Know Your User, Recruit Smart!

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Don Norman once said that if there is any principle that is sacred to those in the field of user-interface design and human computer interaction, it is ‘know your user.’ This sort of mantra for what is commonly known as User Experience (UX) Design has guided the field for decades. UX methods are mostly all centered around aligning the needs of the user with the capabilities or features of a product. Where defining the business requirements and constraints come from the business side, defining the user requirements and constraints comes from the UX side. And so, the wheels keep on turning.

So naturally the question becomes- how do we understand the user? Again, it typically depends on the nature of the project. There are many books out in the world that do a pretty good job of breaking down user research methods into specific categories. Universal Methods of Design by Bella Martin and Bruce Hannington is a good example. Neilson Norman Group also outlines the different user research methods quite well. But what I think one of the big take-aways from this piece is- base your recruiting around your research questions and hypotheses, or, don’t recruit blindly.

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At Balance we make sure that our samples are balanced based upon behavioral and attitudinal segments. This manifests itself as a wholesome sample of research participants that are aligned with the purpose of our research. We arrive at these segments based upon the characteristics of the product we are designing and the people who will be using it- sometimes going to far as to test two or three user groups in the same research project.

Check out Nick's Medium article, Know Your User which breaks down user research methods and recruiting needs. This includes a summary of the Behavioral and Attitudinal segments that Balance recruits by, as well as an overview of Qualitative and Quantitative data, and Generative, Exploratory and Evaluative research methods.

Emerging Experiences: The UX of VR

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Nick Dauchot is a UX Designer at Balance with a passion for Virtual Reality (VR).

VR is a medium of immersive technology that is on the breaking point of becoming truly accessible. Over the past fifty years, VR developers, science-fiction authors, and software designers have gotten a head-start by suggesting major do’s and don’ts for the medium. Today, massive software enterprises such as Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony and Valve have all weighed in on the VR market releasing incredible pieces of hardware to support VR without the necessary software to help it stick. For this reason, Nick looks to synthesize VR and design literature to recommend 12 principles of VR design that software developers and designers can use to guide their vision for awesome VR experiences.

Good Virtual Reality is…

  • Honest — It allows the user freedom of choice, safety, exit, identity, and privacy without coercion or deception. It does not put the user in a Skinner box without their permission.
  • Inclusive from start to finish — Designed and developed with a diverse design team. Tested against a diverse user base so that it is understandable and accommodating to everyone.
  • Physically and digitally safe — It is designed to protect the user from damaging themselves, others, or their surroundings (and vice-versa) both in reality and virtual reality.
  • Protective of the user’s wellness- Helps the users stay aware and recover from issues related to appetite, sleep, blood pressure, inter-personal relationships, errors, and/or attitudes within VR. It helps the user enter, experience, and exit virtual reality in a comfortable and mindful way.
  • Understandable- It helps to guide the user and provides them with a means of understanding the world and it’s rules while instilling a sense of presence and wonder.
  • Aesthetically pleasing — Provides a world that is enjoyable to see, live in and interact with while eliminating dangerous or extraneous features or entities that might negatively impact the user experience.
  • Shapeable — It allows the users to make a dent in the world, or build into the world- all inside of virtual reality. New actors may be introduced into the new world so that it feels ever-changing and alive.
  • Consistent- Makes use of conventions and standards in the industry or real world that users might already be used to. Provides consistent interactions and natural mapping in order to minimize user confusion.
  • Meaningful and mindful- Helps the user do what they couldn’t do in reality, but not what they shouldn’t or wouldn’t do.
  • Accessible- VR is an incredible tool for learning and developing new skills and should not be provided only to the privileged few. It should be reachable by others.
  • Balanced in comfort and realism — The environment provides enough realism to instill presence while being comfortable enough to be enjoyable.
  • Sensitive to the capabilities of the medium - Makes affordances accessible not just through buttons and modularity, but through the user’s body in ways that might not be possible in the real world.

Check out Nick's article The User Experience of Virtual Reality to read all about his findings.

Watch him present his findings in AltSpace VR's Scenes and Screens festival.