How to do UX research in a COVID-19 world (plus FREE handbook)

UX Research in the new normal

As the world begins to come to terms with living alongside COVID-19 for at least the coming future, we take a look at how UX research will need to adapt to continue to get good results whilst keeping everyone safe.

Remote will be the new default

When lockdown began, we hope you were able to continue testing. If you did continue, you no doubt chose to go down the remote testing route as it was by far the safest method for both you and your participants. We expect that remote will continue to be the preferred method whilst the virus is around but that remote moderated will grow in popularity.

In-person research has returned but may not be face-to-face

For many research projects, remote testing won’t answer the key research questions, or it simply won’t be possible due to technical constraints. For example, one of our clients has highly confidential and sensitive gaming hardware that is tricky to setup because it’s still at the prototyping stage, so remote would not be suitable for their needs. 

Now that people are able to return to work and to indoor environments, we have resumed in-person research here at Keep It Usable, in our Home UX Lab. However, it will look a little different and as you also resume your in-person research, there are several changes you’ll need to make and things you’ll need to consider across the whole research process.

We have resumed in-person research here at Keep It Usable

Ensuring and communicating safety

Ensuring a safe return to in-person testing is our priority at Keep It Usable. The health and safety of our clients, researchers, observers, participants, staff and anyone else within our facility is of the utmost importance. It is key not just to provide this safety, but also to communicate it well so that people feel reassured and are are less likely to worry about the environment they will be in.

White Tower Reception
Reception in our building

Participant recruitment and screening

As you may be aware, the specialist user recruitment agency, I Need Users is part of our group of companies. We have been providing recruitment for many years and are very proud of our superb attendance rate (for most projects it’s 100%). But with COVID-19 we’ve had to make a few changes for in-person research: 

  • Our updated screening process now includes additional questions relating to experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, testing positive, contact with others and possible exposure to others who may test positive, and recent travel.
  • As there can be a period of time between being screened and the date of the research, all participants will be re-screened the day before your testing to ensure no new symptoms and changes have occurred.
  • When they arrive at the facility, they will be asked to confirm again.
  • We will also take extra time in the screening process to alleviate any concerns that participants may have about attending the research facility in-person. This will involve explaining the process, environment and setup so they feel safe to attend.

Face masks and social distancing

The official guidance on face masks and social distancing will apply within our facility. As these are changing on a weekly basis at the moment, these will continue to adapt in line with government guidelines. All participants and visitors must wear a mask when arriving and use the hand sanitiser when they enter the building. 

Hand sanitiser is available on arrival
Hand sanitiser on arrival

Research lab changes

We are not currently recommending researchers sit alongside participants because it would go against the current government guidelines and the PPE required may be uncomfortable for the user (and you). It will also effect the audio quality for your observers and your recording.

Instead, we have several alternatives available, where you and the participant can be in different rooms but still be close by in case you need to pop into Home Lab to sort out any technical issues (wearing PPE of course).

Home UX Lab

New individual self-contained booths

An extra option that we now offer is the use of our individual self-contained work booths. These extra special booths contain a chair, desk, internet connection and lighting. They are perfect for individual tests! You may prefer for your participant to be sat in the booth or you might prefer them to be in our homely lab whilst you use the booth. Alternatively, your participant could be in our homely lab whilst you use the large observation room next door. We have many options that are all entirely flexible and we can help to advise on which setup will be best suited to your research needs.

UX Research Booths

Process changes

In light of the new guidelines, our day-to-day processes have changed, including:

  • Participants to be kept separate whilst waiting for research.
  • Seating in the waiting area to be thoroughly cleaned after each use.
  • Schedule extra time between participants to enable cleaning.
  • Sanitisation of room and equipment between each participant.
  • Hands sanitised before handling anything. 
  • Masks to be worn when interacting with visitors.
  • Social distancing to be maintained.
  • Only bottles of water to be made available to participants.
  • Snacks individually wrapped.
  • Anything used in the research should be disposed of if it cannot be sufficiently disinfected (such as post-its).
  • No cash payments to be made to users. 

FREE Handbook

COVID-19 UX Research Handbook

We’ve put together a handbook with all of the information you’ll need in order to carry out UX research in a COVID-19 world.

You might also like:

Home UX Lab – our purpose built homely, cosy and relaxing in-house lab

I Need Users – specialist user recruitment agency

Creating meaningful experiences: an Introduction to User Experience design

“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good design fits our needs so well that the design is invisible.” Don Norman 

What is UX?

‘An experience is a story, emerging from the dialogue of a person with her or his world through action.’ (Hassenzahl 2010, pp. 8)

Each person has their own definition of User Experience (UX) so it can be difficult for newcomers to understand what is meant by the term UX. UX refers to the experience a person has and who they feel when interfacing with a system.

Technologies have become progressively more complex as the industry advances and they are embedded into people’s everyday life to such an extent that our experiences are mostly created and shaped through digital devices. What used to be a one-way medium has evolved into a very rich and interactive experience and from this arises the importance to not just test the product but to test the interaction between users and the product. Users’ needs are always changing as they continually evolve their expectation, so continuously testing the user experience of your product is vital to stay relevant and ahead of the competition.

Working in UX requires many skills, below is just a small subset.

UX design disciplines

What is UX design?

UX design is the process of enhancing the end user satisfaction with a product or service as well as increasing business KPIs (if you have a great UX designer they’ll deliver both). In simple words, UX design is about how to create technology that can fit human needs, solve problems and make life simpler.

