A common assumption among startup entrepreneurs is that listening to potential customers is the best way to find out whether your product or idea will succeed in the market. Honestly — don't bother. In our ten years of user experience research for startups and big companies alike, one thing we've seen time and again is that it's behavior, not opinions, that tells you whether people want to use your product. The main problem with opinions is self-reporting bias: Opinions are often inconsistent with behaviors or other attitudes, especially when discussing hypotheticals. Remember Clippy, the little character that appeared in Microsoft Word years ago? That little bastard arose, in part, from Microsoft asking users if they wanted help working on their documents — everyone said, “Sure, sounds great.” But once people started actually using it in the real world, they hated it — it might be one of the most hated features in the history of computing. But Microsoft employs hundreds of researchers. So where did they go wrong, and how can you avoid making the same mistake? It's simple. Never ask people what they think of your product or idea. Instead, I'll walk you through the world of researching people, including what you need to ignore customers effectively, just like Apple and 37 Signals. I'll go over examples from our research with Volkswagen, Electronic Arts, and Wikipedia, and show how to use remote research to construct behavioral scenarios and eliminate poor research.
Mark Trammell is a design researcher at Twitter. His work includes coauthoring two books on Web standards and tenures with the United States Navy, the University of Florida, the Web Standards Project Educational Task Force, PayPal, and Digg. While leading a standards-based rebuilding of the University of Florida Web presence, he started an extensive user research program throughout Florida and taught user-centered design.
Nate is the president of Bolt | Peters User Experience, co-author of the book Remote Research, host of the annual User Research Friday conference, and creator of Ethnio - a web app for on-demand research recruiting.
Working with the rad team at Bolt | Peters, he helps clients like Autodesk, Electronic Arts, Greenpeace, Levi's, Sony, Volkswagen, Rdio, Zynga, and others get the most accurate interaction research and design. They work on web apps, video games, and even vehicle interfaces, which Nate gives talks about all over the freaking place. He was the keynote for the Urban Library Council, and has recently spoke at UX Week, IA Summit, CHI, IxD10, and UPA.
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