How Well Do You Really Know Your Audience?

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show we ask how we can get to know our users and keep them in the front of mind when designing our user interfaces.

This week’s show is sponsored by Balsamiq and Fullstory.


Paul Boag: This week on the Boagworld Show we ask how we can get to know our users and keep them in the front of our minds when designing our user interfaces. This week's show is sponsored by Balsamiq and Fullstory.

Paul Boag: Hello, and welcome to the Boagworld Show, the podcast about interface and digital design development and strategy. My name is Paul Boag, and joining me on this week's show, as always, is the very luscious … Luscious? Where did that came from?

Marcus Lillington: Oh no. That's wrong, Paul.

Paul Boag: Yeah, that's a bit disturbing. The very lovely …

Marcus Lillington: Thank you.

Paul Boag: … Marcus Lillington.

Marcus Lillington: Lovely, I'll go with. Yes. It-

Paul Boag: I'm glad to say … Sorry, go on. Carry on. I interrupted you crosstalk 00:00:55.

Marcus Lillington: I was going to say, and then I thought better of what I was going to say, and now I'm going to have to say it anyway, because I thought … You know what I'm trying to say. No, you don't, do you?

Marcus Lillington: I thought, if you were a nice female person saying that, I would be okay. I'm not saying anymore.

Paul Boag: Yeah, well, that's a perfectly acceptable thing to say, Marcus. You are a heterosexual male, so it is allowable to have compliments …

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, well, I changed what my actual thought was, Paul.

Paul Boag: Okay. All right. Fair enough.

Marcus Lillington: Although I'm not going any further than that.

Paul Boag: Okay. How are you today? How is everyone in the chatroom as well? I like this having a live chatroom thing. It's good.

Marcus Lillington: It is. It's quite off-putting, though, I think, from a podcast point of view. There are probably a lot more pauses.

Paul Boag: Maybe. Maybe. That is very true. I'm very poor, if you want to know. I've got my last bill through from the builder, and it was five grand more than I thought it was going to be, so anybody want to donate any money? I will be open to donations.

Marcus Lillington: You're rich and have got loads of money, haven't you, Paul?

Paul Boag: I did have.

Marcus Lillington: The Internet famous Paul Boag.

Paul Boag: I have not a pot to piss in anymore, if I am honest, but that's fine, 'cause I've got a nice house.

Marcus Lillington: Exactly. There you go.

Paul Boag: That's your investment, isn't it? Which will, hopefully, grow. Maybe. Who knows?

Marcus Lillington: I don't know.

Paul Boag: Who knows what will happen after Brexit? Maybe the whole country will just burst into fire, spontaneously. It could happen.

Marcus Lillington: Well, house prices, and this is really exciting, isn't it … House prices have stagnated since Brexit was announced, so in theory, they should go up, Paul.

Paul Boag: There we go. Whatever will be, will be. Who cares?

Marcus Lillington: Barbecue later. That sounds good. Crisp. Yum, yum.

Paul Boag: Oh, I could go with a barbecue, but my wife is pissed off and I am deeply incompetent when it comes to any form of cooking, and she certainly wouldn't allow me to do anything with an open flame, so crosstalk 00:03:00.

Marcus Lillington: But you're a man, Paul. You're meant to do a barbecue, aren't you?

Paul Boag: Yeah, but I'm not a real man, am I, really? Let's be honest about it.

Marcus Lillington: It's probably the easiest form of cooking there is, Paul. It's just a hot thing and you put things on the hot thing, then you …

Paul Boag: I have …

Marcus Lillington: That's it.

Paul Boag: … been known to burn things on a barbecue before. This is true.

Marcus Lillington: We've all burnt things.

Paul Boag: If you fancy ever joining the show, live, 'cause I think we'll do this now. It seems to work, doesn't it? It all seems to be lovely and competent, which is good. If you fancy joining us live, you can go to There we go.

Marcus Lillington: Second comment on this, I've just got to go and get it. Look, people keep commenting on my guitars.

Paul Boag: Yeah, but this is going to happen every episode. There'll be a new person coming in for the first time, and they'll … Nice legs, Marcus. He can't hear me. I can be rude about his legs, so you've no idea …

Marcus Lillington: Now I can hear you, Paul.

Paul Boag: Oh damn.

Marcus Lillington: Look at that for a beauty.

Paul Boag: You can, again, audio podcast, Marcus …

Marcus Lillington: There's other people in the room.

Paul Boag: Yeah, but …

Marcus Lillington: It's nice. It's the one that Carlos Santana played, back in-

Paul Boag: Who's he?

Marcus Lillington: Paul. Paul, Paul, Paul.

Paul Boag: Is he someone famous? I don't know.

Marcus Lillington: Look up Carlos Santana, yeah.

Paul Boag: Is anybody else in the entire chatroom know who Carlos … ?

Marcus Lillington: Oh, Paul. Look. See.

Paul Boag: Oh dear. Quite a lot of people do. That's not good, is it?

Marcus Lillington: No.

Paul Boag: Yes, we should talk about some stuff, I guess. Marcus, I'm a bit disappointed your thing is on gardening today, because-

Marcus Lillington: It's not really on gardening. That's just the title.

Paul Boag: Okay. Good. I need to learn some shit, I've decided. You know when you get really busy and you never have time to actually learn anything? That's where I am at the moment. I need more time, Marcus. crosstalk 00:05:04.

Marcus Lillington: Can you define some shit?

Paul Boag: Not the kind of shit you shovel. Let's put it like that. No.

Marcus Lillington: Very poetic.

Paul Boag: I mean, I just … We should be learning the whole time, shouldn't we? Right? But finding the time to do that at the minute, is turning into a flipping nightmare. I find myself sitting in bed at 10 o'clock at night, trying to learn stuff, and that's not a good use of my time, I've decided.

Marcus Lillington: No, that's when you should be reading stories, Paul. crosstalk 00:05:35.

Paul Boag: I know. Am I the only one? I'll be interested in the chatroom, those of you that are in the chatroom, whether anybody … When other people do their learning? Do you read anything, Marcus? Do you even try anymore, or are you just skating now to retirement?

