Small vs. Big User Studies — What’s Best

Which research methods help us learn the most? Jacob Nielsen answers this question in his London keynote address.

Well, I would say that there are two different things to be said about that. So the first is that the bigger the study to do, the more users you have, the more you will you will learn. But there is a severely diminishing returns curve. So it’s you really do learn more with three users. I mean, per user, you learn more of the three users, you do with 100 users. Now you learn more with one hundred and three, but not thirty three times more. So that’s why you return. Investment goes down and down and down the more people you have. And so the ideal is really that you test with just a very small number of users, then you change the design really rapidly and then you test a game. And so let’s say you actually have the budget for one hundred users, which would be very happy. In that case, you should you should actually go through thirty three iterations of your design because it has never yet been found that somebody arrived at the perfect user interface. That could not be a bit better. And so every time you do another round of iteration, you know, it’s going to get better and better and better. You can just climb, climb, climb, kind of get better and better and better and no end to that. Whereas test more and more users and you just kind of see the same thing again and again. And it’s going to be so boring, which is a pragmatic issue actually, because the people in the back of the room are not going to be in the back of the room. They discover they have important things back in the office. So anyway, so yes, I would basically recommend smaller studies, but more of them.

Scaling Design Thinking to Fit Your Needs (and Budget)

So I previously talked about what design thinking is, and now I want to go into a little bit of how it’s used design thinking was created so that it could be used among a wide variety of people and it really scalable, easy to adopt way. This flexibility creates a lot of possibilities for how it can be used. So, for example, design thinking, though oftentimes practiced in a workshop setting, actually should occur throughout the whole project as needed.

All the activities like empathy, mapping as a scenario, mapping to be vignettes, to be scenarios, road mapping.

All of these can be used as tools throughout the process in a way that works for your team. So, for example, let me talk about using empathy maps with end users. So empathy maps traditionally are a stage at the beginning of the design process in a workshop format. But I like to pull them in with my end users when I’m testing with them a certain workflow or maybe using a product and end. A lot of times I like to have them map their own emotions and feelings.

This gives me insight into what they think they’re feeling and what they think they’re doing versus what I’m watching them think or do or say. This juxtaposition creates a really nice insight for the designer and is a way to use design thinking in a small way rather than in the traditional workshop format. So all of these things I scalability the idea that it creates a shared language and artifacts that can be used throughout the process and the ability for it to act as a kit of parts or toolkit they can use as needed, whether it be with end users or collaborators or cross disciplinary team members, makes design thinking really flexible and really powerful.

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