• Contextual laddering technique 

Laddering technique is mainly used in marketing and consumer research, but Zaman (2007) proposes that introduction of context allows for this technique to be applied to human-computer interaction user experience research. This method is based on means-to-end theory according to which people choose a product because it contains attributes, or means, that are instrumental to achieving the desired consequences and fulfilling values, or the end goals. People do this unconsciously through categorizing incoming stimuli into a hierarchical chain of beliefs which are linked to each other and abstract in nature. Contextual laddering method then is used to explore reasons why people choose or prefer a product through evaluating its use in the context of a particular setting where the product is used. Contextual laddering technique draws insight between the meaning that attributes bring to users, consequences and values. 

By putting the product into a context, researchers can draw insights between perception of the product in the actual environment where it will be used and in a controlled environment. At the same time, research in a natural environment can be time consuming as there might be present distractions. Another advantage of this technique is that it has a greater emphasis on concrete attributes which in return can guide designing, but require distinguishing between concrete and abstract attributes during data analysis. This, plus the nature of collected data through personal interview, results in an increase of data processing time considering, for example, 50 respondents generate 125 ladders for analysing. Nevertheless, this technique allows to explore positive and negative associations with attributes in real life context, as long as researchers take into account that for certain values people may rely on hypothesis instead of actual experience.

Reference: Introducing contextual laddering to evaluate the likeability of games with children. Bieke Zaman , 2007

Laddering the User experience. Vero Vanden Abeele & Bieke Zaman

  • Sentence completion technique 

    Underlying theory of Sentence Completion technique states that products often act as symbols for people and communicate their personal identities. According to this theory, the symbolic meaning we attach to products play an essential role in how we feel about them. Sentence completion technique is used to evaluate how a product is perceived by the user through the emotional response it causes and meaning it conveys. Great advantage of this technique is that respondents are given the beginning of a sentence that prompts them to express their associations and emotions in a spontaneous and honest manner. This provides associative data from the users experience in a structured manner. This technique is well suited to evaluate applied symbolic meaning to the product that may be partly subconscious. Yet, the respondent may experience fatigue from completing the sentences. Additionally, researchers must take into account that symbols are formed by cultural principles, which can be norms, values or social categories making it an intangible in nature phenomenon. This combined with the fact that collected data is qualitative makes it, firstly, not so straightforward as compared to other methods, and secondly, must take into account differences between values groups of people hold both on an individual level and collective, based on culture and association. 

Reference: Sentence Completion for Evaluating Symbolic Meaning. Sari Kujala & Piia Nurka (2012)

  • Anticipated eXperience Evaluation (AXE) 

    Anticipated eXperience Evaluation method poses as a starting point for conversation about product attributes, as it is aimed at studying how people perceive a product, or concept, at a very early stage and to help developers in refining and steering it further. It is used to both help and steer the participant to talk about the experiential aspects of the product through introducing images and a scale to the form. AXE is based on AttrakDiff user experience evaluation method and uses opposed connotative adjectives in a form of visual stimuli to draw insight into products perceived attributes, especially when research in a controlled or natural environment is not possible. Aim of the AXE method is to eliminate possible bias caused by interviewers' wording when data collection is happening by asking the respondent to imagine a product in a setting. However, there is a possibility that some of the participants may misunderstand the function or the whole purpose of the concept. In such a case it is suggested to explore further why the respondents thinks the function is such and such if the error doesn’t compromise the whole evaluation.

Reference: For what it is worth: anticipated experience evaluation. Lutz Gegner & Mikael Runonen

Summary 

Contextual laddering is best suited to probe into the question why certain attributes are important to the user by analysing the attribute - consequence - value chains. Through conducting research in natural, or controlled environments, or by asking the respondent to imagine a concept in use, using observation and positive and negative laddering, this type of research can aid the designing process at early stages, or in the evolution of the products live on the market. However, the major downsides are laborious data analysis and possibility for the interview to steer away from main points if the researcher doesn’t have enough experience in conducting interviews and picking up on cues. Sentence completion technique can be a fun experience for the participants as it provides the opportunity to freely express respondents thoughts in an honest manner, and the data can be used to evaluate motivations and attitudes towards a concept. However, filling in the form can be exhausting for the respondent and coding symbolic meaning can be laborious for the researcher. Nevertheless, this technique provides quantitative data that can answer questions about why certain attributes are important, or not, to the user, as long as researchers take into account the intangible nature of symbolic meaning across cultures. AXE method does not require specific training and can be conducted by many specialists, and is best suited for comparing different concepts through respondents' real life context. AXE is both an evaluative method and a method for collecting suggestions for improvement, but visual stimuli may cause unconscious bias and require visual literacy from the participant.