Marcus Lillington: This is so relevant to what I'm going to be talking about. I do some, but I don't hunt for it. People will go, "Oh, look at this," and I'll go and read it, which is quite a lot, to be fair. There's a lot of, "Oh, look at this," going on, and obviously, this show points me at loads of stuff. I've never felt the need to be, I don't know, a leader in what's the latest thing. That's not me. That's not my job.

Paul Boag: No. Well, it's probably more my kind of job.

Marcus Lillington: It is.

Paul Boag: It's interesting seeing what people are writing in the chatroom. I don't believe Paul, who says he does all his learning in the bath.

Marcus Lillington: Nice place to read, though.

Paul Boag: I'm not sure. You could get really wrinkly, very quickly. I quite like having, every Wednesday, some time … a fixed time every Wednesday, or Mark does it in the morning. Morning is not good for me, Mark. I'm not awake enough in the morning to do that. Half a day, Dave sets aside. Wow. That's pretty impressive. I'm trying to go for 30 minutes a night at the moment, which I guess goes up over the day.

Marcus Lillington: I always think, if you drop a tablet in the bath, doesn't that electrocute you? Or it has to be plugged into the mains?

Paul Boag: No, of course doesn't electrocute you. There we go. Anyway, yeah, so that's what I'm worrying about at the moment, is I feel like I'm becoming obsolete and I don't know anything anymore. I need to learn some stuff, whatever that is.

Marcus Lillington: How did your meeting go the other day, or is this not a subject for public broadcast?

Paul Boag: That is not a subject for public broadcast. Can we move on, please? What's your thought for the day, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington: Okay. Yes. Right. This is my thought for the day.

Paul Boag: That was an awkward transition. Thank you, Marcus, for bringing that up.

Marcus Lillington: Anytime. I thought it might have been a funny story, but obviously not. Let's move on.

Paul Boag: No, it's not a bad story. Yeah. I can't get into it. Sorry.

Marcus Lillington: That's fine. Okay.

Paul Boag: It's all good.

Marcus Lillington: Title of today's thought for the day is Can I Be a Gardener Please? It's that same old thing, yeah, yeah. The weather's nice and you don't want to be stuck in an office, but maybe not. I seem to have been thinking it more lately, and doing something with my hands gets more appealing as time goes by. Sitting behind a computer all day is starting to feel unhealthy, almost like inhuman. We shouldn't be doing this. We shouldn't be staring at screens all day. We're physical beings. I know we've got brains as well, and they're a very important part of us, but it's just starting to get to me.

Paul Boag: Hang on a minute. Can I just stop you for a second, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: Is there going to be an applicable, learnable action out of this, or are you just going to bitch and moan for 10 minutes? I just need to know if this is going anywhere.

Marcus Lillington: It is going somewhere, Paul.

Paul Boag: Okay, fine. Carry on then.

Marcus Lillington: Here's a spooky thing. My father completely switched careers aged, guess what? 51. And I'm 51. I'm just wondering if I'm starting to think that maybe there's something else? I'm also thinking that maybe a) I'm being a dreamer, or I'm being some sort of pampered first worlder, who can just flip to something else, just like that, or that I'm still, 20 years on, feeling like an imposter. Maybe it's just a mixture of all three of those things.

Marcus Lillington: The more I think about it, and I guess I'm talking to any headscapers that might be listening here, I'm not about to run off. I think what I'm really saying is that I think it's totally normal to think that the grass is greener, and actually, we need to take note of what we've got and cherish it.

Paul Boag: I'll tell you …

Marcus Lillington: Go on.

Paul Boag: … on that subject, watching the guys who have been doing building here, and how hard they work, I am very pleased that I sit behind a desk. It's obscene that I get paid so much more than they do, considering the amount of work that they do, and how hard it is. Yes, there is a small slither of British weather where I'm a little envious of them, but it very quickly moved from it's raining, it's miserable, they're outside getting pissed on, then, "Oh, this is lovely weather and they're outside enjoying themselves. It's great, to, "It's boiling hot and they're going to die from skin cancer." Yeah, I think maybe a little bit of the grass is greener on the other side there, Marcus, if I'm honest with you.

Marcus Lillington: Of course, it is. Running an agency has been brilliant for getting on 20 years now. Though, we're not healing people, or running government, or building things that people really want, we are building things that some people want, and hopefully, making peoples' lives a little bit better. I also get to work with great people, I get to travel the world, and probably my favorite part of it is that I get to employ people and give people jobs, which I think is fantastic.

Marcus Lillington: However, this is the kind of … not the sting in the tail, but the twist to it all, is that I actually think, 'cause this is … I've been thinking this more this summer. All right, there's been a lot of beautiful weather, but I don't think that's it. I think that this desire to be a gardener, or whatever. It's not really a gardener, it's just somebody that doesn't sit behind a computer all day. I think it's going to grow even more over the coming years, and I think that's just the natural progression towards retirement.

Paul Boag: Yeah. I think it's more of not being wanted to be tied to that regular nine to five. I'm feeling that, and one of the things I'm struggling with the most with this house build … I know I go on about it endlessly …

Marcus Lillington: That's all right, Paul.

Paul Boag: … is the fact that it's taken away the flexibility that I had beforehand, where I could go, "Sod it, we've got money in the bank. Let's not worry. I'll take a month off, or I'll go and do something different." Now I'm actually having to work for a living, and it is, it's tiring.

Paul Boag: What I find frustrating about the whole thing is there's got to be a better way, a more flexible way, of doing this kind of stuff, where there's more flexibility in the way you work, how often you work, where you work from. I feel like we're only … I know there's all this flexible working and all these kinds of things have come on in recent years, but I still feel we're only at the beginning of discovering what is possible around that kind of thing. I still think the majority of us are living within that almost industrial revolution working methodology of nine to five, five days a week, and actually, there's so much more potential in that kind of flexible working. I don't know.

Marcus Lillington: I think there's even more. There's the step further than that, and there is a future where you won't have to work.

