faces you don’t want to see during UX research – especially for VR

facial expressions you to avoid during UX research sessions

When I was on the Face Tracking Team at Oculus / Facebook, I was very interested in user experience (UX) research. Part of my tracking work was to host data collection sessions with internal employees, and I used those sessions as an opportunity to network.

During one of my sessions, I ended up meeting Tara Franz, who happened to be directing in-home studies on the Oculus Quest. Because of our shared interest in understanding people and faces, we decided to combine powers and integrate my work into the in-home studies.

For a few weeks, I volunteered to visit users with Tara and observe their facial expressions. I documented key moments during interviews as well as during in-headset Quest experiences. 

While the interviews had more variability in potentially interesting faces, the VR experience faces (which, due to headset occlusion, mostly included lower face expressions) were a lot more consistent and patterned. 

Faces of discomfort often followed headset adjustment – or predicted upcoming adjustments. Bored faces and faces on the contempt spectrum tended to be predictive of undesirable experiences later disclosed during the post-demo interviews.

These expressions were not just useful for predicting events. They also served as points for further investigation. If a user made a particular face on multiple occasions when discussing or experiencing a certain event, we were able to press further and gather deeper insights. 

After we completed the in-home studies, I created a lower face expression guide for Tara and her team to keep in mind during their sessions.

UX research is such an exciting field, because there is no one right way to conduct a study. There is so much room for creativity and inventiveness. New data points to gather. New methods to apply. 

I may create another UX Cheat Sheet for VR researchers. If you would be interested in such a guide, let me know in the comments 😀