The more you understand your users the better you can design a product that is attractive and meaningful. User-centred design (that aligns your design to your users needs) will ensure the design of a successful product and an enjoyable user experience.

A UX designer will ensure a product logically flows from one step to the next. UX design experts study and evaluate the ease of use of the product, the perception of the value of the interface, the efficiency in performing tasks coupled with business needs.

The checkout process of an e-commerce website is frequently evaluated in terms of the user experience because it’s often a major jumping off point when customers are transacting. Testing how easy and pleasant users purchasing something on the website can be utilised to identify the challenges and obstacles that users face.

As human beings, we are all different. What works for one person might have the opposite effect on another. For this reason the aim of UX is to design for specific user groups (personas) experiences, promote certain behaviours and habits; user experiences will be different and unique for every product. The design process must be tailored to goals, values, needs and expectations related to a specific product.

What’s the difference between UX and usability?

There is some confusion around UX and usability; they are often used synonymously, however in reality, usability is a part of UX.

UX addresses to how the user feels when using an interface; it is more related to the overarching process and interaction with the product, whilst usability is about whether a task can be achieved in a satisfactory time and manner. In fact, according to ISO 9241, usability is purely regarded as efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction.

Whereas UX entails everything that effects how a person interacts with something and can include a whole variety of psychological and social factors; social proof, trust, emotions, frustrations and satisfaction. Usability is just one part of UX.

Which research methods are involved in UX?

The methods for researching UX are numerous and they are strictly related to the nature of the research and the final aims of the testing. Each research is tailored to which aspects of the interface is to be evaluated.

Some of the research methods in UX are:

  • One-to-one interviews: gather deep insights from real time behaviour, interaction, personal experiences, opinions and perceptions.
  • Focus Group: this group research method allows the researcher to investigate behavioural patterns and the influence of group interaction.
  • Concept Testing: testing a concept directly with users allows designers to understand expectations about the product and to transform early ideas into more solid concepts that have been adapted for user needs.
  • Card Sorting: used to inform structure and categorisations based on how users perceive them to be. Utilises understanding of the users mental model.
  • Usability testing: is a research method to evaluate the efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction of a product based on empirical evidence.
  • Diary study: this technique gathers deep information about feelings, habits and behaviours across a period of time.

Is the setting of the research important?

The setting of the research is very important – a poor environment can undermine the validity of the test. As in psychology, the success of research is also based on the environment in which it has been run. A comfortable, cosy and natural environment will help users feel relaxed and behave naturally, as if they were in their natural setting: their own home. Keep It Usable pioneered the home style UX lab – our Home UX Lab has a living room design and cosy, relaxed feel to put people at ease and gather deeper insights so you get more value from your UX research / Usability testing.

Keep It Usable Home UX Lab

What are the benefits for your brand?

Knowing your users and designing for them has a lot of benefits for your brand image, the engagement of your users and on your revenue.

UX design deals with users emotions and feelings and it has long term effects as well as immediate ones. For example, a simple improvement in the checkout process of a website can massively increase the revenue and, at the same time, it will grow loyalty resulting in repeat customers and referrals. If users find the product useful, pleasant and easy to use they will return and use it not just once but whenever they need it.

A positive user experience will make users wonder how they could live without your product!

  • Increase sales and conversion: your user interfaces will be more effective at selling your products and therefore will increase your sales.
  • Improve credibility and trust in the brand: good UX is associated with increased brand appeal and positive brand associations.
  • Decrease bounce rates: people bounce for many reasons. During the UX design process, as many of those reasons as possible will be identified and designed out, keeping people on the site, taking them further down the funnel.
  • Increase visibility (no. of new and return visitors): UX experts are not only looking to increase new customer conversion, but they’re also focussed on improving retention and longer term conversion.
  • Avoid costly redesign: testing the product in the early stages of the design process will avoid redesign costs later and lost revenue.
  • Increase business intelligence and ease decision making: If you understand your customers opinions and needs, everyone in the business will be able to make better business decisions that are more in line with your customers needs. The more user research you do, the more aligned you’ll be with your customers thinking.
  • Better reviews: Online reviews are read by everyone, they’re the word of mouth of the internet and they are trusted because they come from ‘people like me’. Through an increased understanding of customer needs and improving accordingly, you will create a better experience that leads to better reviews.
  • Improve user satisfaction: a satisfying customer experience is related to positive emotions due to the fulfilment of fundamental psychological human needs: self-esteem, autonomy, competence and relatedness (Self-determination Theory, Deci & Ryan). Moreover, the feeling of satisfaction gathered during a positive user experience, will create an emotional and affective bond between users and your brand, as well as a sense of engagement and motivation to use your brand in the future (for more about how to engage with your customers emotions, take a look at ‘How do you feel? Understanding emotions to craft satisfying experiences’).

In the digital era, a website is often the first point of contact that costumers have with your brand. We have evidenced in our research, that first impressions have a big impact on user behaviour and their decision making process. It takes just a few seconds for users to judge if your brand is worth their time; remember that a bad user experience will put them off, undermining their trust in your company and compromising future use of your brand.

Help!

Would you like to evaluate and measure the UX of your website or product?

Do you need help improving your online sales and conversion?

Would you like to understand your customer behaviour and opinions, discovering the whys behind your data?

Do you need to get your business thinking from the customers perspective so you can make informed, strategic decisions to increase sales?

Do you want to improve the quality of your customer research so you get deeper insights and more true-to-life behaviour?

Contact our UX experts >

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The Psychology of choice: Why less is more
Is Accessibility really that important?