Insightful, Fun, and Extremely Important for Product Development!
DoorBells, Danger and Dead Batteries: User Research War Stories was an absolute delight to read. The book starts a new type of conversation beyond typical readings related to this industry (e.g. the “hero story” of providing insights that inspired a successful product or design; and “tips and tricks” for researchers). Doctors, lawyers, accountants, electricians -- some professions you grow up being told about over and over. They perhaps then become obvious choices of professions to consider as a career. I am a user researcher and I stumbled upon this career through the world of industrial design. It is wonderful to shed light on user research in this meaningful way for the good of product development and as career choices for unique minds with a sense of adventure! As a user researcher myself for over 10 years, Steve Portigal’s book is the first time that I'm seeing published evidence of the vast, rich world behind interview protocols and card sorts.
There is so much pressure to be “right” as a consultant or in the corporate world but the world is messy and the best ideas and insights don’t always come from “being right” or “perfection” - this book is so human because it is a wonderful collection of stories of things that didn’t go as planned! The contributing authors of the war stories are putting themselves out there - putting aside their pride to share for the benefit of the collective. It is so refreshing. When conducting research for product development many things can go wrong - humans and travel are both unpredictable things. Sometimes you end up better off than anticipated, sometimes you have a setback, but no matter what you end up with a great story. Portigal has not only collected a wonderful set of war stories, but his insights and takeaways which tie the stories together are so thoughtful, poignant, and creative.
I recommend this book to anyone who is a (or works with) user researcher(s) in product development, and I especially recommend this book to those who are in product development but haven’t had the opportunity to work with user research. By reading this book you’ll get as close to first hand knowledge as possible about the discipline of user research, its many subtleties, and it is great importance in product development.
One of my favorite chapters has to be Chapter Four "Cracking the Code" because it is all about appreciating cultures even in their most subtle ways. One of my favorite byproducts of fieldwork is getting to learn about subcultures you never knew existed before those interviews.