Stalking insights with Steve Portigal

By Tom Wood @Foolproofer

UXHK conference in Hong Kong. Congratulations to Dan Szuc, Jo Wong and the rest of the organising team for putting together an excellent event.

There’s clearly a growing sense of community around UX in Asia and the conference channelled the energy and adventure of practitioners in that part of the world. I hope I get a chance to attend again in the years ahead.

The highlight for me was the chance to join Steve Portigal’s workshop “We’ve done all this research, now what?” Steve is clearly a master of deep-dive research: wading into the rich and often confusing world of users in order to find insights and opportunities which will direct great design.

Even a novice UX researcher knows the dangers of moving too swiftly to draw conclusions from fieldwork. It’s important to maintain a state of openness and observation. Leaping to solutions and recommendations can bias your view. This could cause you to miss something really revealing or valuable simply because it doesn’t fit with the way your view is developing.

It shouldn’t be true, but in fact the older and more experienced you get the more danger there is that you’ll fall into this trap. Firstly you’re instinctively calling on experiences and patterns in user behaviour that you may have seen before. Secondly, the more senior you are, the more impact your (wrong-headed) views may have on the situation.

The antidote? Spend some time with Steve. In fieldwork tasks both before and during the workshop he helped me refresh my skills in patiently and single-mindedly observing: fighting off the instincts to conclude/solve/synthesise until the time and place is right to do so.

Seeking out insight is a bit like stalking a nervy deer. Charge in and you’ll scare the darn thing off without even knowing it was there. But take your time and you’ll be surprised what you can creep up on…

Tom Wood

I’m one of the two founders of Foolproof. Within projects I usually take a role both in planning our approach and in the generative phases of design. I’m also active in gathering client and customer needs into the design space. My particular talent is helping senior stakeholders see and understand the customer’s world in richer detail, and helping them work out how to respond.

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