Steve interviewed by dscout for People Nerds

I was interviewed by dscout for their People Nerds blog. Check out Finding the ‘Aha!’ Moment!

Expert user researcher Steve Portigal breaks down why thinking about bias and mistakes is the key to joyful discovery.

Steve Portigal says being a researcher allows him to do things he would never do as his “civilian self.” A self-proclaimed introvert, Portigal recalls the kind of uncanny magic of going to dinner with a friend who’s particularly extroverted. “We joke about all of the service experiences and interactions it unlocks,” he says.

The structure of research work, Portigal says, allows him to have those kinds of interactions, the ones he’d normally feel locked out of in everyday life. It’s why he posits introverts are so common in the research field.

“Introversion’s not about shyness or dislike of people,” Portigal says. “It’s about energy. One of the coping mechanisms for introversion is to play a role. And in a research situation, there’s that kind of structure to talk to strangers and ask them questions and learn about them, and do all of the things you’d never be able to do as your civilian self.”

Listen to Steve on Tech for Good Live

While I was in Manchester last year I had a very enjoyable and friendly conversation with Bex and Jonny, the hosts of Tech for Good Live. We talked about the role of the user researcher, the increasingly blurry line between design and research, design ethics, and my favorite stories from user researchers out in the field.

The conversation is posted at Tech for Good Live and embedded below.


Listen to Steve on This is HCD

I had the pleasure of speaking recently with Chirryl-Lee Ryan about user research and more – we got into outcomes versus deliverables, tipping points for the tech industry, and a few other fun areas. The conversation is now live on This is HCD (including a transcript), and embedded below.


Chi shared her own user research war story

We didn’t have a car. We should have hired a car or we should have had a driver because we had no idea what the traffic was like in Manila. One of the team members went to catch their flight back to Australia and the taxi driver kind of kidnapped them because they didn’t have cash – all the things that you don’t think about when you’re going to do research – they happened to us on that on that particular research trip. And so you know, we got great insights and the client was just amazed but at the same time we sort of went through this wild adventure of our own on the back side of what was actually happening on the trip.

Steve on the Service Design Show

Thanks to Marc Fonteijn for having me as a guest on The Service Design Show. The episode, entitled How To Unlock The True Power Of User Research, is online now (Soundcloud, YouTube) and embedded below.

By now we all know that storytelling is one of the most powerful tools in the service design toolbox. But can we also use storytelling to actually improve our own practice? Steve Portigal thinks so and he explains why in this episode.

And how well aware are you of your own biases, beliefs and assumptions when you go into a project? Learning to better listen to ourselves might be a key to get more meaningful work done.

Finally we discuss why the value of deep research is still often not aligned with the value we put on designing solutions. For this we dig into some economic fallacies that might have to do with this.

The big question of this episode is: When has storytelling worked for you (and when did it fail)?

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