For the past few months on this project, we have been going through several user research sessions using different approaches. From focus groups to individual user testing’s in the users home.

Why do user research?

You should do some level of user research when the high level design of your application is underway.

  • Task analysis provides important clues to what the interface organization and conceptual design should be,” (Weinschenck, p. 26)
  • Yes it costs money to do user research. It costs even more money to go into litigation because nobody though about the user first.

According to Jakob Nielsen

Modern day user experience research methods can now answer a wide range of questions. Knowing when to use each method can be understood by mapping them in 3 key dimensions and across typical product development phases.

We felt the user research will

  • Be able to remove stumbling blocks from the user’s path through the website.
  • Be able to get it right early, means moving on faster.
  • Help to satisfy users achieve their goals through the interface

Research methods

Here are some of the research methods that can be used in website redesign projects like ours.  We however chose to use focus groups, eyetracking, usability lab studies, A/B testing’s, user interviews and contextual enquiries.

Recruiting users

Since Camden has its own consultative panel of nearly 2000 residents called “Camden Talks”, we decided it was the best way to recruit our users from this pool of residents. Emails were sent out to prospective users according to types and categories of users.  They were given a week to respond and were also offered some incentive to participate.

There are other ways of recruiting users too.

Steve Krug gives some great examples on ways to recruit users for website redesign:

  1. Throw money at the problem (outsourcing)– You can hire a recruiter if you don’t have the time or inclination to do recruiting.
  2. Look in places where the kinds of people you are looking for tend to congregate. For example, if you want to test senior citizens, consider senior centres, libraries and church groups. If you want people who use your website, put a link on your homepage or create a pop-up invitation that appears when they enter or leave.
  3. Testing with people who work for your own organization.
  4. Tack it up on bulletin boards.
  5. Post it on message boards.
  6. Email it to your professional or personal network and ask them to pass it on to anyone they think might be interested.

Challenges in recruiting users for this project

There were a few challenges in obtaining users for this research.

  • Doing the user research during working hours caused people to decline the invitation.
  • In the beginning we didn’t offer cash gift incentive making it harder for users to commit to the research and cancelling at the last minute but this was promptly overcome by offering the cash gift incentive.
  • Finding the right users for the right categories. It was difficult to match users to the exact profiling that was needed for the research. But we tried to match it as best and close as we could.