Thou art not the user.
Method of using interviews & observation to gain information about context of use. Interview data is then consolidated into several data models such as work flow diagram, time line diagram and affinity diagram.
I first learned this method working at Incontext Enterprises. I have utilized it several times since then. Most importantly to conduct in depth research on the Optimost and Epsilen user interfaces. Both instances generated data useful for redesigning user interfaces, improving customer relations, and creating new products.
I set up and conduct in-person and remote moderated user tests as well as unmoderated user tests via Usertesting.com.
Set up involves generating a prototype that focuses specifically on what will be tested. I then write a test plan to acquaint other participants with what functionality we are testing, what functionality will work in the prototype, and what are the assumptions that we are measuring against.
I moderate or audit tests taking notes and noting behavior.
Work with team members to review test results, understand implications and present results to stakeholders.
Help set up A/B tests. This gives me an opportunity to consume the results of the work I previously did on Optimost. I love that.
I also meet with stakeholders to look at page statistics and drop-off rates. This drives what will be examined through qualitative testing and redesigned.
Stuff I Say
I have devoted hours to hunting through details only to step back and realize that the key to the design or workflow problem was really an underlying pattern masquerading as isolated issues. It's possible to get really focused in on how to design the thing so that in user testing ten people will understand its functionality. Then, after the test dawns the realization that the concept behind the function is too abstract or hits too many varied mental models for the user to possibly be a consistent success. I always must pause and ask “What is this not telling me? What else is possible? What I am not seeing?”
Unfortunately I only have one brain. An it's just this one brain that filters the environmental input and shapes my experience. After years of riding around in my life, that brain has a bias. New input meets old filters and I can only get so much of what is really there to be gotten. Unless I get to see where I'm wrong. When I'm wrong a little piece of old information in my head gets rattled loose and discarded. My world gets a little bigger. My brain grows ever so much. As long as my being wrong doesn't involve a gross miscalculation of finances, it's actually a rather pleasant sensation.