After the undoubted worldwide success of last month’s blog on (*jsut kidding. See —, this blog is a follow-on from that topic to delve into more alternative methods to get the proverbial juices flowing for conducting research when working in Agile.

1) Color by Emotion

This one is similar to 1’s ‘Colour by Importance’. However, the clue is in the title in terms of the difference. This technique can be used with either visual layouts of the product you’re testing or specific pieces of text which you would like to understand a bit more about in terms of what effect it is having on the .

You can do this many, many different ways, however here we’ll discuss two. The first way is to give your participant a few different colored highlighters (3 will do). Attribute an emotion to each of the different colours, (confidence, frustration, trust etc — just try to be balanced in the variety of emotions you select) or alternatively you can select one emotion (such as trust) and attribute the colors to the 3 varying degrees of this emotion (strong to weak).

Ask the participant to go through the layout or text and highlight the parts which they believe makes them feel the differing emotions by using the attributing highlighter, some parts may have conflicting emotions, but don’t worry that’s fine. Once you’ve gone through this technique with a number of users you can start to build a literal picture of which areas are creating certain emotions by looking at the color combinations that are starting to build up (tracing paper is good for this). If you have time, try to follow-up the highlighting task with each of the participants by asking them ‘why?’ they chose to color the text/image in such a way to help uncover their reasoning.

Example of a highlighted page from

The second method is very similar, however, allows the user to select their own emotion/s they would like to apply to the different colors for what it is you’re testing. This method does not put any undue bias by potentially using emotions you would expect them to feel rather than what it is they might truly feel about the product. Again, follow-up by asking why it is they chose the color they did in order to gain reasoning behind your participant’s actions.

Example User Comments:

Low Trust >

“Some of the language was ambiguous and therefore did give me feeling of trust in what was being said.”

High Trust >

“The text was clear and concise and written in a way which I could easily understand which helped me feel more trusting towards the site.”

When should it be used?

  • Use it to help validate the design
  • Use it to benchmark against competitors

What are the key outcomes?

Qualitative user feedback in the form of paper artifacts which can be used to help create something visual to present back to teams such as a heatmap of their emotions as well as verbal feedback. User’s comments on the different aspects of what they have highlighted will help to support your artifacts and give context to why they have colored in such a way.

How do I implement this?

You will need to use printouts of your product or text in order to test with the user. You may also want to consider using tracing paper to lay over an original of the text/product and that way you may find it easier to begin to build up a picture. Be sure to note which section the user was discussing when collecting any comments as a part of your qualitative feedback, this will help for reference when you may later require looking back through the testing.

What are the benefits vs traditional methods?

  • Able to understand users’ complex and often conflicting emotions about the same product page or piece of text. Often it is not always one solitary emotion and this method helps to unpack this.
  • Can be used for text or screenshots of the different product pages.

) The Comparable Experience

User Experience is about creating exactly what it says on the tin, an Experience. Sometimes when researching this can be a difficult notion to capture when it comes to testing users due to the multiple facets that can go into an overall experience as well as the difficulty it can be to eloquently articulate just what exactly our experiences felt like. It can, therefore, be better to tap into a User’s comparable experience in order to allow them to tell you about a similar event or interaction they’ve experienced.

This technique is similar to asking the well-used research question — “Tell me about a time when you…” or “Describe to me the last time you…”. However, this technique asks of the participant to describe a similar experience to one they have had after using the product, in order to attribute certain discernable characteristics from the experience which they found particularly comparable as well as why.

Ask the participant to use the product or site you are testing, preferably with a specific task to resolve that you may want to focus on. After completing the task as them to discuss their experience before highlighting a similar experience they would say it is like. This does not need to be a digital experience and can be good or bad. It is simply asking the user to think a little more abstractly about the product they have just encountered and to unearth some of the emotive feelings that they may want to see in the product. Again you can follow up with probing questions as to why it is they feel such a way or how they might want to feel in the given scenario.

This type of technique is used to get people to think about the product or experience at a level they can easily connect with and recreate themselves, which will help draw out rich information in terms of the wants and needs from the user for that product. It doesn’t need to necessarily be an experience per se, but maybe a photo which could help to represent an experience in order to get them to think about how the product made them feel.

Example from Survey Monkey

When should it be used?

  • Use it to learn more about why your users are or are not engaging with the product either in initial user research or for validation purposes

What are the key outcomes?

Understand at a deeper level the experience felt by your user and as well as one they might want to feel.

How do I implement this?

You may choose to have a deck of images at hand, similar to the image form survey monkey in order to inspire the users or simply allow the user to explain back to you from their personal preference.

What are the benefits vs traditional methods?

Simply asking “Tell me the last time” is a good way to understand the various stages of how a user may interact with a product, but may not get to the cause of the experience they currently feel or one they might want to experience. The benefit here is being able to tap into that comparable experience which is well established and use it to leverage the plus points or negatives which you can bring in or try to reduce from your product.

3) Filter Method

Often when completing user testing participants can feel compelled to finish tasks set by the researcher, whether through politeness, the fact they have been reimbursed for taking part or any other reason, when in reality they are free to leave without reason at any point during the test. Conversely, this method asks users to stop at the point in their journey when they feel they would no longer continue. Users may choose to follow through the journey all the way to the end, however, it’s important to understand where and importantly Why users are dropping off which you wouldn’t be able to get from tracking online statistics.

Choose a task you would like to hone in on and consider the various different stages of the journey that are necessary to complete the overall task. Get the user to run through the journey as they would normally, with consideration for the fact that they might choose alternate methods. Get the user to think aloud as they run through their tasks, analyzing their journey and ask them before they look to move off the page/or leave the site why it is they would want to make that decision. Should they choose to leave, make a note of where and why, whilst you may want to time the user-test for additional information on how long they spent and when the user dropped out. Essentially, this is analyzing when/where and how many users are deciding to ‘drop-off’ with the benefit of being able to as Why.

An example screen for the task of buying milk from Tesco:

When should it be used?

  • Use it to help validate the design
  • Use it to benchmark against a competitor where tasks are similar
  • Can be conducted remotely

What are the key outcomes?

Understand the specific problem areas faced by users when trying to complete tasks with your product. Help to understand the dropout rate at the various stage of your product and reasoning from the user as to why this is happening.

How do I implement this?

Choose your medium which you would like to test on (Desktop, Laptop, mobile etc.) and have a task sheet for the user to complete. Mark at which stage they decided to stop (if they did) with their reasoning why, even if they completed the tasks all the way to the end.

What are the benefits vs traditional methods?

Typical online testing which may be able to capture the statistics for users using your site or product are great — should you have the means. For those that don’t, this is not only a cheap and easy alternative but one which is also able to gain from the user ‘Why?’ they chose to drop out when they did. Conducted with around 20 participants it will help to give a good steer on the problem areas and reasoning (Qualitative Data) although more participants would be wanted to gain any substantial quantitative data which might give a truer reflection of the bounce rate at different pages.

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