My Favorite UX Research Projects: Reflections from an Old-timer

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March 29, 2017

My Favorite UX Research Projects: Reflections from an Old-timer

Human Interfaces recently hired both a UX researcher and summer intern for 2017. Both hires are at the beginning of their promising young careers, and over time, they will develop into seasoned, experienced researchers.

For this month’s blog, I thought it would be fun to write about a couple of the best and most memorable research projects that I’ve worked on over my professional career. These projects were opportunities afforded to me very early in my career and were instrumental in my professional development.

A career in UX Research can often provide young researchers with unique experiences that will define their own unique, professional journeys.

Mobile Gaming App

While working for a start-up back in the tech bubble, I had the opportunity to work on a mobile, sports-betting application. At the time, sports betting operators were just recognizing the potential of the mobile betting market. Not to date myself, but the application was to run on a WAP phone browser, so there were limited opportunities to provide a rich interactive experience. After testing in the US, we traveled to Ireland to test in Dublin. Armed with a laptop and mobile emulator, we interviewed participants to define mental models and usability tested the prototype app with Irish sports bettors. Iterations were made on the fly using the RITE methodology. The research sessions were conducted in a hotel conference room and it was not uncommon for participants to test with a pint of Guinness within arm’s reach. It was also not uncommon for the researchers to have pints of Guinness after the test sessions.

nokia-g-blog

Tablet Optical Character Recognition

While consulting with Dell in defining their first tablet PC, I had the opportunity to define all human-systems interactions using behavioral specification. One area of interest was the performance of a digitizer for both alphanumeric and traditional Chinese characters. The digitizer’s purpose is to transfer all of the “touch” functions (writing, gestures, etc.) to the LCD. After conducting usability testing in the US, I traveled to Taiwan to usability test Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for traditional Chinese characters using competitive digitizers. Participants were required to write characters using both digitizers and rated: 1) the accuracy of character recognition, 2) digitizer responsiveness in recognizing/translating the characters, and 3) satisfaction with OCR functionality. Results indicated that one of the digitizer/pen hardware solutions was clearly superior; however, there were also advantages to the losing hardware solution. A mechanically redesigned stylus, firmware upgrades, and FW/SW optimization were applied to the “loser” and the test was replicated in San Francisco with a new sample of participants. The design enhancements made significant improvements to the writing experience.

tablet-g-blog

Summary

I’ve been very fortunate to have worked on a wide variety of research projects throughout my career. UX Research has taken me to places such as Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, and Taiwan, and has given me the opportunity to explore areas ranging from Space Human Factors to emerging technology design. At Human Interfaces, we encourage this spirit of exploration, and wish you the best in your own professional journey!