• Issue #4

UX Research: Biting Off Exactly What You Can Chew

An AI-generated image a brain.

Hi there.

This week, avoiding analysis paralysis in UX research and successful conference pitching 101.

Thanks for being here.

UX Research: Biting Off Exactly What You Can Chew

The start of a new academic year was always a bit of a slow time for UX research in higher education for me. Students, faculty, and administrators were just getting settled into their routines. So, scheduling and running user testing wasn’t always a viable option.

But now might be the perfect time for some UX research planning. You may even have a fresh budget to work with or colleagues more energized than usual to plan for the upcoming recruitment cycle. The trick can be collecting the correct data to make informed strategic decisions. This takes some upfront effort right when people are most raring to go!

When teams want to focus on their users’ experiences, they often look to the methods. Focus groups, affinity diagramming, persona development, card sorts, tree tests, empathy mapping, journey mapping, service blueprints, heuristic reviews, cognitive interviews, unmoderated usability testing, moderated usability testing, surveying… the list goes on and on.

It’s tempting to do as much of it as you possibly can. But, the research is just the first step in improving the user experience. And collecting a ton of data can leave you in a state of analysis paralysis. Gathering conflicting feedback or data that addresses different aspects of the journey can create uncertainty about how to proceed or prioritize work and future research.

There will never be a stage when your research is complete. Gathering feedback is an ongoing, generative process. So, do yourself a huge favor and start small. Set a goal, pick the proper method for the job, and work on setting up a discreet research plan to gather the data you need to chart a strategic path forward.

And don’t forget to measure how it worked.

Kristin Van Dorn

Yes, You DO Belong On Stage

One of the perks of being the producer for Thought Feeder is that I get to hear all of the insights from each episode before anyone else. And because I’m responsible for the edit, I can play, pause, and replay all of the best bits over and over again. This helps with selecting mini clips to use for social promos, but if I’m honest, it helps most with my confidence.

Take the most recent episode with Nikki Massaro Kauffman, for instance. There’s this great sequence where everyone shares their thoughts on what makes a pitch “successful,” and it’s helped me realize that, yes, I do have what it takes to be on a conference stage, and if you haven’t figured it out already, so do you.

Here are five things to remember when submitting conference pitches:

  1. Organize your ideas - Just like you would any grocery list, daily affirmations, or for a robust collection of haikus, get in the habit of adding any potential topics to a notes app or nearby journal. Then when the various calls for proposals arrive (HighEdWeb’s is in February, by the way); you’ll have plenty to choose from.
  2. Keep it simple - Even if what you’re proposing seems basic to you, chances are likely that it’s new/valuable information to a potential attendee. Don’t be afraid to share what you know just because you assume everyone already knows it.
  3. Pitches don’t need to be fully realized - Plenty of folks submit barebones pitches that only include a rough idea and the learning outcomes. Sometimes that’s all the deciding committee members are looking for. Typically, those decisions happen months before the conference, so you’ll have plenty of time to sit down and finish it.
  4. Submit more than one - Remember that list we talked about? Take your three best ideas, hit that submit button, and see what happens. Unless the conference limits submission quantity, increasing your chances is wise.
  5. Be okay with a no - If your pitch is rejected, it’s essential to remember that it’s not a rejection of you or your insights. There could have been too many similar pitches, or the speaker roster might already be full, etc. Ask if any feedback is available, and most importantly, don’t let one “no” stop you from trying again.

So whether you’re new to Higher Ed or a grizzled vet who’s itching to hit the conference circuit, remember that your ideas have value and deserve to be shared.

Now pitch away!

Carl Gratiot