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BlogInterviewing & Research Skills

May 16, 2018

  • Last Updated:
  • February 12, 2020

43 UX Research Tips and Confessions

You shared your top humorous (and horrific) stories from the field, we gave you prizes and wrote about it.

Erin May

Last week, we attended the UXPA Boston event. It was pretty awesome for a few reasons. To wit:

We personally met well over 100 folks deeply engaged in the UX / UX research world. Of course, this is our target audience, but we also just really enjoy geeking out with you guys, so thanks!

We’re a remote team, so for me, attending the event meant meeting 7 of my 12 coworkers in the flesh for the first time. That brings me to 9 total, with 3 still to meet. I'm looking at you Hana, Brittany, and Jessica.

Our booth @ UXPA Boston

This was our first large event together, so we did a lot of winging it, and even better, having fun. We decided to go for koozies (fun, useful) felt tip pens (the choice pen of the discerning UXer) and an interactive experience. Write a Post-it® confession, story, or tip from your UX research experience, then spin a wheel for a prize. Prizes included free participant recruitment, and months off our soon-to-launch subscription offering. Everyone seemed to enjoy the activity, and we were delighted when attendees asked us to explain what our company actually does! (Elevator pitch available by request at

We had dozens of submissions throughout the day, and I thought it’d be fun to turn those into some content for you all.

‍All the Post-its, unorganized, on my wall (no, sadly I do not play the guitar).

We gave people some basic prompts to choose from, but left it pretty open. Share a user interview war story, tips you’ve learned over the years, “unconventional” wisdom, what you wish you knew when you started, or really whatever you felt like. So, I did my best to organize the Post-its in a sort of open/closed card sort of 1. It’s best if you imagine “Everywhere” by Fleetwood Mac playing in the background, because that’s what was going on.

Here are the categories I landed on:

  • UX research tips (13)
  • Research war stories (10)
  • Research gripes and confessions (9)
  • Evolution / what I wish I knew (7)
  • Research benefits (4)

The best stories about user research

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UX research tips

Spots on wall, not your computer

A few highlights of what researchers had to say:

Interview as wide a range of users as possible

If you want to validate your assumptions, to learn what you don’t know you don’t know, talking with a diversity of participants is a good way to get a diversity of opinion. You want talk to representative users of course, but don’t overly box yourself in with a narrow definition of that audience either.

No such thing as a perfect interview script

Absolutely. I always gravitate to “moderator guide,” since a script will inevitably, well, go off script. Focusing on key points you want to cover, and the goals of your interview will keep your interview on track, while allowing the conversation to flow naturally.

Eye contact is very important (practice with a cat)

Making a connection with another human is key to getting them to open up! Eye contact is a huge social cue that says: I’m a human, trying to connect with you. Video conferencing technology works in many cases, but you can’t beat in-person for this.

Engage frequent site visitors using surveys via email, then solicit user testing

Take advantage of your analytics to find your best users for qualitative studies!

Pace over perfection. Don’t get in too deep before you put something in front of users.

Love this one. In the quest for habitual research, keeping a steady research pace is more important than getting the wrong answer (or assumption) yesterday.

Research war stories

UX research war stories, painting by Stella May

I make kids games. Sometimes I have to bring users to the potty in the middle of testing.

Aww. Nothing more human than a bio break. And a good reminder to meet your users where they are.

Once participant tried to pretend to be a doctor. When she couldn’t answer any medical questions, we dismissed her.

Yikes. Unfortunately some participants lie. Of course we do our best here to screen participants at User Interviews, and block folks who have misrepresented themselves in the past. A good screener survey is one of your best lines of defense, but these things do happen. But the stories though!

True story: When an adult participant brought her dad with her

Bring your dad to your user interview day?

Interview was my roommate’s ex… still interviewed him

Peak professionalism.

There were also stories of participants accidentally sharing their topless lady desktop wallpapers, crying in session, seeing participants google screener criteria, and more.

Research gripes and confessions

I’m a UX person—who doesn’t like people!

Clearly the winning Post-it.

I hate the Google AdWords UI/UX

I so feel you on this. There’s a new design out though! It’s kind of better?

Evolution / what I wish I knew

I need to find how many people?

It can seem overwhelming to organize a large recruit. But fortunately there are solutions out there to make it so much easier!

After starting my first UX job, I quickly learned that most of the team thought UX [research] just slowed things down and were happy to skip it!

For sure there’s a point of diminishing returns when it comes to research. Researching early and often is your best course of action for consistently getting the most value out of it. Work closely with product so your interests and cycles of work are aligned. And score some early wins to show the value of what you’re doing. Ashley Tudor, who led user research at Thumbtack, has some great tips to gain organizational buy-in for research.

Research benefits

I like to fix things… make things better!

Backing your product recommendations and insights with real user insight is an awesome human-centric way to solve real problems.

Have a war story or inspiration to share? Share it on Twitter with the hashtag #uxrconfessions and reply @userinterviews for a chance to win 3 free months of our forthcoming subscription offering!

Want to contribute to User Interviews content? Here’s how.

Erin May

VP, Growth & Marketing

Left brained, right brained. Customer and user advocate. Writer and editor. Lifelong learner. Strong opinions, weakly held.

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