Slides and task model diagram from our UXBristol workshop

Thanks to everyone who came and participated in our UXBristol workshop today.

There was a good buzz and we’ve got plenty of ideas to work through to work out our next steps as we move from the discovery stage to the alpha stage.

We’ll be posting up all the outputs from the workshop soon.

In the meantime, you can view and download the task model diagram (PDF, 1 page):

And here’s the slide-deck with our findings on google slides

[Update 19 July]

Thanks to…

How does a recruiter support the participant journey?

If we conclude that the journey for a participant looks something like this;

  1. People find out about opportunities to take part in research through newsletters, social media, friends telling them about it or being contacted directly.
  2. These people then get in contact with someone (researcher or recruiter) to organise taking part in the research, finding out what will happen, what they’ll have to do and when it will be.
  3. At this point these people (or participants at this stage?) then go to the research to take part, collect their incentive (if they’re having one) and then finish the journey.

What happens to support this journey? This is the question we asked ourselves. We wanted to know how are the needs of participants being met today when they are taking part in research.

The stages of this journey which were more of a mystery to us were that of ‘find out’ and ‘organise’;

  • Who manages these stages and how??
  • How are participants recruited to take part in research?
  • What methods are used to recruit participants?
  • What challenges occur when recruiting participants?

To discover the answers to these questions we needed to research with participant recruiters, in addition to our research interviews with participants.

To really learn how participants are recruited and to understand how participant needs are met, we conducted a contextual inquiry of a participant recruitment specialist, People for Research.

What we did

We spent the day in the offices of People for Research and observed:

  • how they contact participants on the day of the research, to ensure the participant hasn’t forgotten and is still able to attend
  • a range of methods being used to contact potential participants  to invite them to take part in a various research opportunities
  • how recruiters screen participants, to confirm and organise the research session ensuring the research participant is suitable

After spending the day observing all these facets of recruitment we conducted a workshop with a group of participant recruiters to understand what they knew about their participants and to reflect on the observations we had through the day.

What we found

Serial participants

Unfortunately there are serial participants, people who want to, and are willing to take part in many research opportunities even if they don’t fit the criteria for taking part.

“They’ll use different accents”

Serial participants will use many means to take part in research. Recruiters work to find out who these people are, and share information about them, to reduce the chances of them getting through to the research. Which could have a detrimental impact on that round of research.

Drop outs

No one likes a “no show” and there are many tactics employed in which to increase the personal nature of the relationship between the participant and recruiter which aim to decrease the chances of drop outs.

“Certain audience types are more likely to drop out’

To prevent these drop outs recruiters use:

  • Phone as a channel which is seen as more personal and friendly
  • Direct contact details to the recruiter which mean the participant has a person to speak to
  • Photos of the recruiters at the end of their emails, again providing a personable communication
  • For some user types, communications are lessened “if it is a business owner I won’t pester them with lots of confirmations”

“I bonded with a participant over a football team from Latvia, very niche, but because of that I knew he would turn up”

Through these communications with participants further topics can be approached which help reduce the anxiety of participants:

  • Participants can be told how important their participation is, giving them a stake in turning up
  • Questions, that without answer provide lots of anxiety, such as ‘what do I wear?’ are answered confidently
  • Relationships can be built between participant and recruiter, building a brand of trust and loyalty.

Research starts during recruitment

“The research starts on the screener… we give ask open-ended questions in the screener to see how they will feel when they’re in the session”

Research participants’ needs start much earlier than when the video camera in the lab gets switched on. Needs start when the participant chooses chooses to respond to an opportunity for a piece of research.

We’ll be sharing more of what we’ve discovered during our UX Bristol 2017 workshop and in further blog posts.


Sprint 2 Sprintnotes

End of sprint 2, already at the halfway point, arghhhhh! Insights have started fitting together this sprint, however, it feels like we may have bitten off more than we can chew to be ready before we present at UX Bristol. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This discovery is more than just having something to present at UX Bristol, but having this in the calendar does provide just the right amount of pressure to get things done.

We’ll be de-prioritising some of our activities to be put on ice until after the conference. Fortunately what we are uncovering is great, and so fear not UX Bristol attendees we’ll have plenty for you.

This sprint we’ve managed to:

  • Analyse the data that we gathered from the interviews of participants in the previous sprint.
  • Interviewed a User Researcher
  • Created, and sent out, a survey for people who have been participants to further explore the themes coming from our interviews
  • Spent a day with a participant recruitment agency to observe how they interact with potential participants
  • Ran a workshop with participant recruiters to explore how they support the participant journey

Analysing our interviews

For the majority of the time Nic and I are actually working remotely from each other. This has been fine up until the point we attempted to conduct the analysis of our participant interviews on a rainy Tuesday night. We attempted to analyse our insights, although we had problem – geography. I was in a Travelodge looking over Southwark train line, Nic was in his office with a household to see to bed etc. Added into the mix the conundrum of where the data is, Nic had the raw notes whereas I had a bad quality picture fo them. We started, I kid you not, with me reading out the raw notes I could see on a picture taken from the session with Nic typing them up into bullets so we could group them and analyse them. This lasted 10 minutes before we realised that actually that idea was awful.

In an ideal place, we would have digitised our notes, and raw data and worked from there. The problem was we were digitising, analysing and it was late. So what did we do,  Nic mapped out the raw notes of 3 participants on his whiteboard, whilst I read all notes from pictures and analysed the other 2 users. We then convened, shared what themes we were distilling from the data. This proved to be highly effective and we ended up with a bunch of views hypotheses and questions for our next round. Bingo, We got to bed past 12.

Personas of participants?

We wanted to further explore the themes that we uncovered through our interviews, and hypothesised that there may be different types of participants who have different behaviours and motivations for taking part. We didn’t feel that we could devise personas from the small number of interviews we had conducted. So we’ve designed a survey, as a low time intensive research method to explore further the themes that we discovered through our in-depth interviews.

Having 5 in-depth interviews to inform our questions makes our surveys fairly robust, as we’ve been able to use words that we know participants use.

Some of themes we’re exploring through our survey are:

  • Will participants only take part in certain types of research?
  • What factors motivate participants to take part in research?
  • Do participants segment on how they rank these motivations?
  • How confident do participants feel about the research when it’s taking place?

Not getting biased

We’re researching about taking part in research that is conducted by researchers. (Meta, right?). We’re aware that we are user researchers, therefore we will carry a bias around how research should be designed and conducted. If we’re not careful we’re in danger in allowing our assumptions get in the way of describing the participant journey as we design research too, and we’re designing this piece of research.

Due to this we have looked at opportunities to speak with other researchers, and this sprint we were able to interview another researcher who works for a small agency. This was really useful, and we found out some things that we would not have done had we carried our own biases.

Seeing the hidden side of research

We spent a day at the People for Research office in central Bristol. We spent the morning hanging out with the team seeing what they did, how and why. Through observing the recruiters we learnt about the intricacies of building a rapport with participants. However, it’s not just recruitment that PFR get up to, they need to keep enticing new people to take part in research whilst also looking after their base of eager participants.

In the afternoon we had the opportunity to run a workshop to probe further on what we had observed in the morning. The workshop attendees illustrated how they support the journey that a participant goes on when they take part in research. They shared with us their ‘war stories’ of recruiting participants which really added colour to what could be considered the actual start of research, much earlier than when the researcher formally runs on the camera.  

Next sprint we’ll:

  • Analyse our survey data
  • Get a rough sketch down of how the UX Bristol workshop might look

It was good to see today a conference dedicated to User Research happen in London. Sad not to be there but what did come out loud and clear was a message of design your research to be user centred. We couldn’t agree more.