• Lucie

Why is user research like a pineapple? Spikey on the outside but sweet inside.

UX professionals are always without time and budget. I say this, but I still firmly believe in always pushing for more user research. I believe in educating my colleagues on why we can’t rely on self-reported or attitudinal qualitative data. Below is one of my experiences, which shows the pitfalls of relying too heavily on this kind of data create a solution.



My experience of why we need to find the pineapple?

One day, after eating my lunch, I felt like something sweet and fresh. I thought, “a piece of fruit would be nice”. We had free apples at work, so I went over to the basket to grab one. But then I thought, “no, I don’t actually want an apple”.


“So what do I feel like?” I asked myself. “Watermelon?…no not really….um, grapes?…yes I would like some cold green grapes.” I could imagine myself popping a grape into my mouth, the sweet juice escaping from the fruit as the skin burst open.


I walked to the supermarket. I could picture the packet I wanted and even where I could find them in the store. I told my colleague as I left, “I’m off to pick up some grapes”. At the supermarket, I headed to where the grapes were kept.. They were the right size for what I considered an “actual” serving. These were, in fact, the perfect grapes. I reached out to grab a box, but then I happened to look at the shelf above. Pineapple, pre-cut into perfect pieces. I love pineapple; it’s so fresh, sweet and juicy. I hadn’t even thought about pineapple and no one had suggested it when I left the office. The “perfect grapes” were forgotten as I grabbed the pineapple.


Midway through enjoying eating my delicious pineapple, it occurred to me. This is why conducting ‘ user observations’ is essential in user testing. It can reveal new insights to help your business succeed and is not replaced by interviews.


If this scenario was managed through UX research; I would have been interviewed and said I wanted grapes. I might have even revealed my preferred grape type is green.


The programme would have expended a colossal effort and resource to produce green grapes. As a user, I would even have marketing telling me about these perfect grapes. All this effort, resource and time were put into developing green grapes. But in context, I wanted pineapple.


This is no ‘one’ person fault. But it shows how only talking to users can miss what they actually want.


Conclusion

Users will tell you what they interpret as the truth within the parameters of the situation they can imagine. But here’s the secret sauce. The user is human, they will forget things and accidentally misrepresent themselves. They are influenced by their surroundings in the moment. This happens to all of us.


Instead, we must observe our users to ensure what they ask for reflects how they act in real life. If we don’t, we might just miss the opportunity to add pineapple to the menu.


Thanks for reading.

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