CURIOSITY: A CORE VALUE

“Tell me more…” One of my UX research mentors is the master of this phrase. I observed numerous sessions where these three simple words were expertly used to seek more from a research participant. His goal was to gain a better understanding of whatever the participant had just said and ultimately, uncover the answers to the research questions he was tasked with finding.

This act of digging deeper to uncover more or learn is one of my favorite parts of research. It is also another core value of my UX career; CURIOSITY.

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Last week I connected with a college student who recently began her own pursuit of a UX career. She reached to me “to get a more authentic understanding of this field,” and for some advice on seeking a design or research internship.

One question she asked reminded me of the importance of curiosity in UX research. “What have you found to be the most crucial questions to ask participants in usability testing, and have any results been surprising? (In that maybe some participants have experienced/noticed something that the designers/researchers didn't think the same way about.)”

Here’s how I answered her questions:

The questions asked during testing are so dependent on the product, project goals, and research questions that there is no one or two crucial questions that should be asked. That said, this is one crucial thing you should do in all your research sessions: when something a participant says (or does) that seems interesting or is somewhat unclear, say, "Tell me more." UX research is about finding the "why." You might ask a participant, "On a scale from 1 to 7, how easy or difficult was it to find the information you wanted? (Where 1 is very difficult and 7 is very easy.)" but if you don't ask them "why" you're only getting half the answer.

For me, the “why” is what drew me to research and I love getting to learn more about people's understanding, expectations, habits, thoughts, actions, interpretations, frustrations, ideas, etc. Knowing this enables informed design decisions, resulting in products and services that better serve their users.

In addition to understanding the "why," research should uncover those things that end users experience or notice that the designer or researcher didn't anticipate. The designer isn't always going to be a power-user of a product or they may not use it the same way as others. (This is where observation and empathy are crucial.) Research helps to guide initial designs and should be used again and again in an iterative process to point out issues and opportunities which can help create the best products possible.


During research sessions there are often many moving parts, lots to track, and key questions to cover so, in midst of balancing all that, it never hurts to have friendly reminder of staying curious. In our remote research labs (labs dedicated to sessions with remote participants) I’ve placed this inspirational “artwork” to help keep “Tell me more…” top of mind.

A friendly reminder…

A friendly reminder…

GRATITUDE: A CORE VALUE

For about five years I’ve been ending nearly all my work emails with one word: “thanks.” It’s a small thing and I’m not sure if my colleagues even notice it, but for me it’s a simple reminder to show my appreciation and gratitude for their part in the work we’re doing together.

GRATITUDE is another of the core values I strive to exemplify in the work that I do.

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The amount of support I received in my UX pursuit, in the form of wisdom, energy, time, money, encouragement, etc. from numerous people, is impossible to calculate. Without these people I would not be where I am today. I tried my best to thank them in this post.

And the support continues… Successful research projects don’t happen because of just one researcher; it’s thanks to the work of research participants, designers, product managers, recruiting partners, technical support, project managers, other researchers, and many other stakeholders.

I will always strive to work hard as I share my thanks and appreciation for all those involved.

EMPATHY: A CORE VALUE

As I gain more knowledge and experience in the field of user experience several values have emerged as the core values that I want to epitomize and demonstrate when I practice UX research and design. The first of these is EMPATHY.

Stanford’s d.school is a prominent leader in the design thinking process. They use design thinking as a powerful tool (or methodology) in the user experience research and design field. They believe that empathy is the centerpiece for creating great user experiences. “To create meaningful innovations, you need to know your users and care about their lives.”

I have seen this first hand and agree that empathy is extremely valuable in creating meaningful innovations or experiences. Over the past three years I have assisted UX researchers running usability sessions both in our office and out in the field. In this time I’ve sought to understand all that they must do while running these sessions. They are responsible for taking notes on participants’ words and actions, occasionally communicating with clients or team members in the middle of the session, and navigating some challenging technical equipment, all while cordially leading participants through the session. In observing this I understand that if I can lighten their load in any way I can help them to focus on running great sessions which in turn helps us discover great insights into the problems we are trying to solve. Because of this I’ve designed our labs and our field equipment to be as easy to use as possible while still delivering quality videos. I do whatever is necessary so that the technology used during sessions becomes invisible to the researchers.

As I’ve talked about in the past, empathy is a crucial part of creating great experiences. In truly caring about your users not only do you better understand their needs and desires but you also build meaningful (and often lasting) relationships.