1 April 2024 nishantgathwal@gmail.com

As I immersed myself in the wisdom of Steve Portigal, I distilled some fundamental pointers that resonated deeply with me. These insights not only shed light on effective user research techniques but also provided invaluable guidance for cultivating a deeper understanding of users’ needs and behaviors.

Questions to Gather Context and Collect Details:

  • Ask about sequence: Dive into the user’s daily routine to gain insights into their workflow and priorities. For example, inquire about their typical workday to understand their tasks and activities in sequential order.
  • Ask about quantity: Probe deeper by asking about the quantity or frequency of specific actions or behaviors. This helps in understanding the extent of certain behaviors or occurrences.
  • Ask for specific examples: Encourage users to provide specific examples or instances to illustrate their experiences. This facilitates clearer communication and enables follow-up questions for deeper insights.
  • Ask for the complete list: Prompt users to provide a comprehensive list of items or experiences. This may require a series of follow-up questions to ensure all relevant details are captured.
  • Ask about relationships: Explore how users interact with others, such as colleagues, vendors, or supervisors. Understanding interpersonal dynamics can provide valuable context for user behaviors and preferences.
  • Ask about organizational structure: Gain insights into the hierarchical structure of the organization to understand reporting lines and decision-making processes.

Questions to Probe on What’s Unsaid:

  • Ask for clarification: Seek clarification on ambiguous or unclear statements to ensure mutual understanding.
  • Ask about code words/native language: Inquire about terminology or language unique to the user’s context to uncover deeper meanings or associations.
  • Ask about emotional cues: Pay attention to emotional cues or reactions to certain topics or experiences to uncover underlying sentiments or attitudes.
  • Ask why: Delve deeper into the reasons behind certain actions or decisions to uncover underlying motivations or intentions.
  • Probe delicately: Approach sensitive topics with care and sensitivity to encourage open and honest responses.
  • Probe without presuming: Present options or alternatives without imposing assumptions to encourage unbiased responses.
  • Explain to an outsider: Encourage users to explain concepts or processes as they would to someone unfamiliar with their context to promote clarity and understanding.
  • Teach another: Encourage users to explain concepts or processes in simple terms, as they would to someone unfamiliar with the subject matter, to promote clarity and comprehension.

Questions that Create Contrasts to Uncover Frameworks and Mental Models:

  • Compare processes: Explore differences between various processes or methods to uncover underlying frameworks or mental models.
  • Compare to others: Compare users’ behaviors or practices to those of others within their context to identify common patterns or deviations.
  • Compare across time: Explore changes in behaviors or practices over time to uncover evolving frameworks or mental models. Encourage users to envision future scenarios to break free from existing paradigms and explore new possibilities.

By incorporating these techniques into our user research endeavors, we can unlock deeper insights and cultivate more meaningful connections with our users. As we continue our journey of discovery, let us embrace the wisdom of Steve Portigal and strive to elevate our user research practices to new heights.

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