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10 User Research Questions Frequently Asked By Our Clients

by Korey Johnson , 26.07.2011

This article is re-posted from User Centric’s blog.

Whether you've never heard of user experience research, or this is your first engagement with User Centric (now GfK’s User Experience group), we're here to help you better understand user needs and wants. We've generated a list of FAQs we are typically asked throughout first-time engagements and answered them from our unique point of view.

Client: Which user research method is most appropriate for our goals?

GfK UX team: Different projects call for different approaches. While business goals and research objectives are at the forefront, the research method selected will also need to account for budget, timeline and resource availability.  At GfK, we take pride in our ability to strike a balance between what is feasible and what is necessary when determining the method that will best address our client’s problem or question. We are resourceful, but we never compromise the integrity of data.

Client: We’ve heard of remote testing, what are the advantages?

GfK UX team: There are a number of remote testing tools that can be leveraged to reach geographically dispersed users or users who are otherwise difficult to bring to one location. Some of these tools facilitate remotely moderated testing, others allow for completely un-moderated testing. If meeting research objectives requires a large sample of quantitative data describing user performance with little or no qualitative data, then remote testing may be best suited for the project. However, if supporting qualitative data will help to achieve the research objectives then in-person testing should be considered.

Client: How many participants should we test?

GfK UX team: The answer to this question depends entirely on the research objectives and questions that need to be answered at the conclusion of the research. If the purpose of the research is to identify usability issues within an interface, understand why users consider these to be issues and to make changes that will improve the interface, then a program of iterative testing with as few as five to ten participants per round may be the most appropriate. If you have already conducted iterative testing and the purpose of the research is to validate that previous changes have improved the usability of the interface compared to previous versions or some benchmark, then a larger sample is more appropriate. Whether it is a single day of usability testing or six simultaneous sessions every day for a week, we can scale to accommodate both small and large scale research.

Client: Our target customers are hard to reach, what are our options?

GfK UX team: Sometimes participants are easy to come by, but sometimes the criteria defining an acceptable participant make it very difficult to locate the right people (e.g., left handed children 6-10 years old who are diagnosed with Type I diabetes). For smaller scale user research, our relationship with a number of specialized recruiting firms in the Chicago area gives us sufficient access to these hard to reach demographics. For larger scale research, it may be necessary to conduct remote testing, or extend testing to another city in order to find enough participants. We can conduct research anywhere in the country, as well as internationally. Typically, we bring our own custom built portable usability lab to a focus group facility, but we’ve set up labs in hospitals, airplane mock-ups, conference centers, moving vehicles, and restaurants, to name a few unique environments.

Client: Do we need to be present for all test sessions?

GfK UX team: We encourage our clients to observe as many sessions as possible, as there is no substitute for seeing your customers use your product in person. Having key stakeholders on-site is an especially important component of a successful iterative test cycle, so that rapid, incremental improvements can be made to the interface. Multiple test sessions can be viewed simultaneously at our test facilities through one-way mirrors, as well as via PIP on large screen monitors. However, sometimes it is not practical for stakeholders to observe some or all of the sessions, especially when testing for extended periods of time or in multiple locations. We do like to think that you can rely on the findings in our final report, but interim deliverables such as location-specific Topline reports can also be provided in these cases to keep you in the loop as the research progresses.

Client: What will our role be throughout the research engagement?

GfK UX team: We collaborate with our clients throughout the engagement to ensure that business and research objectives are met. This means that every key deliverable can be iterated along the way to make certain that at the conclusion of the research, you will have the answers that you need. Our goal is to be your trusted research partner, rather than just another vendor. We are proactive and will take the lead on all activities related to the research process, but we will also encourage you to participate in this process along the way.

Client: What am I going to get out of this?

GfK UX team: Deliverables will of course vary depending on the scope and objectives of an engagement, but regardless of the format of these deliverables, we provide you with solutions you can act on. Interim deliverables that focus on key findings may take the form of more structured Topline reports, or can be as simple as daily debrief sessions or notes from a design workshop. Our complete user research reports identify detailed findings and prioritized recommendations, and may also include mock-ups of design recommendations, video clips to illustrate key findings, and full or half-day workshops to discuss findings and recommendations. Digital recordings of all test sessions are always included with whichever deliverable format best meets your needs.

Client: What happens after the final deliverable?

GfK UX team: Delivering recommendations to improve your customers’ user experience is part of what we do, but we won’t just throw a report over the wall. For every engagement, we plan on at least presenting our report to you via web conference. This gives you and other stakeholders the opportunity to ask us questions about our findings and recommendations, and can be especially important when key stakeholders were unable to view the research in person. We understand that the research we conduct is only valuable to you if you are able to affect a positive change in your users’ experience, and this can only happen if the right people receive the right information. If an in-person presentation of our report will be more effective for your stakeholders, just let us know and we can plan for that as well.

Client: How confident are you that these findings will generalize to all of our customers?

GfK UX team: We often get asked this question during readout of the final report, and it is often asked by someone who was less involved in the planning and execution of the research. If the research was largely quantitative in nature and the sample size was sufficiently large, we may be able to say with a reasonable degree of certainty that our findings are very close to what you would see if you sampled every one of your customers. However, it is more often the case that the purpose of the study was to identify and correct usability issues, not generalize behavior to the population, so this is the answer we typically provide.

Client: Oh, you guys do [core service] too?

GfK UX team: Much of our business comes from referrals from existing clients, so our newer clients are not always familiar with the breadth of services that we provide. These clients are often surprised by the variety of methods we use to capture the user experience. Depending on the research and business objectives of an engagement, we may recommend formative or summative usability testing, user centered design, expert evaluations, naturalistic observations, eye tracking or even focus groups to name a few. Read more about our user experience solutions.