Paul Boag: What, where robots do it all?

Marcus Lillington: Well, no. When energy becomes almost free, et cetera, et cetera. All the futurist type stuff, inaudible 00:13:32 the ability to Star Trek make shit out of replicators and stuff like that. It's not complete fantasy.

Paul Boag: No, no, no, no. I know.

Marcus Lillington: That future, which is one we're not ready for. Can you imagine the Daily Mail's take on that? But this idea that you would work … You would probably study, or you might set up a business, because there would be no risk of it failing, which would be interesting, wouldn't it? At the moment we're still very much tied to, "I have to work to make money to feed myself and those people around me." That's the real thing, that we would like just to get rid of that ball and chain, and we can't, at the moment. Maybe our ancestors will be lucky and have a better way of things, or maybe they won't. Who knows? All the water might run out.

Marcus Lillington: On that cheery note …

Paul Boag: Yeah. It could go any direction.

Marcus Lillington: … the point of this is just really to say, it's all right. It's good, even, I think, to dream and think about alternatives and, "Maybe I could be doing this?" But don't turn it into an obsession, and definitely don't forget where your bread is buttered. That's it.

Paul Boag: I think there's also, often, a middle way. Okay, you might not be able to retire today, you might not be able to go and be a gardener, but maybe, before too long, you can move to four days a week, and use that fifth day to go and do your allotment, or whatever?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Sounds great.

Paul Boag: Yeah. That's a feasible thing to aim for, and that's certainly what I'm aiming for. I'm not actually intending to retire, and I don't think you are, really, in that sense. There's not going to be a day where suddenly you hand across the keys of the company and walk away. You'll probably wind down gradually, and you'll pick and choose more, what you're involved with and what you're not, and those kinds of things. Actually, I think that's quite nice. That was … I keep saying was, because of what I've chosen to do to myself, but that was the way that I was heading.

Marcus Lillington: It will come round again, Paul.

Paul Boag: Yeah, it will do. It's going to take me, probably, a year to get back to where I was beforehand, which in the grand scheme of things is nothing. That's the way I was going. I'm going to have more … I have mentorship clients. I basically advise other people a lot more, I pick and choose the projects I work on. I do less and less longterm commitments, and that's a nicer direction to go. It is something that I don't think you can ever start planning for and thinking about too soon, because I think that it's always good to have that longterm vision of where I'm going to be going, how I'm going to be going down the … in years to come. It's just not getting obsessed about it, as you say.

Marcus Lillington: I used the word, obsessed, 'cause if you do …

Paul Boag: Resenting what you've got today.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Exactly. Probably Bob Dylan or somebody else, very … far more poetic and lyrical than I am, but said something along the lines of it's all about the journey, not the destination.

Paul Boag: Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington: Then you start thinking, "Oh, if it's more about the journey, then I need to be doing more. A variety of things more than I am doing." Then you get … Anyway, we'll keep going round and round in circles. No doubt, this one will come back in a different form at some point.

Paul Boag: Yes. It is an interesting one, and thinking about longterm career paths, I think, is a really important thing. Some people listening to this are going to be right at the beginning of their careers, and what they're thinking about is what kind of clients they want to work with, or what kind of companies would they like to work for, and that's cool too.

Marcus Lillington: Totally.

Paul Boag: It's always thinking one or two steps ahead of where you currently are, is where I like to be.

Marcus Lillington: Exactly. I do worry about the two of us being a pair of old men, talking about old men things, and this is an old man thing, definitely.

Paul Boag: But that's okay. It's quite nice, I think, that the industry now has that diversity of age groups that it didn't use to have. We're the first generation of miserable old farts in the web industry, and it's quite good for some of these younger whippersnappers that are listening to this now, people within know …

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, people with energy, and desire, and ambition, and all those things.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: My daughter just set up another company, just buying and selling stuff for babies, and it's like, how does she find the time and energy? I can vaguely remember having that much energy, but not any more.

Paul Boag: It's good for people. In some ways, we're doing people a public service …

Marcus Lillington: Really?

Paul Boag: … because we had nobody to look ahead to, to tell us things like, "You do need to think about retirement. You do need to think about the fact that you can't be running at 100 miles an hour for the rest of your career."

Marcus Lillington: That's true.

Paul Boag: I burnt out badly, because of that, back in the Townpages day. It crippled me, because of the amount that I was working and what I was doing. At least now there's this older generation of us, that can say, "Look, plan ahead. Think longterm about where you're going."

Paul Boag: That's Mark. Mark's talking about how he … I can't actually read it, 'cause I haven't got my glasses on, but from squinting, he talks about how he closed down his agency two years ago, and I've been mentoring with Mark for a long time. We got into quite a lot of conversations about well, what is it you actually want? It's easy to get into that mindset, you want to grow an agency, because that's what you do and you want to make … Well, just like you did, or we did at Headscape. You feel like you have to grow, but will that actually facilitate what you want from your life? In Mark's case, it ended up with him going, "Well actually, I don't need or want an agency. That's just extra. Extra hassle," so he got rid of it, which I thought was incredible.

Marcus Lillington: Time is the most valuable asset I have. There you go.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Absolutely. Anyway, we ought to move on, 'cause we've spent way too long. Shockingly, you had an interesting topic for today.

Marcus Lillington: You say that every week, Paul.

Paul Boag: Do I really?

Marcus Lillington: It'll be shocking and then there's a rubbish one. I'll have to do a really shit one next week.

Paul Boag: Do I have to finally accept that you have contributions to bring that are of value? Damn. After all these years. Perhaps you aren't an imposter after all, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Perhaps. See, there it is. There's that little nagging thing in the back of my mind.

Paul Boag: But we all feel like that. I feel like that. Seriously. That's a whole nother topic, and I was seeing Sarah Parmenter posting on that as well. I think we all feel like fakes and frauds. Every time I sit down to write a strategy document, I think, "I don't know what to say." Also, the bigger the company is, the more of a fraud I feel. I think it's natural.

Marcus Lillington: It's that wonderful meme with the golden retriever banging the keyboards of a computer, and saying, "I have no idea what I'm doing."

