What exactly is user research - and why should my company do it?

How long is a typical user research project with Usability Resources?

When is the right time to run a usability test?

How can focus grouops help me design a better technology product?

How do you charge for your work?

What is involved in recruiting participants for a user study or focus group?

Our development team wants to do the interface design themselves. Can you offer just mentoring and feedback?

What exactly is user research - and why should my company do it?
User research involves interviewing and observing your most important users as they perform particular tasks. It's a practical way to ensure the accuracy of the assumptions you've made about your audience before you create your product. We can tell you who is using your product, why they use it and how they use it. Having solid information on your end users, their objectives, their pain points, and how they organize their world will save you time.

How long is a typical research project with Usability Resources?
Our user research can take as little as 3 weeks from design to results. We adjust our technique to your objectives, schedule, and budget. If you have just a few weeks, we might suggest doing 8-10 phone-based focus groups, usability feedback sessions or in-depth interviews. Our streamlined research is designed to produce actionable data that can be applied directly to your product design.

When is the right time to run a usability test?
Usability tests are valuable at any stage in the life of your product. If your product is still on the drawing board, we use paper prototypes to gather feedback on the effectiveness of your product concept, navigation, screen flow, and language - which allows you to make design changes before spending money on implementation. Clients have found value in usability testing mature products as well as competitor products.

How can focus groups help me design a better technology product?
Our clients ask us to run groups for many reasons: to brainstorm Web site content or product concepts, to learn how their product stacks up against the competition, or to define personas. They are an efficient way to interview a group of people who share similar characteristics, to hear- in real time - what they think about topics that matter the most to you.. Traditional in-person groups will give you the added opportunity to see your users "up close and personal" and to observe their body language as they discuss your product.

How do you charge for your work?
We find that when a project can be precisely defined, clients prefer to be charged by the deliverable. This project pricing helps us to focus on giving you the result you need within a predictable budget.  If you are new to user-centered design or have a more complex project in mind, we recommend breaking the total project into defined phases.  We also work on an hourly rate when necessary.

What is involved in recruiting participants for a user study or focus group?
If your product is geared towards a highly specialized audience, it makes sense to invest in formal recruiting. We work with you to determine the screening characteristics and detailed descriptions of the respondents, as well as accurate estimates for recruiting and honoraria. When your target users are hard to recruit or schedule for in-person research, we recommend remote research techniques such as multi-day online bulletin boards, phone-based interviews, online focus groups or usability feedback sessions.

Our development team wants to do the interface design themselves. Can you offer just mentoring and feedback?
Of course! In all our engagements we see ourselves primarily as catalysts for the teams we work with. We are professional moderators with decades of teaching experience, and we enjoy transferring usability skills to team members, so they can pick up the ball and run with it once our engagement ends. In many situations, clients hire us soley to do user research and usability testing. We deliver the information in a format that is easy to translate into user requirements and a user interface design.

How long is a typical user interface design project with Usability Resources?
Design projects typically run between 6 weeks and 3 months. The length of the design phase will vary with the complexity of your application, service, or Web site, your development schedule, and whether we need to help you define user requirements.