The Joy of Cooking Methods

I was quite inspired by a talk by Ron Wakkary of Simon Fraser University. Although his comment was about tutorials for DIY projects such as Instructables, I found it useful to see my user research methods from that perspective as well.

A cookbook is an integral part of cooking. Recipes follow a clear structure which has evolved over years and years of practice, giving it quality. DIY tutorials have not gone through that evolution yet, and there are no clear guidelines on how a tutorial is set up. This makes them sometimes very hard to follow and impossible to compare – Ron Wakkary, October 22 2013, Eindhoven

So I asked him afterwards, if their research had produced some criteria that make a recipe ‘good quality’, and if these criteria could be applied to tutorials. Of course I am also thinking that if there is a set of rules to follow that produces easy-to-follow recipes and DIY tutorials, they must have some positive impact on the description of user research methods. Ron said:

The best structure of a recipe is perhaps shown in ‘The Joy of Cooking‘ cookbook. It starts with the ingredients. You need to know how much output will be generated. The ingredients are ordered in such a way, that by just reading that list you can almost know how you should make it. The recipe mentions how much time each part will take. What the sequence of actions is, how to source materials. It is almost like programming. It also has to do with understanding what tools are available in a standard kitchen. For example, old cookbooks often start with a chapter on what utensils should be in your kitchen – Ron Wakkary, October 22 2013, Eindhoven

Naturally I am going to use these insights to improve the way the methods in my toolbox are structured. And my idea of a ‘user research cookbook’ also popped back up. But perhaps the biggest impact of these ‘rules’ will be to guide the users of the toolbox, when they add their own new methods, in such a way that they are easy to follow for others.

And of course now I will have to buy the The Joy of Cooking!

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