Researching UX: User Research - book review written for the AQR's In Brief magazine
This book is a pick-me-up: fresh, engaging and helpful. I opened it up after a long day in the office and found myself immediately taking notes, making myself late for dinner in the process.
Its aim is to demystify design research, signposting the reader step by step through project design, setup, fieldwork, analysis and impact. With 30 years combined experience Lang and Howell are well placed to write the book on UX. As you’d expect from authors who spend much of their time advocating on behalf of the user the prose is scannable, with subheadings and diagrams to help you along the way. Yet nothing feels dumbed down, just concise, considered.
Lang and Howell are encouraging too: the tone is collaborative. Research for them is about making the world better. The authors acknowledge upfront that if “you are unsure – read on” and that “research is a team sport”. Other credos like “successful research is about driving design decisions through engagement, not delivering documents” and “analysis starts at the beginning” are good practice for us all. In fact I found little to disagree with, other than their unbounded zeal for the transformative power of the post-it note in the analysis process (flipcharts rule, OK?).
Having commissioned UX as a client and undertaken it as an agent, I wasn’t expecting to learn so much or find so many useful tools, models and techniques I can add to my daily practice. The sections on validity and sample design in chapter 2 are elegantly worded and useful reminder for your next proposal; you can use the exercise in chapter 8 to break your analysis deadlocks; you could even use the reporting templates in chapter 9 in the deck you are writing this moment.
Indeed, whilst young researchers at the outset of their career or those who haven’t been anywhere near UX before undoubtedly have the most to gain, the learnings are so valuable that every quallie would benefit from reading it. If anything the title undersells the book.
My overriding impression is a deep sense of shared expertise. Lang and Howell have contributed to the river of qualitative knowledge in a meaningful way. I can think of no higher compliment.
Simon Shaw, Director