While working on user research projects, we figured out how to work on research projects efficiently. These tips are based on the field studies we conducted, the challenges we faced, and what solution we found out to save time during user research.
Ethnographic research is a method of user research that involves the study of people’s behaviour in their real-life environment. Ethnographic research helps in better understanding of user and their culture. These tips are more relevant to Ethnographic research.
Following are a few user research tips to save time:
Tip 1: Appoint an admin
Researchers go in the field to study people’s behaviour in their real-life environment. User research helps in better understanding of users and their culture.
User research requires the researcher to focus on the study without being distracted from other tasks.
But often, researchers are required to interact with a lot of other people. Such as Stakeholders, who want to know the progress of the field study. Or they might be Logistic agencies, calling and emailing researchers about updates on taxi, flight or hotel bookings. Or there can be other supporting agencies want to coordinate with you. All these groups are there to help researchers in their primary activity: that is to do user research in the field.
This continuous interaction with these supporting parties consumes much time and makes it difficult for the researchers to focus on their primary task.
Appoint one person who is part of the research team but not coming with you field research as an Admin. So that she takes care of the logistics side of the study, and allows you to focus on designing the research methodology and doing actual research. You don’t want to worry about the hotel, taxi or flight bookings. Let the admin take care of all the bookings and contingencies.
An admin is also helpful when you have to coordinate with people with different roles such as stakeholders, agency. When you are in the field, in the real-life environment doing the research where you want your use your focus and energy in observing the people and finding patterns.
Tip 2: Schedule appointments with participants
One common situation while doing user research is that a participant is not available for the interview. When you reach the place to conduct the interview, they are not present there. They had to go somewhere because of some urgency, or they simply forgot to participate in the research. Participants are people, sometimes they forget about the interview, sometimes they have urgent work
To avoid this situation, scheduling appointments with the participants before the visit. Here the admin could take up this activity and save your time.
Tip 3: Create a checklist of equipment
When you are going out in the real-life environment to observe or interact with the users, the chances are that you might have to take some material with you: these might be microphones, cameras, mobile phones, testing devices, among many others. In ethnographic research, you often have to move from one location to another when you have more than one participant for the research. There are chances that you might forget to take equipment with you into the field, or you don’t remember where did you put that equipment last time and you couldn’t find it. It might be a microphone or a camera or prototype. Finding that equipment might take time and efforts that add up to the cost or in the worst case, it might jeopardize the whole schedule for the research. To avoid losing any equipment, I suggest you make a checklist of equipment and check items when are you “Going into the field” and a check for things when you are “Coming out of the field”. You might create an extensive checklist of equipment for “coming out of the hotel” and “Getting out of Taxi” to be more assured of your equipment.
Tip 4: Keep all your documents in print format
When you are in the field, you might need to take various documents with you. These might include questionnaire, photographs, designs to show to the participants. It’s convenient to put all the documents in digital format and show to the user. However, devices, where you are keeping these documents, might fail, as these can run out of battery or they can have a technical glitch. Digital tools have their pros & cons.
To reduce the risk of not being able to access digital documents, my suggestion is to keep these documents in a print format as a backup. So, keeping all your documents in both digital and print format as well will help you avoid significant contingency.
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