Paul Boag: Yeah. I feel like that every time I sit down in front of a computer. I think it's inevitable, and it's what makes us human beings. If you imagine how annoyingly arrogant you would be if you didn't have that slight imposter syndrome knocking around in the back of your head. You'd be unbearable.

Paul Boag: Anyway, let's talk about Balsamiq, because they've got a really good offer, and this is a really, really good offer. Not one of those, "Yes. Great. 20% off," type offers. This is actually something they're going to make zero money out of, and is actually going to cost them money to do. They want to support non profits and those who are just trying to make the world a better place, doing something cool and something exciting, and to further that goal, they've decided to offer to help people wire-frame their website or product. Right?

Paul Boag: If you have a website for a non profit or an application or something, which is going to, in some way, better society and do something cool, then they want to hear from you. Right? They've got a team of in-house UX experts that they want to collaborate with you to design your products. They're going to offer you a one hour, online, wire-framing session, where they're going to help you wire-frame and get started, and thinking in the right way about building your apps.

Paul Boag: The session is going to be recorded and they want to make it publicly available, only for educational purposes, so other people can benefit from it too, because obviously, much of the stuff you're going to be talking about is going to apply to everybody. They are only a small company, so they've only got so many people that they can do this with, so there is a limited number of slots, but they are going to be doing it every week.

Paul Boag: If that is something, I think, that's going to be of interest to you, if you've got this idea, or the beginnings of something, or if you're a non for profit, then absolutely drop them an email. Right? You drop them an email to That's userreasearch with two Rs in the middle. Userresearch, all one word, at Which I think is a really cool thing to do.

Marcus Lillington: Userresearch. Userresearch.

Paul Boag: Userresearch, yes. Absolutely. Yeah, what a cool little thing to do. I'm looking forward to hearing about that.

Marcus Lillington: I have to confess, I didn't listen to any of that. What are they doing?

Paul Boag: Oh, you're kidding me. They're offering free … No, I'm not repeating it. Read the show notes.

Marcus Lillington: I was finding a joke, and I've …

Paul Boag: Okay. All right.

Marcus Lillington: … got a joke now. Okay?

Paul Boag: You're supposed to plan ahead for the show.

Marcus Lillington: I did, the important bit, then I forgot the joke bit.

Paul Boag: Okay. He's just got so much to do these days, on the show. I'm just so demanding, expecting you to do everything.

Marcus Lillington: I have quite a lot. I was out seeing a potential new client today, who do wine. How cool is that? A wine client. I really want them.

Paul Boag: I'm sure you need the help of an external user experience consultant.

Marcus Lillington: Absolutely, Paul. Yeah, 100%. Yeah, do you think me groveling on the floor and doing that, saying, "Please, please give us the work," was too much?

Paul Boag: Yeah. "I'll pay you." Okay. We're going to be talking about getting to know your audience, which is something that is especially relevant to wine retailers. I really think that our topic today should be something I introduce to your perspective client. We're going to look at getting to know your audience and we're going to do it in a couple of sections. First of all we're going to look at the actual process of finding out more about your audience, and then we're going to look at how to keep that audience in mind, once you've found out about them.

Paul Boag: I think the first thing I'm going to say is probably going to be slightly controversial, what a shock, which is that I think some user researchers … No, that's not true. Some of the stuff …

Marcus Lillington: Say it anyway, Paul. Go on, say it anyway.

Paul Boag: No, I'm trying to just say it in a way that's true rather than exaggerated for comic effect, 'cause that's where I get in trouble. Some of the stuff I read online implies that we should all go out and do user research. I totally get why they say that, but the one thing that I don't think is said enough is that, actually, a lot of companies know more about their users already than they think they do, and that actually, one of the biggest problems isn't that they don't know their customers, it's that what they do know is fragmented.

Paul Boag: It might be a set of personas that were produced two years ago and now are sitting in a drawer somewhere, or it might be in the head of that salesman, that is meeting with customers every day. Or it might be in the cool log of the customer support team. It's spread around the organization. I think, before any company goes running out to do user research, the first thing that they really should do is consolidate what they already know into a single place, and dig all this stuff out. Now, it might be that some of it is out of date and needs addressing, but at least you've got it all in one place and you can see it all.

Paul Boag: I've covered some examples. Marketing will know a lot of stuff about their customers. They've almost certainly done some kind of personas at some point. Yes, they might be out of date, but some of it will still be relevant, so dig them out. They might go to events and meet people on event stands and things like that, so they might know stuff. They might know stuff by the fact that they've been monitoring social media. Social media itself is a great place. Look at the people that are following you on social media, 'cause they've basically laid out their entire lives for you to browse and peruse at your leisure. You can go and look at everything they're Tweeting and sharing, and all of that kind of stuff. That would build up a picture of who they are as well.

Paul Boag: Then, of course, you talk to those sales teams that are meeting with customers every day. They'll have big lists of questions, inaudible 00:27:12 objections that people come up with all the time. I was talking to a sales team a couple of days ago, actually, and I got them to brainstorm a list of questions that they get asked by customers, and it was brilliant. It was like, "Well, why aren't we answering this on the website?" No brainer, isn't it?

Marcus Lillington: My last post was actually about a similar topic as this, which is basically, sometimes you can't even get to users, or you can't reliably get to them. Therefore, you have to look in all these other places anyway, so …

Paul Boag: Yeah. Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington: … it's all very well saying, "Yeah, we must do user research. We need to go out and talk to people," or whatever, but if your user group is … one of the examples I used, were CEOs, or CFOs, that kind of thing, you never get to sit down and talk to them, and they will never fill in a survey, ever. Then you are reliant on all this stuff, so I'll shut up now.

Paul Boag: Yeah. I'll tell you what you should do, Marcus, is put into Notion, which is where our show notes are, in case you're interested … Notion, a very good app … a link to that article, and I'll include it in the show notes.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, one sec.

Paul Boag: In the proper show notes.

Marcus Lillington: I have to find it.

