07. 01. 2020
There’s a feeling of effervescence right in my gut. It’s fizzing up through my chest. I project it through the dumb smile I’m wearing on my face. I’m going home.
I picture the minute I get to hug everyone so tightly. I’m nervous. What’s it going to be like 15 months later? I wonder if everyone is going to have time for me in their lives. I am the one who left them, after all.
I ride out the sense of anxiety. It’s from flying, mostly. But it feels nice.
The plane begins to move on the tarmac. A sense of ease falls over my shoulders.
10. 12. 2019
Empathic Research Methods
A psychology major, a business major, and an ad grad walk into a bar… Unfortunately that’s not where the majority of our research needed to be conducted.
Cut to the start of the week: we walk into a usability lab and diligently start affinity diagraming research conducted from a diary study over the course of previous three days.
It all started when Company X approached us with a simple problem: the field of music streaming services is becoming crowded and increasingly difficult to compete in. We were asked to find some gaps in the user experience that we can fill in, to make Company X’s service more desirable to use.
“What do we need to know about how music affects someone’s mood?” asks Luke inquisitively.
“No, what types of music are people listening to, to deal with certain moods?” adds James.
“What if these people aren’t using music at all!?” challenges Christian.
The comfort we exercise around each other as UX research professionals allowed us to uncover our ‘aha’ moment when deciding what it is that we were even trying to find out. That’s how our research question developed.
“When trying to combat, enhance, or realize a current feeling or mood, what types of audio media are people consuming and why?” We asked with a glimmer in our eyes.
After conducting secondary research on two main music streaming platforms we found that Apple Music is breaking down their exploring experience as they compartmentalize all their media. Books, podcasts, and music are all separate. Then we checked out Spotify, who is slowly expanding into the world of social media (2019 stats on your Instagram story, anyone?), and also offers things like Podcasts directly in the application. This made us realize that there may be room to expand audio consumption beyond the world of only streaming music. We also considered the recent popularization of meditation and sleep sounds when forming said question.
We designed our diary entry form on Google Surveys. This allowed us to utilize an existing service that most people are comfortable with using. We also consciously made it easy and stress-free for our participants to fill out on the go, because we had a feeling that we would have about a 50% completion rate. Our foreshadowing was accurate, so asking a large number of participants in the start set us up for success. The ask was not too big, as long as the participant submitted an entry 2x a day for 3 days, anytime they consumed audio media, they would qualify.
During the breakdown of our entries, a few things came to light. Many of our participants are still consuming music over audiobooks or podcasts. Sleeping sounds were mentioned only once, meditation zero times, but music for studying or productivity was mentioned in over half of the entries.
Music was also used as a tool for disassociating, or removing oneself from a situation. One of the participants actively used it as a tool to feel something rather than the everyday stressors of his life.
Three of our strongest themes that were uncovered were: music is used to maintain a feeling, the same way certain smells can transport you in time. Music can be used to ‘check out’ of the current time/place, and music is used to excel at certain tasks.
We learned that conducting a diary study requires a lot of working with, and paying attention to your participants. We certainly could have been there more to check in with them, to ensure we were receiving as much data as possible. Additionally, some participants were confused because we gave them minimal direction. We did not want to lead what we were looking for, so this was crucial, but perhaps daily checkins could have reassured that what they were doing was just fine.
As for the three of us? We learned a lot about how we work together, and all help uplift and improve one another as we strive for a common goal. It’s exciting to think that we can uncover solutions that are going to change the world, or to challenge every social construct that exists, but we’re only going to do that with the contributions of one another.
And now I guess you found out what happens when we walked into the bar. We became much more than a UX research group. We became friends.
02. 12. 2019
Having a panic attack is really strange feeling. For me, it happens when my mind starts stacking thoughts. But sometimes it is for no reason at all.
It begins with an effervescent feeling in the bottom of my gut. It doesn’t necessarily feel alarming, but it tells me what’s going to happen next. Suddenly I become very aware of the bottom of my feet. They’re sore, like always, from the years of working on them. But it’s not the same. It’s like sharp lasers zipping back and forth through my arches. My toes start to tingle, as do my fingers.
I lose feeling behind my knees, elbows, and wrists. Like each joint is a repelling magnet, restraining my limbs from connecting. I begin to float.
Everything starts to feel much more intense. I look at my watch. I feel like I am late. For what? I have nowhere to be. I have to get out of here, I think to myself.
The rational part of my mind tries to calm me down. I start to breathe deeply and list things I can see and touch. Escalator, window, my cell phone. I write this in my iPhone notes. A distraction!