Twitter for the UX Crowd

I attended a session at this week's BostonUPA MiniCon entitled Tips from Two Tweeps: How User Experience Pros Find Value on Twitter. It got me thinking about the ways I, as your UX host, use Twitter for my evil UX purposes. Sorry, I typed that backwards. Not evil, live. Yeah...

Below are some tested (as in, I've done them) and not tested (as in, I haven't done them, but I suspect it would work) ideas on how to use Twitter for your own UX needs. But keep in mind Twitter is a community. Well, it is a collection of communities. As such it will take investment on your part to become part of one or more communities before many of these ideas will be useful to you.

Because the one thing each idea depends on is a lot of people seeing your message and some of them caring or having enough free time to respond. It takes time to build that kind of relationship. Unless you're famous. Then you just snap your fingers. And if you are famous you're probably not reading this anyway.

Ways to Use Twitter — Tested

Research. This is duh, but I figured I should put it anyway. There's plenty of pieces about how to use Twitter for your research so I'll keep this one short.

Twitter Search is a great way to find what people are thinking/doing with what you care about most. And you can save searches and trend over time.

I think of this type of research more on the qualitative side. I wouldn't go so far (unless I had to) as to start categorizing feedback you find via people's updates, then turning them into stunning pie charts, but at the very least you can get an understanding of some of the problems people run into. That's one thing Twitter seems to enable: complaining.

Recruiting. I've used Twitter a number of times to recruit participants for usability testing. I didn't keep track, but my guess is my calls for participation were about 50% successful. Which isn't bad considering all I am doing is typing 140 characters and essentially doing Lazyweb recruiting.

I wouldn't rely on this 100% for my recruiting needs, but I was very pleased with the people I got. Usually it wasn't the people who follow me that ended up participating, but people they knew. I suspect if I weren't looking for a specific profile and was just going with “must have used the internet in the last 10 years” my success rate would have been much higher.

Surveying. Whether you are linking to a survey tool or using hashtags or @s to garner feedback, Twitter is perfect for quick response surveys.

While not necessarily in the vein we are talking about, StrawPoll is a good example of what you can do with Twitter to get feedback from thousands of people. I never went this elaborate, but it wouldn't be too hard to do.

With Twitter, surveying for quick response is as easy as updating with “[Survey] What process do you go through when deciding if a piece of software is right for your needs? @/DM your responses. RT plz!”

That's 130 characters and a minute of your time. If you get 5 responses, it's worth it because you now have 5 people who more than likely (given the open communication nature of Twitter) will be willing to do a follow up interview with you on their feedback.

Design Review. Got a mockup, wireframe, prototype you want quick feedback on? Link it up. Obviously this has to be something you can share with the general public. While this idea is sound and works, it's probably the least likely thing you'll use Twitter for. Unless you are getting post-implementation feedback on something that's publicly accessible.

Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said people love to use Twitter to complain? Sending out a link to a mockup is a sure-fire way to get feedback on all the things that aren't working in your design. I only did this once pre-launch, but it was for a design that was decidedly on the realign side of things. We were just moving a few things around on a page that was publicly accessible.

Ways to Use Twitter — Not Tested

Diary Study. I had this idea while waiting for the Twitter UX session to start at the BostonUPA MiniCon. Someone sitting behind me asked me a question and we got to talking. I mentioned a couple of the ideas above and then said this one without skipping a beat.

Imagine if you will, and you will dammit, getting people to update on Twitter instead of writing an email or filling out a form online or even writing with pen and paper. Diary Studies can be useful ways to gather data on what people do in the so-called Real World.

In this case though, they update on Twitter. Time and date are built in. The character limit means they have to keep it short, but that also lowers the barrier for doing the task in the first place. “Tried to sign up for a new account. Spent 2 minutes trying to figure out where to go to do it. Grr.” 101 characters, 10 seconds of typing, and they are on their way.

For the study, you follow them. Or they @ you. Or use a hashtag. Or any combination thereof. Probably doing mutual following is the easiest and leaves more characters for feedback. I suspect your participants would need to be on Twitter already for this to be done with little overhead. For participants not on Twitter, you'd have to explain what it is, how to use it, etc. Headache, but doable if needed.

Focus Groups. This is an extension on surveying, but instead of sitting back and waiting for the thousands of responses (yeah right) you keep the conversation going. When a few people respond, you update that they did and include their @ names. Tell people they can follow and join the conversation by using search to see what people are saying; just like you are. Ask questions, see what other people are asking and saying. RT if someone asks a good question you want feedback on.

For the most part, conversations blossom and wither pretty quick on Twitter, but I suspect this would work, especially on a topic that is both broad enough to entice many people, but specific enough to corral the conversation to a particular topic.

Your Mileage Will Vary

Like I said, you need to be invested in Twitter to make these ideas work, but I think it's worth it. This won't replace the usual methods for gathering feedback, but I truly feel it's a great way to get quick responses to design decisions you need guidance on.

I am very interested to hear if you've used Twitter for your UX work and how well it went.