I did because it involved a lot of research and I find talking to people about their experiences and observing what they do absolutely fascinating. 

I now run my own UX research and design agency called Keep It Usable. We work in all sectors on every kind of platform. Some of our well known clients include the BBC, Unilever, Vodafone, Thomas Cook and many more. 

What resources would you recommend for learning to a newbie in user research?

This is tricky as there are so many! I’d always recommend anyone seriously interested in UX to go on a course. Read books – Steve Krug is a good place to start. Follow people on Twitter so you can learn from them and keep up to date – if you want to follow me I’m @usabilitygal. Seek out good blogs and websites – some of my favourites are UX Booth, UX Exchange (http://ux.stackexchange.com), Quora, Smashing Magazine, and the articles on Nielsen Norman Group http://www.nngroup.com/articles/

What is your favorite method of user testing and which do you find most effective?

My favourite method is one-on-one ethnographic interviews because it gives you incredibly rich data. Ethnographic means that we conduct research in the user’s natural environment, not in a lab setting. It’s much more realistic, participants are more relaxed and you can gain so much more useful information through a real world context. 

Now we see that there are new methods of interacting with products – eye tracking, voice recognition…is this disruption in technology changing the field of user research and usability testing?

Only for those people who are newer to UX or who have a web background. The techniques, skills and experience you gain as a professional are fully transferable to all types of interfaces. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to make sure you invest in your skills, knowledge and experience so that you are able to apply yourself to anything. I’ve already worked on a lot of concept technology, gesture based interactions and things I can’t disclose publicly yet and i’m excited by the future. Humans will always need to interact with technology. The ways in which they do this will change and we’ll all need to change our research methods according to what we’re testing – but most of us write our research method bespoke to each piece of research we do anyway. 

What do you think are some of the biggest myths in user research?

That you don’t need to do it. Some clients drop research when their budgets are limited, believing that a UX designer must be an expert and that’s good enough, but even the best designer in the world can’t accurately predict what people will do. You should ALWAYS include at least one final piece of user testing before launch so you can correct any major problems. I’ve conducted thousands of interviews and people still constantly surprise me which is why I still love what I do. Through user testing I’ve managed to fix some major problems prior to launch that could have had devastating consequences for clients. I just think why risk it?

Based on your experience at Keep It Usable, what is the most common pain point that you find businesses coming across and what method do you advise them to take in order to alleviate these problems?

Many businesses are still fairly new to UX and they’re still having to prove that investing in UX is worthwhile. It feels a little like we’re on a tipping point and I think in a couple of years everyone will be heavily investing in their user experience. There’s always a big change in stakeholders when they observe user research and this is an easy place to begin for a lot of companies. Observing and listening to real people using or trying to use your product/service is much more eye opening, humbling and motivating than anything I could ever tell you. Once you start listening to your users you’re whole mindset changes and you suddenly understand why it’s all so important.