Paul Boag: Right, yeah, so, customer support teams are really good as well. Talking to them. I do that a lot, and again, I was doing that a few days ago as well, which is why all this is front of my mind at the moment. Then, of course, there's analytics and … The best thing to look at in analytics, I think, is what people have searched on, a) to end up at your site, and b) when they're on your site, what do they type into your search engine, 'cause they're effectively telling you what it is that they want. Do all of that first, before you do any user research of your own.

Marcus Lillington: Done, Sir.

Paul Boag: Good job. I could see that, 'cause I can see you updating Notion in real time. By the way, I'm not being paid by Notion for this. It's just a really useful tool.

Paul Boag: Yes, and then once you've done all of that, you've collated it all together into a tool like Google Docs, or indeed, Notion, or Evernote, or something like that, you've got all of that information together, then what you can do, is you can see, well, where are there gaps? What information is totally missing, or what information is actually a little bit out of date and we ought to check? Then you can use that to do your user research.

Paul Boag: I'm not going to go into all the different user research techniques, 'cause my recommendation, in terms of user research, is talk to users. It doesn't really matter how you do it. If you want to do a semantic differential survey then go ahead. The only thing I will say is there are some ways of talking to users do work better than others, so focus groups, when you get a large number of users together all at the same time, yeah, okay, it means you can talk to a lot of people simultaneously, but be aware that you'll get one or two people that absolutely dominate the conversation. As a result, it can skew results. I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, but you do need to be aware of, "Hang on a minute. Did everybody actually agree with that person or were they just saying that they agreed with them, because they were being very loud?"

Paul Boag: I would be one of those people in a group that tend to shout a lot and be very opinionated, so I'm not criticizing those people. They're wonderful people, but you sometimes look over some of the more quiet people.

Paul Boag: My preference over focus groups is to interview people individually, if you can. Not always easy. You can't do as many people. Marcus likes that, don't you Marcus?

Marcus Lillington: Yes. I don't like surveys either …

Paul Boag: You can just nod.

Marcus Lillington: … much, even though sometimes you have to.

Paul Boag: Yeah, again, basically, the more personal it is the better it becomes. A survey is your worst option, but allows you to reach a bigger audience. I'm generalizing here.

Marcus Lillington: There's a good thing you can do with surveys, though, which is top …

Paul Boag: What's that?

Marcus Lillington: … task analysis, where you can basically, if you keep it quantitative then it's okay, but if you start asking people, "What do you think of the blah, blah, blah?" Then you're going to have 100, 500 results of all saying the same thing in a different way, or just being rude.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Surveys are the most general, but you can talk to a lot of people. Then there's focus groups. You talk to fewer people, but a bit more personal and interactive. Then there's the one-to-one interviews, which takes longer, more people, but much more … You get to know people much better. Then my all-time favorite, even more personal … actually, that sounds like it could go in a very dodgy direction, doesn't it? Is actually to meet with people in their home or their place of work. Right? 'Cause it's like that old TV show, Through the Keyhole, where you get to look around celebrity houses.

Marcus Lillington: Can you do the voice?

Paul Boag: You learn … No, I can't. What was his name?

Marcus Lillington: What was his name?

Paul Boag: I can't remember his name.

Marcus Lillington: Loyd Grossman.

Paul Boag: He did Masterchef. Loyd Grossman, yeah. Anyway, you actually get to look around peoples' homes and you learn so much from looking at peoples' homes. Well, for example, just talking about you right now, just being able to see behind you on a webcam, Marcus, we can see those guitars lined up on the wall. We know you obviously like music. You learn a lot about people just by their surroundings. Apparently, I'm from a Victorian era Goth, based on my wallpaper in the background. Yes, you have a nice guitar. Well done, Marcus. He's waving his guitar around on the show once again, forgetting that it's a podcast.

Paul Boag: Anyway, so those are my advice to starting a usability testing, just talk to some people. Marcus, stop it. You're distracting me. You say that the chatroom distracts. Well, that does even more. Honestly.

Paul Boag: Yeah, that's my advice. Start talking to people. Meet with people. Talk to them individually and if you can, at least once, go and visit them in their place of work or at home, wherever they would basically be using your service normally. All right.

Marcus Lillington: I've never done that. I've never done a home interview.

Paul Boag: Have you not?

Marcus Lillington: No.

Paul Boag: I haven't done it very much, if I'm honest, because it's so time consuming, 'cause you have to go out and visit people, but I have to say, when I have done it, I've absolutely loved it. It is worth the effort. I'd recommend that every company does it once with their clients, even if they can't do it regularly.

Paul Boag: Anyway, one way, of course, that you can find out more about people, is by using a session recorder. Segue, Paul.

Marcus Lillington: Oh, that was smooth.

Paul Boag: Straight into FullStory's sponsor session. There are loads of design tools available to us, to help us give a broad look at what generally is going on with our product. Analytics and that kind of thing, but nothing is as visceral and personal as watching real users interacting with your pages on your website, in real time. A session recorder will enable you to see that kind of stuff, and of course, because people are doing this naturally, doing their own tasks and stuff like that, it's not … it's even more informative in some ways than usability testing.

Paul Boag: Now, there are advantages to being able to say, "Why the hell did you do that?" in usability testing, of course, and I'm not saying session recorders replace usability testing, or even replace analytics, but they are a great compliment to it, to be able to watch users in real time. You can uncover all kinds of UX and general design issues that you aren't going to be able to find through things like user interviews or standard analytics.

Paul Boag: Now, obviously, there are other session recorders out there beyond FullStory, but FullStory offers the highest fidelity session playback available, so what that means is the index every single event that happens on a page. You can search and segment your users by pretty much any action you want, so you can see users who furiously rage click on a button, and you can create a view that only shows you sessions where people rage clicked, so you can learn what caused that frustration.

Paul Boag: They've also got this insights feature, so as well as being able to watch individual sessions back, you can get collective data about what people are clicking on and what they are doing.

