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Q&A with EPAMer David Farkas, Author of Breakthrough Book on User Research Methods

Interview

It’s no secret: User research is the key to making a good product great. We sat down with EPAM Empathy Lab®’s David Farkas, Senior User Experience Designer and co-author of the recently published book UX Research: Practical Techniques for Designing Better Products from O’Reilly Media, to learn more about the writing experience, key takeaways from the breakthrough book, and how his work at EPAM Empathy Lab® – the name of EPAM’s digital strategy and experience design practice – inspired him to put pen to paper.

EPAM: You’ve spent most of your career thinking about UX strategies and design. What interests you about user research?

David Farkas: UX design starts with research. When in school, the mantra “the user is not like me” became a constant reminder that we as practitioners cannot afford to make assumptions about customer needs or behaviors. To overcome this, we need to do research. Reading articles or deep diving into the how-to of a process is not enough. We need to speak with people performing the work we seek to improve. This constant reminder to learn more about the end user has always interested me. From a personal level, the ability to learn about various fields and professions means there is never a dull day or moment at work.

EPAM: What motivated you to write a book about user research?

David: The simple answer is my coauthor, Brad Nunnally, invited me to collaborate with him. Ultimately this book is a way to pay forward the mentorship and training I have received at EPAM Empathy Lab® and over the course of my professional experiences. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to write this book without the guidance I received in my own practice over the years.

EPAM: How has writing the book impacted your process of user research in your own work? Do you do anything differently now than before you wrote the book?

David: There are a lot of skills and practices that, after years of conducting research, I take for granted. By formally writing my approach in an educational format, I was able to challenge my assumptions, my process, and identify where I can better communicate findings to others. By collaborating with Brad, I challenged and refined my perspective on research.

EPAM: What are the key takeaways of UX Research: Practical Techniques for Designing Better Products?

David: If there is one lesson in the book it is that anybody can conduct UX research. Our hope is that by introducing an approach to crafting questions, identifying methods, and executing on those techniques, the barrier and mystique around UX work is lowered.

EPAM: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring practitioners, what would it be?

David: Don’t be afraid to try something new and don’t be afraid for it to fail. Those lessons in our process are what teach us the most about ourselves and the work we do. And most of all, have fun with your research.

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