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August 2019

Book Review
Think Like a UX Researcher
How to Observe Users, Influence Design, and Shape Business Strategy

David Travis and Philip Hodgson
CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group
Book Review 10/10
This book is absolutely amazing! A must-read for any designer, whether UX or non-UX designer. Superbly organized. Complex topics are teased clearly. If you don't master the topics and concepts within the field, don't worry! This is the perfect book to start to dig in and be familiar with the field.

About the authors

David Travis (@userfocus) David Travis is the Managing Director of Userfocus, an independent consultancy specialising in usability training and usability consultancy. David holds a BSc degree and a PhD in Psychology. David's professional affiliations include membership of the British Psychological Society, the Experimental Psychology Society and the User Experience Professionals Association. He represents the BSI on two ISO working groups, where he is currently the UK expert contributing to usability and ergonomics standards such as ISO 9241 and ISO 13407. He is a Chartered Psychologist and has published over 30 scientific papers, including three books, and led seminars and tutorials at international symposia.

Philip Hodgson (@bpusability) has been a user experience researcher and mentor for over 25 years. His UX work has influenced product design for the US, European, and Asia markets, for everything from finance and medical software to store displays, packaging and even baby diapers. He has a PhD in Experimental Psychology.

My notes and highlights

David Travis and Philip Hodgson are masters of their craft. This book is the manual that all designers need! Don't matter your seniority degree within the UX field. This book is a mindset polisher. The authors do an amazing job Setting the Stage [chapter 1] of true user experience research. Is not a front to back book, you can consult it anytime, or anywhere. I see this book as my new favorite toolbox. Just look for the tool you need (at any point in the process).

This is a resource that I can see myself repeatedly using it as a reference, throughout my activities, to bring more value to my work. It empowers me to do my job better.

In this book, the author's refine all the misconceptions around user research by clarifying several UX trends masquerade as UX. Especially, they illuminate the reader for the difference between User Research and UX research.
"User research implies a focus on users only; in contrast, UX research encourages practitioners and stakeholders to take a more strategic view and focus on what really matters: the user's experience."
In 2014, I did David Travis' Udemy course "User Experience (UX): The Ultimate Guide to Usability and UX", and like his Udemy courses, the book offers highly practical advice with clear examples that teach best practices for those who are either new to the world of user experience or serve as a fresh air for those who are seasoned UX practitioners.

The entire book is full of objective and practical case studies, examples, stories, anecdotes, references and analogies, that make this book particularly amazing. But better than this, are the final call-to-actions that ends every session. Those are the perfect summaries where the reader can retain the most relevant information of that particular session.

Follow the advice of this book and you will only improve your carrier. Whether as a designer or not, you will benefit a lot from this book. For those who are not designers, the book will teach you to understand how the business can make more money if it understands and invests in user experience. UX is the perfect ally to help grow any business.

David Travis and Philip Hodgson brilliantly present a comprehensive guide, making it easy to digest and drive the content.

Introduction

Written as a series of in-depth essays, the book covers pretty much every aspect of the research process and more! (particularly the chapter where you can learn how to persuade people in your organization to act on research results).

The book breaks down the methods to carry out UX research in a way that is easy to understand and to accomplish. The chapters organization facilitates the book navigation, and more importantly, the richness of the content. You will be able to gain insight into planning, conducting, analyzing your user experience research. But insights are nothing if you cannot do anything with them. Accordantly, the book also covers how to persuade people to take action on the results of user experience research. And on extra points, you can also find insights in how to build a strategy for your own career path growth.

Book Contributions

The book covers it all! From definitions, planning, conducting, strategy, and analysing research... you name it, and you get it. All of these are complemented with relevant and practical advices and examples. The only "weak" aspect I may point to this book is the lack of reference on how to literate designers on how to deal with qualitative data. I have been felling that this is an achilles heel to any user experience researcher. Usually, we are comfortable with qualitative analysis, but when we have to face quantitative data we tend to come up with secondary strategies to avoid it. Our current education fails us to provide us with the necessary knowledge and guidance to be better researchers regarding more restricted analytics.

Notwithstanding, for contributions on user experience qualitative topics I can recommend Measuring the User Experience: by Tullis and Albert as well as Quantifying the User Experience by Sauro. With the proviso, they are not easy readings. A minimum background and understanding of statistics are required.

Final Observation

The price of the book doesn't worth the knowledge value of what the book contains. This is by far the best book I have read and the one I do more recommend for either experience and non-experience UX researchers. Full of great insights. The authors' advice are incalculable value, reflecting years of priceless field experience. This reflects on the volume of practical knowledge that you can extract immediately, which is incredibly impressive.

Unlike many other books on the subject, this is an extremely well-written book and a and collection of thought-provoking essays. The book is structured to suit anyone in any role who makes decisions influencing end-users or customers. So whether you are a seasoned user experience researcher or designer, or an engineer, product manager, marketer, salesperson, etc... You certainly will find a lot of meaningful value out of this book. Worth every penny, and more importantly, worth every second you spend reading it (and time is priceless!).

Conclusions

The book does not bring any new findings to the field. However, it brings a new perspective and an excellent execution of articulating very complex ideas into a simple, smart and comprehensive way. No matter the type or the level of UX maturity you are on, the book is essential to everyone.

The authors do a superb job at breaking down the thought processes of effective UX researchers.
Full of thought-provoking questions to make us reflect further at the end of each section, as they call "think like a UX researcher" . This is also a supportive book to aid UX researchers in preparing for competency-based job interviews as well.

There isn't a better book for researchers and designers or any curious professional to understand more about the field and improve their skills. So, stop reading this review and go get it! You will hone your skills in the blink of an eye.
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