Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

Testing With the Right Participants

When doing any sort of research, making sure the people you speak to are right for your product is so important.

For instance maybe you do not have any budget for doing research in a lab so you decide to do guerrilla testing. Maybe you start in the office (if you still go to one). Testing within your team might give you some feedback but it is not the sort we are talking about here. Your team should know way too much about your product or website to be able to tell you where the problems are.

If you really cannot leave the 'office', and you should if you can, go and speak to someone in Finance or HR who has no idea what you are working on.

It is better if you can specify who you want to speak to based on who will use your product. Speak to your stakeholders and find out, if you do not already know, the details of who they think is using your product. How old are they? Are you looking for male or female participants or a mix of both? Do they need to have special knowledge or are they interested in a particular subject?

When doing research about personal loans it was important that our participants were not looking for a payday loan, so this was added to the screener we sent to the recruiter.

By creating a recruitment brief like this it makes it easier to make sure the feedback you get is from people who are similar to your actual customers.

Even if you do not use a recruiter to find your participants, having an agreed brief before you start your research makes it harder for stakeholders to reject your research findings by saying you did not speak to the right people.

I have just done some research about what information people are looking for when selecting broadband packages. Because we offer broadband across the country and anyone can purchase it, I only asked 2 questions.

  1. Have you signed up for broadband in the last year?
  2. Were you the main decision maker?

This meant I would hopefully get to speak to people who had done some research into broadband suppliers before selecting one and get an understanding of what influenced their decisions.

Based on research the team had conducted before I joined them, I was expecting my participants to struggle with understanding broadband speeds, so I was surprised when everyone knew exactly what sort of speed they needed and the sort of price they would expect to pay.

Discussing this with the team later, I found out that while they had been careful with who they spoke to by using a panel of our customers, most of those customers had no interest in broadband so when asked about speeds and prices had very little idea what was good and what they would actually need.

So where does that leave us? Those people with no idea about speed or price might be looking for broadband one day and need help understanding what is best for them, so how can we make sure we help them as well as anyone who already knows what they are looking for?

I could do more research with participants who are looking to get broadband in the next 6 months and have not done too much research yet and see what they need. This would give us the middle ground. Or we can work with what we know now.

As you can see, who you speak to can really affect what you find out and what you do next. Speak to the wrong people and you can end up putting a lot of effort into something that your actual customers might not need.

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