Paul Boag: You can sign up today and get a free month of their pro account. There's no need to enter a credit card, so they don't tie you in, or trick you, or anything like that. Then after that month, you can either choose to enter your credit card detail and start paying, or you can continue to use their product for free, as long as you've got less than 1000 sessions per month. That means it will cap you at 1000 sessions, so you could use it on one or two pages, maybe, or on your whole site if you don't get a lot of traffic.

Paul Boag: You can do all of that by going to 00:36:23. That is that.

Paul Boag: We've talked about how you gain a little bit of user feedback, get to know your users a little bit more, get insights into them, so then what do you do? Well, once you've done that, you really need to visualize this in some way, which is a thing that I know Marcus and Headscape are as into as I am, this idea of visualizing user research.

Paul Boag: Why? Why do we want to do this? Well, I think there are three reasons. Marcus might be able to add more, I don't know. Number one is it helps everybody across the organization to understand the needs of users at a glance. If you put a big document or report in front of them, everybody glazes over. I made this mistake recently, where I submitted a report to a company that ended up being 20,000 words, which was a bit embarrassing really. He came back to me and said, "This is really good stuff, but can you turn it into a 20 minute presentation? "

Marcus Lillington: Can you do crosstalk 00:37:23 summary there, please? Yeah.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Nobody's got the time to read that amount of stuff, so having a visual, an infographic that summarizes everything you've learnt about users at a glance, is so useful for ensuring that people understand those user needs, but also … Yeah, go for it …

Marcus Lillington: inaudible 00:37:43 think, and this is based on stuff we've done today, particularly with user journey maps, is they're too complicated. I think you can have … you should have a complex reference version of your user journey maps, but those high fidelity poster type ones, they need more thought on how you can get that stuff across to people, literally, as you say, at a glance. At the moment, there's too much stuff on them.

Paul Boag: Yeah. I've made that mistake.

Marcus Lillington: That's my observation. All of them, you look at the famous … I think it was the Euro Rail one, that Adapted Path did. It's like … May as well be looking at maths, like complicated physics or something. Unless you really dig down into it, and then you think, well, you may as well read a document. I think they need more love. We've got a couple of projects coming up where we're going to be doing some of this, so that's my thing. I've got to try and make these things a little bit easier to understand, the final deliverables.

Marcus Lillington: If you remember the personas.

Paul Boag: I actually agree with that.

Marcus Lillington: The personas that …

Paul Boag: Melcher.

Marcus Lillington: … Melcher did. They're like just a bunch of words. Perfect. Whereas, probably there is a master version of each one of those, that has long paragraphs of each bit, but they've just managed to … "How will this work in the office environment?" And they're brilliant, and they're actually want I want to try and base these new things we're going to be doing on.

Paul Boag: I really agree with that. I think I make that mistake all the time. I make personas far, far too … Not personas, customer journey maps far, far too complicated. That, what you're talking about, is my second reason for visualizing, which is that you can display those prominently in the office, and their job there is not necessarily, as you say, to convey lots of detail, but simply to remind people to think about …

Marcus Lillington: That they exist.

Paul Boag: … the user.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag: Yeah, that they exist. Stupid, but it's so easy, in the middle of a project, to completely forget that, "We must think about these users." Just having them … I've done all kinds of things in the past. Yes, you can have them posters on the wall, but you could turn them into mouse mats, or you could turn them into screensavers, or … It's just making sure you cannot escape the user.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, exactly.

Paul Boag: I ghost round so many officers that, basically, the walls are covered with awards that they've won, or products that they have, or their executive's shaking hands with important …

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Or nothing, 'cause they're not allowed anything.

Paul Boag: Yeah. I'm amazed at that. How many organizations? Who was it we were talking to from John Lewis? I've forgotten his name. That's terrible.

Marcus Lillington: I want to say, Toby.

Paul Boag: No, no, no, no.

Marcus Lillington: It's not, is it?

Paul Boag: Anyway, that's terrible. He's going to hate me.

Marcus Lillington: The John Lewis bloke. John Lewis.

Paul Boag: The John Lewis bloke, he wasn't allowed to put stuff in the office and had to argue …

Marcus Lillington: Fire risk, or something.

Paul Boag: … that for ages. Fire risk. What a load of BS. Anyway. Yes. The third reason is often some visualizations, if they're done well, can actually highlight problems in the experience that need addressing. The best version for doing that, I think, is customer journey maps, 'cause customer journey maps, because they're over time and they often show the different touchpoints you have with the organization, you can see very clearly where those interactions have gone a bit awry or where there's problems with them. I often will include on customer journey maps, or certainly when we workshop them, weaknesses where you feel you're letting the customer experience down. I don't always include that in the final infographic, but I do include it in the workshop that I run to make this stuff happen.

Paul Boag: There are other things. Customer journey maps take a while. You're talking about a few hours to produce a customer journey map, and obviously, if you've got lots of customers, that takes even longer. There are shortcut methods if you can't do a full customer journey map. There are personas, obviously, but personas, I'm not a huge fan of really from a UX and usability point of view. They're really great if you're a marketer or even if you're a visual designer, and you're trying to create something that engages and excites. You need to understand that they read the Guardian and drive an Audi, or whatever. Those things are useful, but as a UX designer, I'm more interested in things like what tasks they're trying to complete, what questions they're answering, and for that, I use empathy maps.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, I think a persona, as long as it's in … If you're imagining your persona going through the customer journey, or like an empathy map, I always think is like an extended persona, but that's when they're useful. On their own, yeah, I'm not so sure they're that useful. Maybe for a writer or a designer, yes, but …

Paul Boag: Yeah. I mean, it is difficult. It's a difficult balance to get. What I'll do is, I'll put a link in the show notes to three different articles that I've created over time, which is Visualizing your User Research, Are Personas the Answer? The answer is no, so you probably don't need to read that one. Then I've written a really detailed post on customer journey mapping, and everything you need to know, even to run your own customer journey mapping workshop, which is, obviously, really good. Then I've also …

Marcus Lillington: Very good it is too, that article.

Paul Boag: It is. I like that post. It's one of the best posts I've written in a long time, which is why it probably comes up number one on Google. Then there's one I've written on empathy maps as well, about how to use those. There are a load of different tools available to you, that you can try out, and I'd encourage you to do so.

