Points and Lines – User Research Analysis Goodness

One of my favorite sessions at the IA Summit was Laurie Gray’s case study on ethnography of stockbrokers and their trading methods(2 MB PowerPoint. It’s got Laurie’s notes, so you can really follow along).

There’s a lot of good in it, but what most excited me is how Laurie used a simple visualization to better understand what she had observed, and to demonstrate how the current system under consideration satisfied the approach of its users.

On Slide 10, she introduces the set of simple oppositional continua that emerged from her observations:
laurie_1
In her talk, she mentioned how she didn’t hit upon these herself — she was working closely with a subject matter expert on her client’s side, and the two of them were able to come up with this.

So, then they took each subject, and plotted their approach along these various lines.
laurie_2
Not particularly revealing.

But then they had an insight. If they separated “Brokers” from “Planner/Advisors”, and considered them separately, a trend emerged. First the Brokers:
laurie_3

Then the Advisors:
laurie_4

In her talk, Laurie pointed out that her client hadn’t considered these as two distinct audiences. They’d identified one “user type.” Her research and this analysis made it clear that there were two distinct groups, with significantly different approaches.

She was able to take this one step further, by plotting how the current web-based system functioned along these various axes.
laurie_5

I love this last graph. It clearly demonstrates that the current system is designed for brokers, and that the planner/advisors are likely having to fight against it. This makes apparent a clear opportunity for the client to pursue.

In general, I just love this set of visualizations. While such attribute-oppositions are common in things like branding and positioning (where you place “your company” along such lines and compare it to other companies), I’d never seen it used as a user research tool. And it proved quite powerful. First in providing the insight around the two distinct user groups. And then in mapping the current system and demonstrating opportunities. Good on Laurie, and something to add to the methodological toolbox.

8 thoughts on “Points and Lines – User Research Analysis Goodness

  1. Ethnography, 2 Groups and One Website

    peterme.com: Points and Lines – User Research Analysis Goodness Peter Merholz has posted an interesting set of slides from a recent Information Architecture conference where Laura Gray presented her findings from a ethnographic study. Her research reve…

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    Peter Merholz covers a study from Laurie Gray in using a series of two dimensional plots of characteristics to discover user population traits….

  3. Targeting audiences: A simple exercise

    When Laurie Gray analyzed her client’s Web site content against its target audience — stockbrokers and financial advisers, the method she used led to no helpful information. Then, when she broke that group into two target audiences, she suddenly reali…

  4. User Research Analysis Goodness

    Peter Merholz writes about a session of the IA summit by Laurie Gray. Check out his comments and her Powerpoint (2MB) presentation. The visualization of the different approaches between two audiences. I’m all inspired, this would be a great way…

  5. http://www.petebevin.com/subblog/archives/#001459

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  6. Usability and organizational subcultures

    Laurie Gray made a presentation on Ethnography of Stockbrokers, to which Peter Merholz points here. Impeccable methodology and judicious use…

  7. Interesting Links

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  8. Points and Lines

    Peter Merholz pulls out an interesting visualisation from a talk by Laurie Gray at the IA Summit. In the visualisation, user behaviours are mapped along a series of continua, allowing clusters of similar behaviours (ie groups of different users) to eme…