The Web Project Guide Podcast: Episode 5: Identify Your Audiences (w/ Erika Hall)

It’s The Web Project Guide Podcast, and we made you a new episode.

I didn’t get to ask Erika Hall about her (newfound?) obsession with spiders. But, beyond that, we had a great conversation about the basics of understanding site users: what kinds of questions do you ask — and how do you know those questions are even correct — what kinds of incentives a typical interviewee is happy with, and the concepts of availability and publication bias.

When it comes to discussing the philosophy of research, Erika is a bright point in a sea of turgid academics. You should check out this interview.

From our interview:


So let’s talk about how research requires vulnerability, because I think there are situations where people launch into research, hoping to confirm what they want to believe. And I think if you’re not willing to be told you’re wrong, don’t bother doing research.

I guess I’ve been in situations where during discovery with a client, we realized that their business model was just flawed. They had to pivot hard. How often does that happen? And then how often is research like killing someone’s dream?


So my advice to everyone who has a business is: you want to be proven wrong as quickly as possible. Kill the dream before you’ve made a big investment in it.

And this is how a lot of early stage companies make a mistake, because they have an assumption and they want to protect their feelings. And I totally understand this because, in life, we are very rarely rewarded for admitting our own ignorance.

So you are absolutely right about being vulnerable, because if you and your whole team and your whole company can’t admit in front of each other, “We have an area of ignorance,” you cannot learn.

Unless you admit that you don’t know, you can’t learn. Your capacity to learn is directly proportional to your willingness and ability to admit that you just don’t know things.

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