In the UX world, we often hear terms like “user-centered,” “human-centered,” and “customer-centered.” We believe that in order to be innovative, we need to center experiences that are authentic, intuitive, and practical.

But what does being “human-centered” really mean?

To me, as an academic-turned-UX Researcher, it truly means to be an advocate for humans.

Below are some ways that researchers in particular — but also other UXers and Product-focused roles — can become advocates.

1. Stay ethical.

One of the first things you do when you start out in academia is go through a CITI Human Subjects Research training. It’s an extensive training to understand the moral and ethical implications of conducting research with humans. It also highlights what informed consent it, how to obtain it, and how to assess the risk of research.

For those who are self-taught or have career-switched into UX, you probably have skipped this step. However, it’s incredibly important to read up and educate yourself on ethics.

In general, when doing research, do no harm to humans.

When creating an interview or survey script, stay curious but not invasive. Make sure to continuously check in with how participants feel to ensure you are protecting their well-being.

For example, when I had been doing research on people’s health experiences, I had interviewed a person who incidentally had been in the emergency room the night prior. Immediately, the biggest risk in doing this research was causing more emotional trauma when digging into her health experiences. I continued to vocalize that she can opt-in to tell us whatever she felt comfortable with and she can end the interview at anytime with no repercussions. After the interview during the debrief with my team, a fellow team member had said that he would have been “a true researcher” and dug into her experience for more details, regardless of her emotional state.

My response to that is, sure, the role of the researcher is to observe & understand. But the role of the advocate is to protect humans from potentially-traumatizing experiences, and that to me, should always take priority.

2. Focus on the high-level, foundational research and concept testing.

Though usability testing is incredibly useful in creating an intuitive, easy-to-use experience, it’s important to ask yourself, “Are we building the right thing?”

By building the knowledge base of the product or experience you’re creating, you ensure that you are a) defining the problem, b) validating this problem with humans, and c) ensuring your solution actually solves for that problem.

The beautiful thing about foundational research and concept testing is that the learnings will be able to serve you throughout the entire product build cycle and can completely transform how you think about the user experience.

Prioritize it as much as you can.

3. Recruit and purposely research those outside of your “typical user” demographic.

It can be easy to recruit very engaged users or those who are already on a research panel. However, by always conducting research with the same population, you are missing out on those humans who your products do not reach and those who need your advocacy potentially even more.

Use 3rd party recruitment services like User Interviews or Ethnio to recruit people outside of your “typical user” demographic.

Doing this type of research can potentially uncover a lot more opportunities, or further contribute to your foundational research. It also gives a voice to those who aren’t usually heard.

#ux-research #ux #ux-design #advocacy #human-centered-design

6 Ways UX Researchers can be Advocates for Humans
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