Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Remote Interviews

Remote interviews are contextual inquiry sessions without the context. It is not as good as being there, but it is better than guessing or only talking to subject matter experts. We also have great tools to get closer to the participant without really being there. I use a phone line to ask questions and a WebEx Meeting so the participant can show me what they do with a specific software application or website. [I haven't been able to use Video yet, because most of my users don't have webcams.] WebEx does require some education for the participant. I usually send instructions for calling in and starting a WebEx session a week in advance. I also request that they go to the WebEx site before our interview to get the latest WebEx components.

A remote user interview starts off like most interviews, obtain some basic profile information and make sure they meet the selection criteria you have identified. Once you have the basics, ask questions that deal more with their job function and goals rather than their use of a specific tool. Allow the initial questions to personalize the interview when asking questions specific to the use of the tool, you can ask clarifying questions related to the users job function and whether the tool is helping them to meet the job goals they stated. It is important to have the participant show you how they use the tool to accomplish common tasks. I often start off by asking them how they get started, what is the first thing they do when opening up the tool. This usually gets them into the "instructor" mode, where they are teaching me what they do and sets a nice tone for the rest of the session.

Always end a session by thanking the participant and giving them additional contact information if they would like to follow-up with feedback. I encourage you to still use gratuities of some sort. I have found electronic gift certificates to be popular.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


I have been creating some draft concepts of an incredibly complicated feature and I have drawn hundreds of pictures to determine what WON'T work and have come to the realization that sometimes it is still an important enough feature for some users that we need to do it, somehow. I am going to apply several progressive disclosure principals:
  • Allow the feature to be suppressed if the administrator doesn't want to use it with their user(s)
  • Make a new object type that will be visually distinct so the user is aware of which objects the feature can be performed on
  • Mimic a wizard metaphor that would allow the user to step through the complicated process

    So now I am trying to come up with some elegant storyboards that help the development and marketing team to:
  • See how valuable this feature will be for a percentage of the population
  • Explain the difficulties of providing the feature in the constraints of the current hardware and software
  • Depict the screens and flows present to allow the feature to be exposed and utilized

    I usally like to stay low tech for as long as possible, but I am using Microsoft Visio and Macromedia Fireworks to mock up the screens and flow. I haven't found any tool that allows me to show flow better than Visio. I started using the Macromedia suite for an old client, so I know it better than Adobe Photoshop. I would like to a graphics art class and I might just do that this summer - if I can take a break long enough to see if there is anything offered at night.

    Glenn L. Ray, Ph.D, from University of Pittsburgh has a powerpoint about the benefits of storyboards.
  • ShareThis