<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=443149619225659&ev=PageView&noscript=1"> Qualitative User Research: Fast

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Qualitative User Research: Fast

Qualitative User Research: Fast

Don’t think you have the time, money, or people to conduct user research? Although most user experience designers will agree doing user research is ideal, some say that it isn’t practical or necessary when short on time and budget. Here at Small Footprint, we think this mentality is based on the false idea that user research has to be time-consuming and expensive.

Here are a few commonly perceived roadblocks to doing qualitative user research and workarounds that will help you conduct valuable research fast and cheap.

Roadblocks & Workarounds

1. We Don’t Have Enough Participants

Although we often think that studies require hundreds of participants to yield accurate results, it isn’t always the case. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group, it only takes doing qualitative research (in particular the think aloud method) with 5 participants to detect 80% of the usability issues with a product!

 

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This means that with just a handful of people you can test a design and discover 80% of the usability issues, iterate of your design to fix these problems, re-test it and identify 80% of the remaining problems. That’s an easy way to add major value to your product. 

2. Recruiting is a Logistical Nightmare

Although finding the right users and bringing them in for studies can be a difficult process filled with time-consuming screenings and no shows, it doesn’t have to be like that.

One alternative is to use one of a growing number of user research platforms that are offering to simplify user research, such as UserTesting. These services allow you to upload a prototype and then distribute it to your target users provided by the platform. Sessions can either be recorded with no moderator during the study (meaning the participant completes common tasks in your product while explaining their thought process) or you can moderate the study yourself using questions to probe the participant for more details about their thoughts and feelings on the product.

Another alternative to traditional recruiting is to go to your users rather than have them come to you. This is called guerrilla or hallway testing and it consists of going out to a public place with your prototype and asking people to test your product while you observe. This is an especially fast and cheap way to conduct studies and can allow you to test your product in a setting that is more comparable to how it will be used in the wild rather than in your office.

3. Conducting the studies and compiling results is too time consuming.

Planning, moderating, and then compiling the results for a study can be tedious, but there are ways to cut down the process. One method for reducing the time spent on user research is to conduct the sessions remotely, using a user research platform, or by using a video conference tool such as Zoom or Skype. This will reduce the amount of time you spend on the sessions and makes recording and curating videos of sessions easy.

Another good method is to use a note taker to collect the results of a user session while it is being conducted. This will reduce the need to review session videos and will allow researchers to draw conclusions and findings from each session after a short debriefing between researchers immediately after the session.

4. We don’t have any user research experts and can’t afford to hire them.

You don’t need experts to start conducting user research. Doing qualitative usability testing can be fairly simple. One of the most important things to do is… nothing at all. Let me remind you they you are interested in finding out what the your participant is thinking and feeling while using your product. You can easily encourage them to speak by asking good questions and listening actively. You don’t need to be experienced to collect a ton of great data on your product.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, although valuable user research can be conducted quickly and on the cheap, even a robust user research program is much less expensive than the alternative: poor designs that need to be redesigned and rebuilt. Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar summarized it best when he said, “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”

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About the author

When thinking of technology, you may not first think of studying people, but TJ Koines does. The former psychology/philosophy major turned his interest in what makes his fellow humans tick into a career in UX. After studying people in clinical settings, he discovered the fields of human factors and ergonomics and was fascinated by the opportunity to conduct research and apply it through the design of technology. He pursued this new interest at the University of Washington while earning his M.S. in human centered design and engineering. Today, he seeks to see the world through other people’s eyes and enjoys complaining about bad UX all in the name of making lives easier.
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