Leveraging Video for UX Research
Research and design go hand-in-hand. Still, how often do you find yourself using video for design, research, or user testing? High-quality video is one of the most effective ways to present information and persuade an audience (or a client) in the digital marketplace.
As a filmmaker-turned-UX strategist, I find video invaluable in research and design for a variety of reasons. Some of these uses are self-evident (like being able to share the recordings within your team), but there are some you may never have realized, such as polishing your rough interview clips into client-facing artifacts. Fortunately, even amateur videos of interviews or user testing can be incredibly useful for UX researchers and other team members.
So, whether you’ve never thought to incorporate video into your UX process or you’re already recording user interactions and interviews but want to take your video skills to the next level, you’re in the right place. By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to fully leverage interview recordings for design and research projects.
Anyone Can Do Video
I know what you’re thinking: “How can I even get good video recordings? I’m no videographer!” Here’s the kicker—since these videos are being used for qualitative research or usability testing and not a marketing campaign, you don’t have to hire a professional filmmaker to shoot your user interviews.
Framing and clear audio are the keys to making sure your video is usable. Take care that the camera can see the interviewee’s head and shoulders, and that it can hear him or her clearly. That alone will put you light years ahead of the competition.
How Not to Frame vs How to Frame
You can do this even if you’re recording an interview with a laptop. Using QuickTime, select Movie Recording and point the webcam at your subject, framing appropriately. Before hitting record, make sure you’re recording audio. Or, if you’re doing a user test on your laptop, open Photobooth. While it’s open, go to QuickTime and choose Screen Recording. This way, you can capture your user’s expressions while they interact with your design:
Photobooth + Quicktime
(If you’re of the Windows persuasion, check out this article on how to use Windows 10’s built-in screen recording software.)
How Video Facilitates Shared Analysis in UX Research
One of the most tangible aspects of using video for research is the ability to share the interview content with other team members. If there are only written notes or audio recordings, team members who weren’t present during the interview will lack valuable emotional analysis clues, such as the interviewee’s facial expression and body language. Plus, the ability to share video files internally can enable senior designers and project managers to corroborate research findings and ensure best practices are being followed.
Process-wise, the best way to handle the files is to use a sharing service like Google Drive or DropBox. Don’t bother with YouTube or Vimeo as they are for presenting finished videos, not storing and sharing large amounts of recordings. This may sound like a no-brainer but trust me, having internal access to the video files from the beginning saves headaches throughout the discovery and analysis process.
How Primary Source Transcription Helps
This is the big one. The greater the number of interviews you conduct, the more cumbersome the management, analysis, and meta-analysis of the data becomes. Whether you’re using analog hand-written notes or fancy video annotations as part of your analysis workflow, there are still tons of information to sift through to find the insights you seek from your primary source (the interviewee).
Enter video transcription! There are several companies out there that offer a-la-carte video recording uploading and transcription, but the one I’ve used is called Trint.
Trint allows you to focus on the important content of the interview, rather than spending hours watching and re-watching interviews you’ve already conducted to find moments of interest that you only vaguely remember. Using Trint, you can jump to places you recall, highlight pull-quotes, and export your verbatims in a variety of formats, timecodes included. From there, you can enter your quotes and observations into a relational database, spreadsheet, or infographic with ease. An added bonus: there’s a Trint plugin for Adobe Premiere!
Consider this imagined presentation of research findings at the conclusion of an engagement:
“Roll the interview tape.”
The suit-and-tie c-suite leaned back in his chair, arms crossed. His demeanor dared us to impress him with our research findings.
I cleared my throat. As the researcher who’d been instrumental in conducting and recording the user interviews, I wanted—no, I needed—this presentation to go well.
Trying not to blink, I clicked ‘play.’
If you’ve worked on a research or design project for a client who is accustomed to polished video deliverables, you may have felt the trepidation of the fictitious researcher above. And unless your company has a dedicated film professional on staff, this could be a concern for you.
This situation is especially tricky when documenting user research or usability testing. When interviewing participants, researchers strive to remove bias and cognitive barriers to ensure the content of the interview is as objective as possible. However, when you shove an intimidating cinema camera and fresnel lights into the person’s face, your interviewee will get gun-shy before you even get past the consent section of your script.
So, what if the client asks to see the interviews? Here’s where video editing comes in. By doing some simple (albeit time-consuming) editing in a program like Premiere, you can take a lo-fi recording of a moderated interview and present it in a professional manner.
1. First, cut the highlights of the various interviews together around a cohesive theme or specific question. That way, the client will focus on the five-minute highlight of the research rather than plodding through hours of low-quality recordings. Remember to be unbiased in your selection of clips so as not to misrepresent the results.
2. Then, crop the video and place it on a company-specific background in your timeline. To keep the focus on the research or task being tested, add the interview question and other appropriate titles, like so:
Mock After Image
If you’re unfamiliar with Adobe Premiere, here’s an easy tutorial showing various methods to crop video clips (I wouldn’t advise attempting these steps in a simpler program like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, as they just aren’t advanced enough).
3. Finally, export using the compressed h.264 codec (or something similar); this will ensure the video is a low file size and is shareable, storable, and transportable.
These short videos are now a deliverable artifact that the client can use for internal circulation. Depending on the depth and scope of the engagement, your client might still request access to the raw footage from your interviews but this way, your best nuggets are distilled into a professional and shareable format.
Is Your UX Research Helping You Achieve Your Goals?
Clients don’t need Hollywood-level video production for interviews or usability tests. In fact, as I mentioned before, that level of polish can negatively affect your research results. The emotional content and how you present that content is the most important part. By leveraging your interview recordings from the start through proper framing, shared analysis, video transcription, and selected client presentation, you won’t have to sweat when the client asks to see your interviews. Roll the tape with gusto!
Dynamic videos and presentations are just one of the ways Skookum helps clients communicate more effectively, both internally and with customers. Whether you need help with digital storytelling or want to reimagine your entire customer journey, we’re a digital partner you can count on. Contact Skookum today to see how we can help you reach your organizational goals with expert support in strategy, design, innovation or implementation.