Paul Boag: There you go. I think that probably covers all I need to say on that. I don't want to get into, necessarily, all the logistics about customer journey mapping. How are we doing time … ? We've actually got a bit of time. It might be worth giving one or two hints about customer journey mapping, in terms of how I approach running a workshop, 'cause that's an interesting one.

Paul Boag: I'll be interested. How do you guys do it, because you take a slightly different approach to me?

Marcus Lillington: Most important thing is that you've got a wide … broad representation of the business in the room. I think, we did this as well, if you see … You can see customer journey mapping, when it first became a thing, as another thing in the UX toolbox, if you like. I don't know, like card sorting, or something like that, but it isn't really. It's a more strategic thing, because strategic decisions can come out of it, like, "We are failing in this area, so to not fail in this area, Department X, Department Y, and Department Z all need to speak to each other and make changes."

Marcus Lillington: Therefore, you need representatives from each one of those departments in the room when you are doing the journey mapping, otherwise you won't have a proper, clear picture. I think that's a hard thing for people who run web teams, or marketing teams, to think, "Oh God, I've got to have the accountants in here." Or something …

Paul Boag: Yeah, compliance.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. It's really important. With the actually mapping, it does take a long time, as Paul said, but what we tend to do is divide it into the different areas that make up a particular journey, don't make them too long, otherwise you'll just lose the plot … lose the will to live.

Paul Boag: What do you mean? Sorry. You mean, like steps?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Like the crosstalk 00:45:29?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. You've got …

Paul Boag: Yeah, I've discovered a need, I'm researching, I'm buying …

Marcus Lillington: I've signed up, or whatever.

Paul Boag: When you say too long, are you talking about the number of steps?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, kind of.

Paul Boag: Or the breadth of what you're covering?

Marcus Lillington: In HE there's this dream of the customer journey from the 16 year old to the alumni retiring.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: It's not really that helpful, I don't think. What's helpful, as I said earlier, is finding those places where stuff is broken, so you can fix it. Now, you don't have to do the entire journey of this person to do that. Maybe you do.

Paul Boag: It's almost multiple. That's almost two different exercises there. It's okay to look at the entire journey in its entirety, although, that one you described is a particularly long one. It's okay to do that and look at it from a really top level, strategic level, if that makes sense, about how departments are structured, and how governance works, and how people are handed off between teams, and that kind of stuff. But you're not going to get any kind of granular detail from that, so if you did something like that, you'd have to supplement it with also having … taking each bit and looking at it in more detail.

Paul Boag: I think, in my experience, unless you want people to kill themselves by the end of the day, you can't really have more than about five or six steps in any journey, which means that … And also, your infographic is going to end up too complicated again, if you end up with 20 steps.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, 'cause basically, what we're doing, is we've got the steps in a matrix against the touchpoints, weaknesses, blah, blah, blah, all the emotions, all the standard user journey map elements, and you're filling in crosstalk 00:47:25.

Paul Boag: We ought to say what those are. Shall we run through? What I normally do … you might be different, but I normally have, he says, having to remember them off the top of his head now, tasks; what task does a user want to complete at this stage? What questions do they have? What they're feeling? What weaknesses there are in the process? What touchpoints? Are they using social media, or are they going to an open day, or visiting a store, or something like that? Then the other one that I've started using a little bit more … I don't use all of these every time. I pick and choose. The other one I've started using sometimes is, what influences them in that stage of the journey?

Marcus Lillington: That's a new one for me.

Paul Boag: Yeah. It's a new one for me. I've been using it for years in empathy mapping, but it never occurred to me to use it in customer journey mapping, but more recently I was thinking, actually, no, that's quite useful. It all depends on your project as to which ones you use or not, 'cause sometimes emotion isn't that helpful, unless their emotion is varying a lot through the journey. If it's a bit of a rollercoaster, yeah. For example, I did customer journey mapping for The Samaritans, which are a suicide hotline. In those situations, yeah, emotion is quite important, but in other situations I might not use that and use influences instead, or weaknesses. It's not that they're set. You can use what feels most useful to you.

Marcus Lillington: I'm just going to take a step back, 'cause I thought of something. Earlier, the three things we talked about, how you can visualize stuff; personas, empathy maps, customer journey maps. The other thing on a really basic level you can do, if customer journey mapping's … 'Cause I thought of this when you were saying it, and I thought, "I've remembered it now." Is user stories. You could …

Paul Boag: Oh yes.

Marcus Lillington: That's something that you can do, which is like a much simplified version of a persona and a customer journey map together, which are a useful thing, if you haven't got days and days of time to develop customer journey maps.

Paul Boag: If you don't know what a user story is, a user story is a basic statement. It's I am … I am an aging pop star. I want to …

Marcus Lillington: Be a gardener.

Paul Boag: … go and work in a garden center, so that I can take life easier.

Marcus Lillington: And be happy.

Paul Boag: Yeah. It's a basic statement like that, and in truth, you don't just have one user story per person, obviously. A user will want to complete many different tasks, so you end up with big piles of them, but it's quite a good way of describing functionality, so it's much more tactical. You use it at much more that tactical level of what you're trying to build. It's a good way of describing what you're trying to build, because it keeps you focused on the user, rather than, "We want to … "

Paul Boag: A client will turn round and say something like, "Oh, we want a search functionality on the site." Yeah, okay. Let's express that as a user story card. I am a user of this site. That's a really crappy one. You'd want to be more descriptive than that. I want to … Now the, "I want to," isn't, "I want to necessarily search," or it might be, "I want to search to find this," but then my goal is to find a piece of information. Well, we might conclude you can achieve that goal in another way. Maybe as a guided wizard, or a chat bot, or … It breaks you out of your preconceptions about what the right way of solving that problem is.

Paul Boag: Yeah. It's a really good point. I forgot about user stories entirely, although it is in my article on Visualizing your User Research, so I'm more efficient when I write than I am when I podcast. That's good.

