Is social research part of your UX toolkit?

By Elsa Plumley

I arrived back to the UK after attending the UPA 2011 conference in Atlanta last week, where I gave a talk about using social networks for research and design. As part of our presentation, we shared the results of the UX Social Quiz that we ran on Facebook last month.

Thanks to those of you that helped to spread the word, we recruited a total of 110 UX professionals worldwide to take part. They shared some interesting insights on how they are using social networks as part of their UX toolkit today.

The bad news is that over 65% of these professionals told us that they believe social networks are still only the realm of marketing and PR activity. The keynote speech by Paul Adams reminded me of why this attitude is dangerously outdated. He opened the conference by talking about how the Social Web is already disrupting entire industry verticals and how businesses need to adapt to survive.

Too true. The music industry was one of the first victims, with social sharing sites like Napster and MySpace changing the industry forever. And recently we’ve seen the games industry turned upside down by the likes of Zynga and its very simple but very social Facebook games like FarmVille. As UX professionals, we can’t be complacent: our industry is going to be shaken up by the Social Web too, and we need to start evolving our practices and toolkit to respond to this change in the digital landscape.

The good news is that some of us have started to do this already. 26% of the professionals that answered the UX Social Quiz told us that they are using social networks as part of their UX toolkit. Some of the more common uses included ideas generation, online surveys and recruiting respondents for research. Also worth a mention, a few professionals reported using sites like Twitter and Tumblr to run diary studies.

These results are encouraging, but we all need to do more to take advantage of the huge, rich data resource that is at our disposal today. At Foolproof we’ve been developing a set of social research methodologies to help our clients take advantage of this new opportunity for engaging customers in research and design. We presented two case studies (including our Direct Line Ideas Lab) outlining these methodologies during our UPA presentation.

Elsa Plumley

As Experience Design Director, I oversee the quality of the Experience Design work we do for our clients here at Foolproof. My particular area of focus is ensuring the quality of the advice we provide to our clients, right from how best to organise themselves and approach tackling a business challenge, through to how best to solve specific design problems.

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