Going back in time..the value of UX session transcription

What?? It’s two-thousand-thirteen. Holy smokes! I still have pinto-beans and gold hoarded up from Y2K….

Half-way through the fiftieth year of my life, I have been going back in time a bit, looking through the events of the past — hoping to learn, and build new and better things out of those experiences. It’s been humbling.

Along those lines, I have been reviewing UX research from the past few years. I happened upon some archives on the 10T server in the garage (where all the Music CDs that we will be getting rid of now reside). I found some specific research I did years back around the needs people have to mine, consume, and report on data that they have been collecting.

I am so grateful that in the past we had the presence of mind (and budget) to have all of our remote user sessions transcribed — because, I found in my archives a bunch of general research that might be of value for a project I am working on today. The content specifics are different, but the usage patterns, goals and needs are remarkably similar.

For example, themes of getting lost in too much information, needing to distribute meaningful data to non-savvy users, and creating routine / automation came up over and over again in past data discussions. These problems were common to anyone who is working with “big data” several years ago — and continue to be. I can use this information today.

transcription 2

Here is an example of a transcript from a remote contextual inquiry. I have asked the participant to share with me some of the tools she uses so that I can get a sense of how she meets goals and challenges as she performs tasks.

I’ve talked before about the importance of creating consistent ritual around user research events — especially trying to be agile and having to be lean. That practice has paid off; the revelation of this forgotten data treasure so well documented.

As a practice here are some things that helped us ritualize transcription into our UX practice:

      1. We found a local transcriptionist who worked with a format we liked. Notice in the images I have posted that we included a column for a screen shot — every time the screen changed on the WebEX recordings of the remote user sessions, I asked the transcriptionist to grab the image and paste it in that column.

2. We linked the transcription back to the original source recording. The transcription serves as a searchable and scannable index to the library of user session recordings — the time stamp allows one to find the place in the long recorded session without having to go back through it.

3. Making the transcriptions and recordings available to the whole Scrum is a great practice for helping people understand that we are constantly gathering data about what we are building.

4. We were consistent in our schedule for the transcriptionist. Every Friday we had 5 or 8 sessions from 6 AM to 2 PM. The transcriptionist was alerted when files were uploaded to our storage area — we would receive transcription turned around by the following Monday afternoon.

5. We followed a script when we did sessions — and provided it to the transcriptionist along with the recordings. We also spelled out and defined any vocabulary words that they should watch out for as they were transcribing.

The neat thing, too, about going back and looking at these transcripts is that I get to critique my own research technique after the fact. It’s pretty humbling to read what I actually say to people as I am following an outline. Especially helpful in improving my skill at asking open questions without biasing or leading the participant.

Oh, the POWER of seeing re-enforced what we know to be true in writing — don’t ask users what they want, or need or if anything is missing — instead ask experiential questions around the topic to get your answers. Here in black and white, I can see my mistakes, and attempts at re-framing… next time I can avoid these conversation stallers….

transcription 4

After Roger gives me a bunch of great information about what he wants to see, I asked if there are any reports missing, six seconds go by and he says “No”. But when I ask him what the “custom reports” are… he tells me what reports he needs — in essence, what are missing from the reports in the view. (Also, that a custom report generator might be a useful feature.”

So, get your sessions transcribed if you can. It’s never too late!

Happy New Year — May 2013 be a better experience for all!

Published by JB

@uxsuccess Lean User Experience; Agile software development @Tellagence, I believe user success = business success. I talk about that here: uxsuccess.com Personal blog - http://staticpoetboy.com

One Comment

  1. In my first UX job, no one blinked an eye at the idea of getting transcripts for data analysis. The value and cost were never questioned. Of course, this was a cushy corporate job where we had a bit more money and time to make this a part of our research process. In my recent UX position at a consulting agency, we never once got transcripts of anything, partly because there was no budget for it, and partly because we didn’t have much time to wait for transcripts and then dive into the analysis. I tried to argue that it was important to have the “original data” for analysis, not just our memories of things or partially-verbatim notes. Ultimately, this element of analysis that others greatly value was not seen as value-added in this context. I also argued that it would be a great way to start amassing a trove of data that could be used for years to come in the ways you mention above. But because it didn’t help clients in the “here and now” of decision making, it just wasn’t seen as a priority.


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