Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) - QRCA Views Magazine, Summer 2020

30 QRCA VIEWS SUMMER 2020 www.qrca.org Steve Portigal on the Key Skills of a User Experience Researcher CONT INUED language they use, you incorporate that language in your questions. You’re setting up a dynamic with them where there’s some trust and where your questions are not putting your frame on things too much. I mean, it’s inevitable. It’s unavoidable, but you’re doing it in kind of a gentle, curious way. Think about what your body language is and what your tone of voice is. You can say something the way that you understand it, but you’re inviting them to criticize, challenge, or dismiss it. So, the whole dynamic is like that. Then you’re more able to say, “So, if I understand properly, it sounds like this and this and this and this, is that right?” But, you check in with them. And of course, you can imagine the bulldozer way to do this, where you’re just making declarations at the person, which would be the misappli- cation of the technique. Having a dynamic where you are learning, listening, evolving, and inviting them to support you in doing that, I think, can be effective. Kay: How do you deal with situations where the client might have a vested interest in a particular outcome that the research is not delivering? Steve: I’ll answer the counterpoint to that. Clients who have a vested interest in how the world is will see things that I won’t see. I love having them with me despite the bias that they’re going to bring, given their work. They will see things and be curious about things that I won’t know to ask about, and they will interpret what we heard differently. That’s very productive to digging in with the participants and then making sense afterward. How do we do that in a way that helps them be successful? I put together little briefing worksheets, and I make sure to have a meeting with everybody before- hand and talk about, “Hey, here’s how these conversations go. Here’s what to do and what not to do.” Tactically, you need one person to drive the conversation. So that’s me, that’s the lead researcher. It’s an 80/20 split in terms of question-asking. Driving the interview means you choose what topics we’re talking about. So, if someone is telling me about their videogame habits and I’m asking all these follow-ups, I do not want this other person to say, “What kind of bedsheets do you prefer to purchase?” That moves the conversation into a completely different place. We’ve lost our flow and our ability to follow up. So, that person’s been given a very specific role, which is to listen and think of questions, but the only questions that they are going to ask are about what we’re talking about right now. So, I set up that expectation. I pay attention to them. I can hear them shifting in their seats, or that breath they make when they want to inter- rupt, or have something they’re thinking about. I’ll either ignore them, or put it on hold for myself, and then turn to them when we’re at a transition moment and say, “Do you have any- thing to talk about, anything you want to ask, about what we’re talking about right now?” They might say, “Oh, I’d like to ask about bedsheets.” And I’ll just say, “That’s a great topic, and we’ll get to that in a little while. Is there anything about what we’re talking about right now?” So, we’re talking about the interview in the interview with everyone together. This is a collaborative conversation. We don’t have to whisper in front of our participant about what we want to talk about. I teach my clients a little bit to sit on your hands, right? To let me control where the overall flow is, and I will give you moments throughout to get to the things that you want to get to. I’ve heard other researchers assign people very specific tasks, someone to

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