User Research

User Research Book Cover User Research
Stephanie Marsh
Kogan Page

“You can never have enough research” is a reasonably good mantra to have in business, although of course it should be viewed as a guide. Sometimes you do have to trust your feeling, but research can also help guide your senses and stop often costly mistakes being made.
This is, therefore, a very timely accessible book that sets out to guide the reader to design better products and services through the use of user research. In other words, design what your customers may be wanting (if they know it or not), in the form they will best use. You seek to get this elixir of business magic through research, user research.
It is not necessarily an easy task, and you can get a lot of rubbish back. Part of the skill (and luck) is sorting the wheat from the chaff. It is more than just sending out a questionnaire with the offer of a gift card – people do not always diligently and honestly fill them in, speed being more important and the chance of winning than accuracy. Take a shortcut and prepare to crash. Instead, the whole field of user research (UX as it is often shortened to) is at your fingertips, looking at issues such as user behaviour, user needs, motivation and more, pulling in a host of different scientific approaches such as observation research, task analysis, psychology and more.
Even then, assuming you get everything right, you still have to develop a working product or service, on time and budget, and get it out to the marketplace and persuade the customers to bite. This book cannot do everything, but it can help you positively along the way, and with that it does a good job, showing practically how all this research, testing, analysis and more can work and benefit. The hard parts of doing the research, analysing it and reacting to it falls upon you and your colleagues. Experience shows that not everybody welcomes the research’s findings when toes are trodden on, and balloons popped… nerves of steel and a thick skin may be necessary to steer the project forward.
This is an excellent book, seeking to carve out a niche in a quite crowded marketplace: there is no shortage of books covering topics related to this subject, but upon reflection, it does an outstanding job at introducing, consolidating, enthusing and guiding the reader. For those who want to, or need to, dig deeper, this book has served well as the ‘rubber ring of user research’. That said, for some readers and some applications this may be enough to get you going, some of it may depend on whether you form a connection with the book and its style or not – for some, it won’t work, through no specific fault of the book.
In many ways, this could also be a book of use for academics, since research is an essential part of academic work and many of the academic research books are far from being accessible and engaging. Certainly, it seems that the author has done a good job in lifting the curtain to various research-related subjects and let the light in a little. When you consider the book’s reasonable price tag too, it is a steal!
It is definitely worth closer consideration. If you have not considered user research before, or have yet to be persuaded, then this can be a great must-buy. For others, perhaps who believe they are more experienced in this field, the book still can give the odd bit of advice, perspective and, of course, maybe validate what you are doing along the way.