Jen's research interests largely center around two main themes: Improving User Experience (UX) and Healthy Cognitive Aging.
UX Research is about understanding how typical users interact with a product so we can ensure it works in the ways they expect. Jen's approach is grounded in experimental psychology, cognition, and human factors. She uses rigorous, empirical methods to understand the user experience and improve the usability of websites, applications, surveys, forms, and other products - all while working quickly and maintaining quality.
Usability Evaluations: We recruit typical users to complete tasks and assess what works well and what needs to be modified.
Eye-Tracking Technology: Using non-invasive eye tracking, we learn what attracts users' attention and how users process information.
Subjective, Observational, and Implicit Data: Jen's approach involves asking users what they think about their experience, observing and measuring interactions, and assessing what people cannot explicitly share.
Subjective: What do users think about the product? How do they feel about their experience? What would they change to make it better? What other similar products do they use that they love?
Observational: How long does it take users to complete tasks? How many clicks does it take? What errors do they make? How many tasks can they complete? What is the conversion rate?
Implicit: Where do people look as they attempt to complete tasks? What is the order in which they process information? How long do they look at various images? How are physiological responses related to frustrating user experiences? What do their facial expressions convey about the experience?
The goal in UX research is to assess how users interact with a product and learn how to improve it so people can accomplish their goals and continue to engage and share their positive experiences with others.
How does the typical user interact with the product?
Do people have more engaging interactions with design A or B?
Do people look at the elements you want them to look at? Are elements distracting? Are they missing things altogether?
How many clicks does it take to accomplish goals?
How do people feel after interacting with the product?
What are the barriers to using a product?
Jen specializes in international research - going to the markets we are interested in, and interviewing typical users there. It is important to go to the users and observe them in their natural environment because there are things in the environment that we cannot account for in the lab. These extraneous variables may impact how people interact with products.
In-home interviews: We recruit typical users who allow us to come into their homes to conduct the interviews. This allows us to observe their natural environment and experience things, like poor wifi at home, that are part of the real-world experience.
Focus groups: We recruit groups of similar users and conduct group activities and discussions around perceptions and experiences.
Intercept interviews: We approach people in the market to ask questions about how they shop or use products. These interviews are short snap shots of day-to-day life.
Usability Testing: We conduct in-lab sessions to test the usability of a product. In-lab sessions allow us to control for extraneous variables, like poor Internet, so we can focus on how people use the product in ideal conditions.
Cognitive Aging Research
Some of Jen's research focuses on the UX for older users. She is interested in habits and skills that lead to healthy cognition in older age and how technology may help older adults age gracefully. Some of her research findings include:
Piano playing leads to better learning and memory.
Lifelong bilingualism leads to improved cognition in old age.
Playing video games regularly increases the ability to learn and retain knowledge.
Although older adults report the same amount of computer and Internet experience as younger adults, when the questions are asked with more detail, age-related differences emerge.
Older adults use and look at different parts of Websites compared to young adults.
Thinking aloud during usability testing does not affect usability metrics in younger adults. For older adults, thinking aloud leads to increased time on task and a greater number of eye fixations on the screen.
Facebook Safety Check
Facebook On This Day, Friends Day, and Friendversary
Capital One Bank
National Partnership for Women and Families
American Association for Homes and Services for the Aging
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
Department of Defense (DoD)
Internal Revenue Services (IRS)
Virginia Department of Education (VDOE)
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
US Census Bureau
US General Services Administration (GSA)
National Science Foundation (NSF)