An interview with Dana Chisnell

About Dana Chisnell

Dana is an independent researcher and consultant who founded UsabilityWorks. She has been helping teams develop effective designs and stay focused on their customers' experiences through creative user research and clear communication since 1982. She has observed hundreds of study participants for dozens of clients to learn about design issues in software, hardware, web sites, online services, games, and ballots. She has helped companies like Yahoo!, Intuit, AARP, Wells Fargo, E*TRADE, Sun Microsystems, and RLG (now OCLC) perform usability tests and other user research to inform and improve the designs of their products and services. Dana is a highly sought speaker and teacher, having given live and virtual talks and workshops at events ranging from the UPA annual conference, to Web Design World, to the Kansas County Clerks and Election Officials. She's the co-author, with Jeff Rubin, of Handbook of Usability Testing Second Edition (Wiley, 2008).


Main points

  • Engagement and buy-in for UX research highly depend on the culture and values of the company.
  • When the bottom line changes for the worst, stakeholders become more open to UX research.
  • Ways to deal with people who do not respect UX research: telling stories, observing sessions, and role playing.
  • Reports objectify users. Observing them really helps getting to a-ha moments.
  • Make yourself known in the organizations with skills that can help people do their job better.
  • Make sure the person paying for the project gets what they need. In the same time, communicate what you found that they did not ask for.
  • Do whatever you can do to make your team take better design decisions.
  • I don’t believe in reports. They are not useful. They come along way too late. Teams want to act immediately.
  • Develop research insights with stakeholders. This has worked well for me even with resistant stakeholders.
  • I use the KJ techniques to create team priorities for fixing issues.
  • I don’t do highlight videos because they are manipulative.
  • Stakeholders as moderators works great for creating empathy toward users and their needs. Everybody in the organization should do it.