Marcus Lillington: Back to user journey maps, though. Just the one inaudible 00:51:24. What we then do, because that's the hard bit, so you've got this matrix, grid of stuff, and then it's like, "Shit."

Paul Boag: Yeah, plastering. Plastering a wall with hundreds of post-it notes. It's like, oh …

Marcus Lillington: That's why it's good to get a lot of people in the room. You can get them into different groups and get them to start thinking about ideas. We found that it's really good to come in with some initial ideas to go in each of these things to get people thinking about it, but generally speaking, get the room to start filling up these boxes with post-it notes, and then you can vote and prioritize on those later as well.

Paul Boag: I was just going to say, do you vote, because obviously, you end up … Let's take a section, so let's say you are doing the buying part of a journey, and you've been looking at the questions people have. You can easily add a dozen, two dozen different questions in that. Now, when you come to visualizing that, you can't include all of those in there, and neither would you want to. As a result, what I do, and it sounds like you do it as well, is you get people … get the team to vote on which of those is the most important. I use something called dot-voting. Is that the way you do it?

Marcus Lillington: Nope.

Paul Boag: Have you never come across dot-voting?

Marcus Lillington: Just marks on the post-it.

Paul Boag: That is dot-voting.

Marcus Lillington: Right.

Paul Boag: Yeah. You don't know the fancy design thinking terminology, Marcus. You're so old and out of date.

Marcus Lillington: What? Putting marks on a post-it? Okay, fine. Yeah, that's what we use.

Paul Boag: Do you just give people what … They can only mark one, 'cause the way dot … See, I'm going to blow your mind, Marcus, with this revolutionary technique. No, it's quite nice, right? What you can do is something called dot-voting. It is basically making marks on a bit of paper, but what you do is say, "Okay, every person has got three marks they can make." You can use this in lots of things, not just in customer journey mapping. Anything where you are trying to democratize the decision making and basically, shut up the loudest person in the room, from stopping them dominating and saying, "Oh, we should do this."

Paul Boag: You do dot-voting, and so they get three points, three marks, they can make. Now, they can either spend all three on one question, if they think that one question is particularly important, or they could spread their marks and say, give two to one, and one to another. Or they could give three with one point each. The other thing you can do, if you have somebody in the room who is a senior person, who you think, they could quite easily just overwhelm everybody else, because they're senior and everybody's going to watch what they do and copy them. You know the kind of thing?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: What you do is make everyone else go first, but then you give that most senior person twice as many points, because what that will do is that makes them still feel important, and they can take in everything else people have said, and take that on board before they then use their weighted vote. It means that everyone else is honest about what they actually want, because they can't just be led by whoever that person is. It's quite a useful little technique, actually. I use it quite a lot.

Marcus Lillington: This is the other reason why you need a broad spectrum of people, across the company, in the room, because if you're voting on stuff, then you need … obviously, you need to have representatives from across the business.

Paul Boag: Not just from across the business, but also in terms of seniority, because it seems to be a general rule of thumb that the more senior you are within the company, the less you have to do with customers on a daily basis. On the other hand, the more influence you have to bring about real organizational change, so you do need those senior people in the room, but you also need people that are going to have contact with the client on a daily basis. You do need that mix.

Paul Boag: Of course, as well, I like to, which isn't always possible, but I like to throw in a few users as well. That really messes things up when you add users into the room. It suddenly becomes a whole different kettle of fish.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, I've not done that, but that sounds like a good idea.

Paul Boag: If you can get them in the room, it's flipping brilliant, I'll tell you. It's really worth doing.

Marcus Lillington: Cool.

Paul Boag: Anyway, so there you go. That is a little bit about understanding your users and visualizing it. I hope you've found that useful. Marcus, do you have … You know the reason why you didn't have a joke ready? It's 'cause I didn't put, in the show notes, Marcus that had joke.

Marcus Lillington: That must be it then.

Paul Boag: I just added it in. Yeah, you've got an excuse for forgetting. Did you manage to find one?

Marcus Lillington: I did. I have got the wonderful time of the year where the funniest joke at the Edinburgh Fringe is announced on the BBC.

Paul Boag: That makes it easy.

Marcus Lillington: This is Adam Rowe, won the funniest joke, and I've also got all the best of the rest, but anyway, this was his joke.

Marcus Lillington: Working at the Job Centre has to be a tense job, knowing that if you get fired, you'll still have to come in the next day.

Paul Boag: That actually is a really good joke, isn't it? I like that. I approve. Well done. The Fringe still is producing Paul-worthy jokes. Whatever. Anyway … All right. Well, that about wraps up today's show. Obviously, I have to put in a gratuitous advert for my masterclass, on which this whole season is based. You can find out more about that at Obviously, I'm desperate for you to buy it, because I'm poor as a church mouse now. You have to have sympathy on poor, begging Paul.

Paul Boag: Nobody's believing that, are they?

Marcus Lillington: No. No. Sat in his leather chair, rubbing his diamonds together.

Paul Boag: I'm not in a leather chair. Look. I'm in a cheapo, IKEA chair, I'll have you know. So there you go.

Marcus Lillington: This chair, this dear old thing, was bought the same month that Headscape started.

Paul Boag: Yeah, my one that I had right at the beginning, eventually gave in.

Marcus Lillington: It's all right, actually. It's still fine. It's a bit tatty.

Paul Boag: I had that horrible fear that one day the piston underneath it was just going to shoot up through the base of the chair and skewer me. It got to that kind of stage, so I thought, "Best get rid of it."

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, fair enough.

Paul Boag: Anyway, thank you for listening. I have to say, one last thing before I go, if you're not on the Boagworld Slack Channel, why not? Please join. It's brilliant. We had an amazing conversation. What have we covered today? We've been talking about biscuits. That was a good little chat.

Marcus Lillington: Very important thing.

Paul Boag: And we all shared our Spotify playlists of what we listen to all day, which has kept me going. That will keep me going for ages now. That was really good. It is a lot of fun, so you can go to to do that.

Paul Boag: I think that about covers everything, so goodbye until next time. Bye.

Thanks to Ozz Design from Shutterstock for allowing me to use this image.