Day Five: Listen

Today was a little bit nuts because:

  1. Facebook went down (which means lots of people had related web performance issues), and
  2. I had a post-work meeting for a side-project that's launching soon

When I got home to the comfort of my plaid club chair I was feeling super inspired to work on more side-project stuff and not 100% sure how I'd get my UX fix for the day.

Jared Spool podcast to the rescue!

I tuned in to Cultivating Shared Understanding from Collaborative User Research with Jared Spool featuring Erika Hall of Mule Design.

Holy moly. Laughs. Smiles. So many brilliant things that I badly needed to hear.

Favorite quote from the episode:

"People who want to think of themselves as more logical and more rational end up irrationally preferring numerical stuff over really useful, qualitative information."

Applying this concept

Let's imagine that we're designing for a company called Manic Pixie Dream Lamps. Our purpose-driven business helps people feel fun and interesting by enriching their lives with rare and extraordinary desk lamps, that can be purchased from our online auction site.


Our online auction site displays a simple table with a list of lamps, and that list of lamps updates constantly based on active bids, such that the lamp with the most active bids sorts to the top of the list in real time.

The engagement data for our auction website shows a session of user behavior. It looks like the user clicks to view one lamp, clicks back, clicks to view another lamp, clicks back, and clicks to view a different lamp, and so on.

Based on the number of clicks and lamps viewed we might say, "Wow! This user is very engaged with our auction site! They must be very interested in seeing all of the different lamps, and we are helping them do that."

Ok. But, maybe not.

If there's any type of latency between the user's click and their interaction viewing the lamp details, our user may accidentally click on a post that they did not intend to view, because the list items are moving targets on the page. Our user could in fact be trying to click just one particular lamp, and this session could represent a series of frustrating attempts to view and bid.

The latter scenario might be difficult to decipher from numbers alone. If a user describes this situation to us then it becomes easier to understand. How many times do we need to hear this story from frustrated customers before we can justify designing a better experience?

Effective user research requires quantitative data, qualitative context, and knowing what drives your business forward.