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Teaching The Value of UX Research in Ten Minutes (with Chocolate)

Posted 9 months ago by Matt Hryhorsky

When I began teaching UX and Product Design years ago, I wanted to start the first class off with a fun activity. Something engaging the class could participate in that would get us all off on the right foot, (a.k.a, get them to like me, and follow me blindly into the deep world of design) and quickly help them understand the impact of just a little bit of UX research. There’s lots of existing workshops I could have used, but as Frank Chimero would say, I like to do things the “long, hard, stupid way”, so I made my own. I call it “The Chocolate Bar Exercise” (very inspiring) and I’ve used it in workshops for students, startups and Fortune 500 companies with some pleasantly powerful results.

Quick Summary — making assumptions about the kind of chocolate people like is just as harmful as making assumptions about customer behaviour, preferences and the features to build next. Make a wrong assumption with chocolate and I could ruin a day or worse — I could kill someone with an allergy. Make a wrong choice in product and you could cost your company millions, but with a little bit of research we can drastically improve the success rate of our product, or in this case, our chocolate bar disbursement.

Here’s how to run the workshop

What you’ll need:

What to do:

How to Explain What The Heck Just Happened

The moment you reveal that they just did some UX research is a magical one. You’ll see looks of confusion, and then a slow expression change from confusion to epiphany once they realize what just happened. Then you all nod together like you’re all in on the same awesome scheme, and you’ve learned the secret to life. Now you can start to explain why your original approach sucked.

Well done folks. Well done.

Problem 1: You Didn’t Care

Before you walked into that workshop, you didn’t bother to ask anyone about their chocolate preferences, allergies, diabetes, or any other constraints that might make chocolate a terrible choice for them. You had chocolate on-hand (aka a product or feature) and you tried to literally shove it down their throats.

Problem 2: You Made Sweeping Assumptions

I like chocolate, so everyone else must love chocolate, right? Wrong. Choosing the wrong chocolate could at the very least disappoint someone who’s just not that into Big Turk (who is?) but in the worst case, you could seriously harm someone with a severe peanut allergy. Choosing features or products based on assumptions is dangerous, and could end up costing your company millions of dollars, or loyal customers, or both.

A Little Bit of Research Goes a Long Way

With those eight people, in ten minutes you were able to increase the likelihood that a customer would be satisfied by about 80%. Ten minutes of discussion, and listening to what other people want. Ten minutes of being vulnerable and admitting to yourself that you actually don’t have all the answers, and that getting hands-on with your people can bring about big change in your organization.

Chocolate For Change (working title)

For any of you who are still (STILL) struggling to get buy-in from your organization when it comes to UX research, bring some of the naysayers into a room and ply them with chocolate. I’ve found that it creates an environment where people are far more open to discussion around the necessity of research, and more importantly, an environment where teams are more willing to find ways of building research into everything they do.

Good luck! Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you might have about running this inside your company, and don’t forget to lend a clapping hand so others can find this too.

This article was originally published on Matt’s Medium page.

UX Lead, International Growth at Shopify

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