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I'm reading this article on how people tend to be caught in their own "homophilic [perception] bubble" when working at tech companies. People are focused on what they are designing, they work in comfortable chairs, good light, they interact with other smart people from similar demographics.

This leads to making assumptions about design which appear completely natural, but may be totally off for the general public. These mistakes are not caught until the product is put in the hands of an actual customer, way later down the line.

How can I step out of my perception bubble when designing or thinking about user experience?

I heard about techniques like "hallway testing", and am trying to implement them. I thought about using the app when I'm not focused, or lighting is bad, or I'm in a hurry, but what else can I do?

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    This question is not useful without context. Who are you designing for? If it's villagers in rural Southeast Asia, then it's pretty important to think about the environment in which your design is being used. If it's financial software for someone in an office, then you can probably assume their lighting is going to be just fine. – Bowen Apr 8 '15 at 22:49
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You're right in not making decisions based upon your own assumption.

What you could do is usability testing with actual people.

The best test would be conducted with 5-7 (or more) testpersons from the actual targeted audience in an environment they will be using the app or at least in an environment where they are comfortable.

If you don't have time to conduct an extended test try letting your family and friends use the app and give their opinion. Or just anyone with a different view than you have.

If you yourself want to test the app in certain circumstances you're already doing a proper job. Test it in situations where people actually use their phone. On the couch with the tv on, while walking outdoors or indoors, while driving in a car (on the passenger seat ofcourse), on the bus, on the train.

Good luck.

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    I would definitely agree with the above and a great book that gives advice on low cost UX methodology and lots of advice on how to evaluate your own thinking more critically is 'UNDERCOVER USER EXPERIENCE DESIGN' by Cennydd Bowles and James Box. Well worth the investment. Also...for an alternative example of not evaluating UX from the comfy chair environment check out this guys site and videos where he gets super drunk to evaluate peoples websites and apps etc: theuserisdrunk.com It's a bit ridiculous but loads of great insights in amongst it all! – Chris Apr 9 '15 at 8:13
  • That concept is genius :) – Alex Stone Apr 9 '15 at 17:23
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I think the following activities can help to expand the perception of every UX professional:

  • Usability testing (as much as you can)
  • Constant research (new studies, trends, recognized blogs, etc)
  • Participating in communities like this!
  • Knowing your app use cases.
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App design is new as a profession so I have borrowed wisdom from a much older profession for getting design perspective: method acting.

User stories, psychographics, and personas are very common approaches to the initial/ideation phase of app design.

I've found that they are helpful descriptive approaches, but I've found it more powerful to spend time really absorbing myself into the user persona the way method actors think about a role. For me that means spending all parts of my day thinking about what a user would be doing, what their family life is like, what mood they are likely to be In, career goals, etc. When I look at the mobile app, I begin by placing myself in the user's workplace, close my eyes and imagine the state of mind and stress levels, and walk through last few activities the user has done, then deliberately take the phone out of my pocket and look at it... So that I am not only looking at the app but am integrating it into a perspective of the user's environment.

Impersonating a user is only one half of the process... the other half is actively rejecting the technology insight, critical habits, pride of authorship, and other habits associated with the designer's perspective.

This approach is not a substitute for rigorous testing, but testing takes time and expense so learning to cultivate an outside perspective as a designer is an incredibly productive and rewarding skill.

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