Smart Enough to Play Dumb

I don’t want to understand the areas in which I conduct research…

Yes, you read that right, but don’t get me wrong. When it comes to analyzing and assimilating information gathered during a study, there’s nothing like really understanding the area in which you’re conducting the research (so long as you can identify and put aside your biases but that’s a post for another time). Prior knowledge helps you make connections in the data and filter out perceptions from realities. The same is true when you’re designing a study on the front end so that you know where to look for the information you need and can asks the right questions. But, when it comes to actually collecting data from Users. It’s better if you don’t know!

Why? Because your understanding is exactly that. YOURS. What you’re looking for is the User’s understanding. Even if you understand lingo or a concept, such as “Agile Development,” you should pretend that you don’t. You’ll find that terms like Agile are defined differently by almost everyone even within an organization and the implementation of Agile is even more diverse. Beyond that, you have to consider the fact that the user may not understand the term themselves despite using it in a sentence. How many times have you used a word successfully without being able to recall the actual definition? or understood the basics of a concept but not the details when it comes to implementation?

It’s OK if users think you’re not so bright for asking, and again it’s better that way. Try not to let your intellectual pride get in the way of thorough research. (If it helps, consider the idea that you’re smart enough to know when and how to play dumb.) It’s even OK to ask a question more than once to make sure you’re clear. It’s rare that Users give the exact same answer twice.

So, get out there and play dumb! That’s the UX life!