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There is no doubt that user research can sometimes be time consuming and costly – which is why it’s so important to get the most out of the session and the time you are spending with the participants.

With this in mind, here are our tips to make sure that you are utilising the sessions.

Make the participant feel at ease from the start

Communication with participants is key. If you can, it is so important to message them before the session to make them feel at ease and make sure that they’re comfortable with the set up that is required for the session. We would advise giving the participants a contact number or email address, which will help the sessions run promptly, and reassure the participant that there is support if they encounter any problems connecting.

The user should have already been provided with a brief description before accepting the session invite, so will have a basic understanding of what the session will entail beforehand. Therefore, once starting the session, we would advise giving a summary of the session again, particularly as users are often invited to multiple research sessions and may get confused between them.

Once the user has connected to the session, we would recommend dedicating at least a quarter of the time in the session to talk to the participant before getting them to complete any tasks. We always start with basic questions such as their computer usage and interests, before being more specific about the particular market that the research is in.

Put effort into knowing your participant, this can help identify further opportunities

When starting a session, we always find it beneficial to find out about the users’ past experience doing research. If it is the user’s first time doing research, then it is beneficial to spend longer and putting them at ease – so that you get the best results possible. However, if the user is a pro at research sessions (and a lot of them are!) then you can skip some of the introductory points that you would usually go through. This allows you to be able to keep the user engaged, but also not waste any of your valuable time with them too.

If you can find out any personal information about the participant such as hobbies, family, or work commitments then this can also be utilised too. Whenever possible, we always try to weave this personal content into the session, as the more realistic that the session is, the better. Knowing some of these pieces of information about the participant can also make the session more relaxed and conversational too, which can only mean good things for the findings that you can access.

If we are doing a research project that is e-commerce focussed, then we will always find out if the participant that we are talking to is the sole decision maker or not. Whether they are or not, can massively change the insights and opportunities that you are able to identify. If the participant is always the researcher, then we would not advise asking them to complete a checkout process, as this is not an accurate representation of what would happen in real life. Every effort into making the session as natural as possible is important.

Distance yourself from the client’s website

Often when starting a research session, it is very easy for the participant to feel as though it is the researcher vs them, after all for all the participant knows you could be the CEO of the website you are about to show them. It is essential to make sure that the participant feels as though you are on the same side as them, by making sure that they know you are not the client, and the website is not yours. Only once a user feels fully comfortable will they start to give you true and honest recommendations – without fear of hurting your feelings.

Build a relationship with the participant through the session

Sometimes research sessions can be difficult, with participants not opening up or answering the questions in as much depth as you would have hoped. However, if possible, making a really strong relationship can be beneficial in the long run. Often users volunteer to do further research, and despite it being financially beneficial for them, it also has its uses for you too. Often in the past, we have conducted various research sessions with the same participant, which has allowed us to be able to get the same users to review prototypes and see how their recommendations have come to life. This has helped to provide continual optimisation on websites, whilst keeping users needs and requirements at the forefront of mind.

Want to find out how we can assist you with your next user research project, or want more tips on how you can improve the quality of your sessions? Contact us here