Kickin' UX Up a Notch

Posted by Kiki Mills on Tue, Nov 3, 2009

In last Thursday’s User Experience program (10/29/09), Inspiring Users to Identify What They Didn’t Know They Needed, we discussed user experience testing techniques that help define user behavior beyond simple usability testing. This event definitely moved our UX Series up a level, and it was packed with information I wanted to share with you. Read on and let us know your thoughts.

Mike Hawley, the VP Experience Design at Mad*Pow, kicked off the discussion by focusing on why user centered design is good – but doesn’t tell you everything.

He then talked through various techniques that lead to the creation of “research-inspired design,” such as triading and laddering.

If you’re not familiar with these terms, here’s a quick explaination:

Triading is a technique whereby the individual conducting the test asks the participant to compare three (thus the name) objects. Mike showed us these three fast food logos and asked us to identify how two of the three examples differed from the third, and how they were similar:


Laddering is an interviewing technique used to identify how a product or service resonates with someone. An example from Mike's presentation was:

-- Interviewer: Which ice cream did you buy and why?
-- Participant : Haagen-Dazs, because it tastes great and its low in fat. (attributes)

-- Interviewer: Why is food low in fat important to you?
-- Participant : I like to watch my weight and live a healthy lifestyle. (consequences)

-- Interviewer: In your own words, why is it important you watch your weight?
-- Participant : I want to look good in a bathing suit this summer. (values)


After identifying the attribute, in this case 'it tastes great and is low in fat,' the interviewer continually asks 'why' to determine the underlying core value the person holds.

Additional teqniques Mike reviewed included:


Next up, Dan Berlin, a Senior Research Associate at OTOinsights concurred, stating that cognitive reply is important in understanding user behavior, but it isn’t everything.

Dan then talked the audience through Quantemo (a.k.a. Quantifying Engagement), a comprehensive method of testing for biological feedback, neurological feedback, eye tracking and emotional response, developed and used at OTOinsights's NeuroMarketing Research Lab.

The idea behind Quantemo is to marry biological and neurological reactions with eye tracking results to identify what users are thinking before they can even say their thoughts.


Finally, Dean Whitney, President of Interactive at Garfield Group concluded with suggestions for user testing when time is short. Among his suggestions:

  • Sacrifice features for time,
  • Involve end users early,
  • Strive for co-creation,
  • Leverage social networks, and
  • Use free or low-cost tools to collect feedback.

A brief Q&A session followed, and two questions of note were:

  • When you are tasked to do a redesign, how much should you use the old site?
  • The speakers concurred: mainly so you can identify what is working and keep that, and note what’s not working and fix it.


Well that's a wrap, on this event. If you weren't there, we hope to see you next time -- and regardless, we'd love to hear from your your thoughts on this discussion, so comment below and let your voice be heard and add a comment below. Oh, and here's a link to where we post presentations!

If you're interested in being a speaker at a future event -- let me know.

Till next time.


Edited by Jessica Winston