I'll get on with an explanation of my situation, but this really boils down to the following:

  • What research methods / other approach would you recommend, given my situation?
  • How does my proposed approach sound?

I apologize if the following reads a bit vague. I went light on exact details in the interest of client privacy.

My Situation

  • I work at a web design agency
  • For the client with whom I'm currently working, we're creating an interactive prototype (using proto.io) and are planning to evaluate this initial design with a round of usability testing
  • I didn't suggest the usability tests; they were scheduled and I was asked to conduct them

    • Not to say I disapprove! Super happy that a client of ours is pre-bought-in to UX research; saves me some gray hairs :)
    • The point is that a methodology was selected before I was introduced to the project
  • I'm concerned, though, because I think my client is primarily interested in validating the product's value proposition, that it's actually useful for the people we think we're designing for

    • We've made an assumption about what users need
    • We don't have much if any info about the validity of this assumption
  • It seems to me we want to know things like:

    • How if at all do people currently deal with this problem?
    • What are people's attitudes toward our problem area?
  • These questions suggest to me, initially, something like user interviews or contextual inquiry


  • we've already planned the usability tests and I'm concerned that changing that plan would seriously inconvenience my client, as my client has handled the recruiting and logistics so far
  • I have little experience conducting interviews, so I'm concerned that if I recommend interviews, I might struggle to deliver valuable insights, or at least explain to my stakeholder why interviewing is a valuable technique


  1. Stick with the usability test
  2. Explain to my client my concern to gauge their priority for validating their value proposition (in case i've misread their situation)
    • basically, given my knowledge of your assumptions and information you want to know, I recommend we take x different action (e.g. interviewing). Is that right? is checking this assumption actually a priority or no)
  3. If my client sees my concern as valid, suggest the following options
    • use an interview protocol for the usability test (described here: https://articles.uie.com/bending_protocals/ )
    • schedule interviews in addition to usability tests
    • stick with just the usability tests, but agree to watch out for and gauge how people react to the content in our prototype, that if people seem to generally find the content totally unfamiliar, confusing, or illogical, that we should take that as a warning signal that we don't understand the problem space as well as we should and that additional research, like interviewing, would help address that gap


  • How does my proposed approach sound?
  • If it sounds off-base or inadvisable, what research methods / other approach would you recommend, given my situation?
  • Do you have any UX designers?
    – Confused
    Feb 5, 2017 at 21:54
  • Hi! Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. We have an in-house visual designer and a few front-end devs. And I handle any user research when there's a need for it. I'm not really sure what a UX designer is, that term always confused me. Why do you ask? Thanks for your response to this! Feb 17, 2017 at 13:11

1 Answer 1


Your current approach I think sounds pragmatic, in that you seem flexible with your methods and realistic. Usability testing evaluates a specific modality to identify issues with the design but as you implied that method tells you little about whether the solution fulfills a valid user need.

Since the usability tests are already scheduled and since moderated user research sessions are flexible by design, I would suggest you stay the course but pounce on any opportunities to capture ad hoc insights and probe with some needs analysis questions, provided it does not interfere with the official test plan.

You may even consider inserting a few discovery questions into the protocol up front, because asking people critical incident questions and inquiring as to their work routines and such is often a great segue into the role-playing of usability tasks.

  • Oh, cool, I love those 2 suggestions, will give those a try. Thanks so much for your feedback! Sorry for my delayed response. Feb 17, 2017 at 13:12

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