How To Encourage Participation During Research
by Emma Peters, UX Consultant

How To Encourage Participation During Research

When people open up and participate, research creates conclusions and findings that present a true picture.

To recognise the point of view of a customer, you have to listen and observe, before you report.

Lets look at the situation of user research and observations when determining future decisions and understanding the true experience.

A big challenge is for participants to feel at ease when they join any form of interaction they are unfamiliar with. Emma Jones chats to Amy Hunter, from the Experience UX, consultancy team, to share the importance of getting people to partake. 

It all comes down to the ability to observe and interact, but a skillset that encourages engagement. Amy has worked with well-known brands and academic institutions to improve the overall experience with products and services.

Amy believes that an important trait for any researcher is to be relentlessly curious, not just in work, but in life in general. Amy says, Finding a rapport with others helps people open up and instil a sense of trust. For instance, working with Open University, I enjoy hearing the responses during our research. A retired teacher taking a maths degree and the interest in the subject shows how academia fits into his life, particularly during lockdown this helps portray the role of choice in the lives of others.”

The Difference Between Good & Bad Research

According to Amy the big difference between successful and lacklustre research is engagement and participation.

Amy explains, With time, the more user experience research you conduct, the more comfortable you become with finding insights. However, it is wise to recognise potential obstacles. These could be extreme characteristics that present a challenge. This means for environments such a moderating focus group sessions or during usability testing, people could say what they think you want them to hear or come across as naturally louder than others.

Even a person who is naturally quiet, or appears withdrawn or nervous, presents a situation to manage. Amy says, Being quiet is ok, a researcher has to create balance and fairness and encourage participation. Extreme behaviour can influence group mentality, from being vocal to being quiet. What matters is how the research process is handled and to get the information for the brief that is presented.

What Gets Someone To Open Up?

Amy believes that when a relaxed environment is created, people are more willing to contribute, compared to pure enthusiasm to gain interaction. Amy says, People need to feel at ease, but at the same time a researcher cannot come in with boundless energy, you have to be aware of the expressions and body language you use, being controlled and passive becomes easier the more exposed you are to research environments.”

But what if there is a low take up of feedback and ongoing commentary from groups? Amy suggests giving people a thread to pick up. For instance, if a group takes time to be committed, those people who slowly begin to open up and share provide an opportunity, so that you can start to lean into those who talk. You start to find that people naturally want to contribute and be heard, and a group starts to find momentum.”

Amy shares some advice on what to do to encourage an engaged research group. Another tip I would use if people are taking their time to participate is to embrace the power of the icebreaker. It could be something as simple as a piece of good news from their own lives to share with everyone. Sometimes it is the simple things that gain traction. You have to break down barriers.”

A simple activity that Amy also suggests is to give a round of applause. According to Medical News Today, our body has 340 known pressure points and 28 are in our hands. Its these points that stimulate other parts of our body.

Some Final Points To Take OnBoard

Focus groups help to show perceptions of a product, the issues people may have and where their expectations lie, Amy believes that at every point, You cant lose your audience.”

An engaged group helps with decisions and also generates new ideas to progress for how a company can serve its customers in the future. Amy comments,I have seen a CEO continue the discussion with someone from a group after the session has finished, having an understanding of a true customer and their expectations over an invitation to meet again for a coffee – this can be priceless.”

User experience research provides a platform to observe and articulate to inform the application and design of products and services in an organised way. A group of people who interact, feel included and share help to uncover patterns and insights that a company may not necessarily be aware of. The same can be applied to 1:1 research.

When a world becomes tailored for the people who use a product or service, the ability to encourage participation helps define a company in the eyes of others. The views and feedback of others are key, research matters.

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UX Consultant Emma Peters

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