Surveys are not enough and don’t tell you the whole story.

A user performing a task on a smartphone underneath a camera while a researcher watches on a lpatop and takes notes
A user performing a task on a smartphone underneath a camera while a researcher watches on a lpatop and takes notes
Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Sometimes it feels like UX Research has become synonymous with surveys. They’re relatively cheap, easy and can reach large amounts of users. Sounds great, right?

Wrong. Surveys aren’t as easy to design as people assume. If you ask biased or leading questions, you cannot trust your results. My friend and former colleague, Mimi Turner wrote an excellent four-part series about this (links at the end).

Beyond possible biased results, you still may not get the full picture from a survey only. If you ask people how easy or difficult they find a task (or using your product) their answer may…


My answer to the question my mentee asked me

Photo: Matese Fields/Unsplash

“What do you wish you knew earlier in your career that you now know?” they asked me. I took a pause and then answered four things I am sure they were not expecting. My tips aren’t about how to improve your design or communication skills (although they are important!), but more about how to have a healthier and happier work life balance. Unfortunately, they took me a long time to learn and I am still not the best at putting all of these into practice.

I can only hope that they do as I say and not as I do.

1. The standard you start a job with is the standard that will be expected of you


COVID-19 has changed onboarding and forming connections with colleagues

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

I recently started a new job (I am incredibly fortunate to have found one in such a difficult economic time). When I tell people I have a new job, or in response to my LinkedIn Job update, I usually get asked the same question:

What’s it like to start a new job remotely during COVID-19?

This post shares my thoughts on this question.

I know (and don’t know) different things than I would usually after three-months at a job

I don’t know details about the office that I would usually find out on day 1

I know the street address, but I have never been into our office. I don’t know what the commute would be like, because I’ve never done it. I have no idea what it the building looks like…


When to use the T-Shape designer model, the broken comb model and how a spider web helps assess competencies.

Wooden ruler with holder on a bright yellow background.
Wooden ruler with holder on a bright yellow background.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I have spent the last 14 months setting up the UX Design practice at a startup, and I am beginning to embark on a similar journey at a new company. I found myself drawing the same diagrams over and over to explain myself — a T-shape and a broken comb.

I drew it to explain the spectrum of design (it’s not just pretty pictures!) and where my own skills sit. I drew it to explain what skills I was looking for in candidates when we were hiring and to highlight where we needed new designers to fill in the ‘jig-saw’…


Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

“Design thinking” and “the double diamond” are perhaps some of the most abused terms in tech today. They’ve read a few blog posts, or Sprint so know everything there is to do. Many businesses think they’re “doing” user centred design because they followed design thinking methods... yet they never actually spoke to a real user. It’s OK — “we know our users”.

Or they think you go through a linear process once and you’re done — “we already did research back in the first diamond, we don’t need to do it again”. …


Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

There are so many blog posts, think pieces, tweets and conference or meet up talks popping up about “design ethics”. Many of them are great, but most of them aren’t actually about ethics at all. They are more “how not to be evil” guides which, while absolutely necessary, is not what ethics are.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

One of the only places we are beginning to see actual ethics come into things is in thought experiments where self driving cars are facing the trolley problem.

You’re just being pedantic

Semantic bleaching happens…


Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Seer Medical offers gold standard epilepsy diagnostics from the comfort of your home. This includes a supporting app for patients to track seizures and other medical events. This app was called Beagle.

Beagle was named after the HMS Beagle — the ship best known for carrying Charles Darwin on his voyages discovering evolution. Beagle’s captain, Admiral Robert FitzRoy, was the inventor of weather forecasting. Given that our goal is to help guide forecasting for seizures, the name had a rationale based in logic. Beagle dogs are also known for their tracking skills. …


— By Kayla J Heffernan & Caylie Panuccio (AKA KayCay)

You’ve watched 5 participants all struggle to use a component in usability research. The research shows it needs to change. But the person whose idea it was tells you “it’s just 5 people’s opinions” and pushes back on changes.

Exploratory research with 12 targeted participants has shown that 8 out of the 12 check their bank balances immediately upon logging into their internet banking, so you recommend exploring this further or making design tweaks. The stakeholder says no, it’s not real research and goes with what they wanted to do…


Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

It has been said that the only 2 industries who refer to their customers ‘users’ are drug dealers and tech companies.

“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software”
- Edward Tufte

One of these…

  • Count their number of daily active users (DAU) — you have to get them back every day, not just when they need your product
  • Monitor everything these DAU are doing while using your product
  • Try to find ways to increase how much of the product they use and how long they spend doing it
  • They want to make you addicted
  • They use…


Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

For the past four years I worked in a mature design team at SEEK, who were familiar with how to give, and receive, design critique. Moving to a new organisation, where I am the first UX hire, I needed to get back to basics to get the feedback I need — what is design critique? Why do it? What is involved? How do I give you feedback? What’s this 30–60–90 thing?

What is a Design Critique?

A design critique is a means for a designer to update stakeholders, and peers, on their progress. They should explain the business and user goals and present a design…

Kayla J Heffernan

UX Design Lead. Passionate about solving ambiguous problems with accessible solutions. PhD’ing part time. www.kaylaheffernan.com

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