Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

The Research Thing - Inclusive User Research - Focus on Diversity

This week’s The Research Thing event followed on from the December event which focused on accessibility inclusion, by focusing on diversity, particularly ethnicities and geographies.

I am sure as UX researchers many of us have said something along the lines of demographics are for marketing and we should be focusing on who will actually be using our product or service, focusing more on age or economic bracket, than race or gender or where someone lives etc.

But these demographics can shape behaviour, although it might not be so easy to see, and this is why we need to think about it when doing research.

We had two speakers this week, Solene van der Wielen from Designit London and Rachel Liu from Pearson.

Solene kicked us off by talking about how to make our research more inclusive. While she thinks it is really important to speak to an ethnically diverse group of people she acknowledged that for some projects some other factor might be more important.

She started with the example of Airbnb. They will have done lots of research round two groups of people - people looking to rent their property out and people looking to stay there.

But if they had widened their research to people not necessarily in these groups they could have heard from local hotel owners, people who live in the area and people who might service the properties. All these viewpoints might have changed how they designed the service.

But it is not easy and Solene started with some of the challenges she has faced. For instance it is not simple and can mean a delay while people are recruited, and there may even be a need for bigger budgets. And it can be an uncomfortable conversation to have with the team and stakeholders.

She then suggested some practical steps and tools. Starting with desk research can help us understand if there are a particular group of people affected by the topic that we should be speaking to. For instance more Asians have issues with diabetes, so if working on a product in this space you should be speaking to them.

Also making sure your recruitment templates already include diversity specs so it is seen as the norm rather than the exception and makes it quicker to add to a study.

Once you are in your research make it clear to participants that you are not the authority and encourage them to challenge you and remind them of their power. Finding common ground can be hard so it is better to use active listening to encourage participants to open up to you.

Rachel then talked about how to bridge cross-cultural boundaries. She started by giving examples of how East and West have different cultural values and how these can lead to different behaviours. For instance the different responses to wearing a mask during the pandemic.

She then gave some great examples about how you can bridge those boundaries starting by seeing our own blind spots. She suggested looking at who is in your circle who might be able to help educate you. This could be friends or at work. Immerse yourself in different!

She also reminded us to respect others perspectives. Just because they are different from yours does not make them wrong.

Rachel also suggested that we try to zoom in to see local nuances and to zoom out to see cultural context.

This was such an interesting event and gave me so much to think about, especially as the company I work for really is for everyone and so it is important that we are testing with people from all backgrounds.

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