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Improving the Users’ Experience – Carol Smith from MidWest Research

Posted on the 10 May 2011 by Chrisbrown @ChrisBrown330


Carol Smith on Users and Useability

Carol Smith on Users and Useability, from MidWest Research at PodCamp Cleveland

Carol Smith from MidWest Research provided a terrific session at Cleveland PodCamp on Saturday about “Users and Usability”.  Carol’s research business specializes in helping companies learn how people use their websites, their products and their services to improve the users’ experience.

Listen to part of her presentation here at Sound Cloud: Carol Smith Users and Useability from PodCamp Cleveland 2011 audio recording.

Here are some of my notes from her presentation:
Interviews: Use some combination of structured questions and open ended questions. Organize with questions that you have to ask, but at natural conversational pace. Keep it natural. Carol uses “Go to meeting” or a Sony hand held recorder with a USB to plug into the computer. The key is you have to be able to find play and record easily. Easy is most important so that you can be conversational in your approach to interviewing. Script is good for if you get flustered.

Don’t ask leading questions (example: “Don’t you love this product!?!”)  Ask open ended questions: How are you using this tool? What do you mean? Can you tell me a little more?  By the end of the 30 minute interview, they should be tired of talking (not you).

Facilitation: listening. Be passive, body, face. Listen for vocalizations… are you frustrated at the product or because I am here? Keep them talking. Silence is very powerful and allows people to think. Ask your question. And wait. Don’t jump in with more questions.

Carol usually interviews/observes 8 to 10 people who are typical users to get a pattern. 25 is a huge group. But if you only interview a handful, they have to be very carefully selected 8 to 10 people in your target market.

Here is her blog: MidWest Research blog

Further Reading: Here are some of the books Carol Smith recommends for marketers who are trying to “debug” the product and improve the user’s experience:

  • Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
    by Steve Krug
  • Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research
    by Mike Kuniavsky
  • Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works
    by Janice Recish (Ginny)
  • Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests
    by Jeffrey Rubin

I’ll post some of the other PodCamp Presentations soon.


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