Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

UXPA - ResearchOps During COVID19

I am not used to joining UXPA for events in August as they normally run a pub quiz, but with social distancing still in place they decided to run a remote event instead, this time looking back over the last couple of months to see how ResearchOps has changed.

We had three great speakers. Thom Blake from Bunnyfoot and Bunnyfield, Stephanie Marsh from Springer Nature and Lauren Isaacson from Curio Research, all the way from Canada.

ResearchOps is a bit different than just research. Re+ops, as it is sometimes written, is all the work that supports doing the research, the organising tools and labs, and recruiting participants and paying incentives. If you have a big enough group of researchers it makes sense to have someone looking after the re+ops side of things for them.

Thom kicked us off with a talk titled 'Baby, its COVID outside…'

While a lot of us have been wondering if we should even still be doing research at a time like this Thom thinks that it really should continue as its more important now that ever before that sites and apps are usable and accessible.

He ran through some of the issues round remote testing, for instance the higher possibility of technical issues for participants, not being able to see intent and gestures and how tricky it is to test physical products.

But there are some benefits too like the lack of travel, reduced expenses and the wider pool of participants.

But his real tip for remote testing was to choose the right tool for the job.

He then went on to talk about how they are getting ready for a return to in-person testing.

They have amended the lab itself to make sure there is good ventilation and screens between participants and moderators. They are creating one way systems, will leave more time between sessions and clients are being invited to watch live streaming rather than attending the lab in person.

But the most important thing, Thom thinks, is they are talking to their staff to find out what their concerns are and what they can do to make sure they are happy to return.

Stephanie was our next speaker, again talking about what had changed for her team in the last couple of months.

For her team of researchers there are two re+ops people. While the researchers have to recruit and schedule their own participants, run the research then do the analysis and share their insights, Stephanie looks after tool management, paying incentives, the participant database, templates, guidance, GDPR, training and support along with making sure the researchers have a process to follow for the bits they have to do.

While things have not changed too much due to the fact that they were already working with teams across the world, everyone being remote has leveled the playing field with no more meetings with people forgotten on the end of the phone in a conference room.

What they have changed is the messaging they use to recruit participants and reducing sessions to 30 minutes which has helped them to recruit to a similar level as before.

They are also more aware of sharing their learnings as they go forward.

The last speaker was Lauren who spoke to us about all the different tools available to us for remote research.

While she understands that a lot of companies already have meeting software that will let you do a lot of things like interviews and testing she thinks it is worth investing in the right tool for the job - echoing what both Thom and Stephanie said.

She also suggested speaking to a provider if you need their tool as most of them can do short term deals if you just need it for one project rather than a yearly subscription.

I was quite surprised at just how many different types of tool there are on offer.

Here’s a list of the types of tools Lauren went over:

  • In depth interviews
  • Usability testing
  • Video focus groups
  • Chat/text focus groups
  • Online asynchronous focus groups
  • Digital ethnography
  • Eye tracking
  • Facial coding
  • Dial testing
  • Augmented and virtual reality

There are also tools for working with mobile, for instance mirroring screens. There are services for creating transcripts and there are tools to help with the analysis of the research afterwards.

If you are looking for something particular Lauren suggested using

She ended by reminding us that practice makes perfect and to give ourselves permission to make mistakes and learn from them.

It was a fascinating set of talks, full of practical advice to make sure we get the most from the research we do now and what to think about as things go back to ‘normal’.

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