There are many findings in psychology that are of general interest to user researchers. But here are 10 that have particularly influenced the way I go about my day-to-day work.
Plan research to avoid bias
There are many obvious sources of bias when carrying out user research. For example, most people are aware of the need to avoid leading questions and to avoid ‘selling’ participants on the design. But psychology also teaches us that there are many subtle areas where bias can creep into a study. This might take the form of writing down what you thought the participant meant rather than what she actually said. Or during a usability test, using phrases like “Good” or “That’s right” when the participant uses the system in a particular way. Or failing to randomise the tasks you ask people to carry out, to control for the fact that participants will approach later tasks in a usability test with more knowledge of the system than with earlier tasks.
Psychologists have been wrestling with the issue of experimental design for some time and every user researcher needs a basic grounding on what to do and what to avoid. For more detail, read Philip Hodgson’s article on controlling experimenter effects and for even more detail, try Critical Thinking About Research: Psychology and Related Fields by Julian Meltzoff.