Announcing The User Experience Team of One (2nd edition)!

Frequently Asked Questions

These common questions and their short answers are taken from Steve Portigal’s book Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries: User Research War Stories. You can find longer answers to each in your copy of the book, either printed or digital version.

  1. What are war stories?
    War stories are personal accounts of the challenges researchers have out in the eld, where mishaps inevitably occur. The term originated around 1839 and is used broadly to describe the types of stories shared across many professions and communities, not just warriors and user researchers.
  2. Why is this book about user research that went wrong?
    There is a lot of material about the right way to do user research. But, in reality, sometimes things do go wrong (or to be precise, differently than intended). There’s a lot to be learned from what actually happens, warts-and-all. With this insight, you might be able to prevent something unwanted from happening in the future, or at least have a better way of dealing with it the next time it comes up.
  3. Should I read this book in one sitting?
    While there are a lot of stories here, they are mostly pretty short, so you could binge-read them if you chose, but it’s probably better to take it one chapter at a time. This gives you the opportunity to digest and reflect before diving in again.
  4. Are there more stories?
    Yes. The original archive is at, and it includes stories that aren’t in this book. As people contribute new stories, they’ll be posted at that link, and at this book’s companion website.
  5. Can I submit my own story?
    Yes, please! You can email story pitches to Remember, these are stories about fieldwork (not about focus groups or usability tests). These stories are not about your research findings, but rather the kind of experiences that you have. Stories don’t need to include company or client names.

Back to Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries