4 Common User Research Missteps

Remote research session

Get more value out of your user research by avoiding these 4 common missteps.

At Viget, we strongly encourage our clients to incorporate research into their design and development process. Based on our experience, we know how impactful this can be. User research allows organizations to understand the needs and behaviors of their users so organizations can build the right thing at the right time and improve their product and service offerings.

That said, without the right approach, it’s easy to run into challenges while conducting research. Here are four common missteps to avoid:

1. Getting started without a purpose.

Research needs a purpose and the team must understand how the data will be used. If you rush into a research effort without understanding what you’re trying to learn or without aligning the team, you’ll waste time and resources. For example, if you assume that your organization wants to learn about a specific feature set and you conduct the research with that in mind and later realize that the key decision maker actually needs data about a different feature set, you’ll need to start over.

Tip: Conduct stakeholder interviews to identify research goals. Consolidate and share findings with the team to make sure everyone is aligned before deciding how to approach the research.

2. Establishing an unrealistic timeline.

Research can move fast but you still need to be cognizant that certain things take time. We find clients can be overly optimistic about recruitment timelines and response rates. For example, recruiting participants for moderated sessions can be difficult. You may not get the response rate you expect or may run into scheduling issues. Expecting recruiting to happen seamlessly on your ideal timeline is not realistic.

Tip: Plan for the worst case scenario and add buffer from the start rather than hoping for the best and then quickly having your project plan fall apart.

3. Expecting participation without incentives.

Providing incentives, typically in the form of a gift card, can dramatically increase response and completion rates. Since participants provide you with valuable input, it is also a best practice to compensate them for their time unless incentives are prohibited by your organization due to regulations in your industry or field. If time is of the essence, incentives have the added benefits of faster recruitment and lower no-show rates which makes it easier to stick to your ideal timeline.

Tip: Establish a standard process for incentives. Providing guidance to project teams on the typical format and amount of incentives, as well as the fulfillment process, will make it easier for them to incorporate incentives on projects.

4. Recruiting participants that aren’t representative.

It can be difficult to recruit participants. Sometimes you get to a point where you want to take anyone you can get but it’s important to make sure that you’re conducting research with participants who are representative of your actual users. For example, if you’re building a tool for doctors, you aren’t going to gather valuable data by testing the tool with individuals who aren’t doctors. Only doctors will be able to provide insight into their processes and give you appropriate feedback on whether your product will work for them.

Tip: If you aren’t able to recruit representative participants on your own, work with an external recruiting agency or service in order to find the right people for your study.

If you try to avoid these 4 common missteps, your research projects will be more successful.

Laura Sweltz

Laura is Viget's UX Research Director. She works from our Durham, NC office, where she helps clients like Rotary International, AARP, and Time Life understand the needs and behaviors of their users.

More articles by Laura

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