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Bringing your personas to life: involving your team in UX research

By PFR & Optimal Workshop

Published:

People for Research have teamed up with Optimal Workshop to mark this year’s World Usability Day, on 9th November. The day is celebrated in over 20 countries with more than 40 events, and the topic this year is ‘Inclusion through User Experience’. Our co-blog with Optimal Workshop has been inspired by some of the themes under discussion in 2017: ‘empathy as part of collaboration’ and ‘inclusion through collaboration’. 

At People for Research, a common statement we hear from UX teams we work with is that it can sometimes be a challenge to stakeholders, like shareholders or the financial decision makers, to initially see the value of user research – especially research with participants who are external and possibly even cold to the company.

It is understandable. We can’t expect everyone to immediately understand what a UX researcher does, and the value of doing your own research. Involving your team in the process of building your personas or testing your product goes a long way to create wider acceptance of the UX process.

Our solution to this, is to embrace the themes from this year’s World Usability Day and spread the knowledge gained during the whole research process.

Know what your users look like

Another thing we regularly hear is that some stakeholders can be surprised when they get to know who their users really are and how to empathise with their needs. Especially if a company has really well used personas that were created many years ago or were based off assumptions that now may not be relevant. If this is the case it may make more sense to start this work from the ground up, rather than attempting to validate these personas.

People’s behaviour, especially their attitude towards technology in certain contexts has changed massively over the last five years, and with big predictions for technology such as VR and AR, personas may quickly become dated.

If it isn’t possible to run research at every stage of the process from discovery through to testing perhaps consider using a tool like Chalkmark from Optimal Workshop. This can save money and time as the sessions won’t be as long, therefore a lower incentive can be offered to run research remotely.
This could lay the foundations for more research, as remote research won’t always tell the whole story.

Workshop your personas

Personas can be very prescriptive, and not leave much room for real behaviour. As a result, when recruiting people to come along to take part in research, especially at short notice and during the day, the people who can attend won’t always be a carbon copy of the user described.

When we are given personas to recruit from we try to get in to the mind set of those users in order to create a screener that will help us identify the relevant behaviours during the recruitment process. We usually ask the client we are working with to highlight which variables are essential components to each persona, and which pieces of information have been included as example information — e.g., if an age has been listed on a persona, what is the typical age range of that user.

This is an exercise that researchers can do with internal teams to get them on board with the idea that most people don’t fit easily in to defined personas. Helping wider teams to empathize with the user will help them understand and feel more connected to the end game.

Book a lab

Feedback we often get from clients who use our Bristol lab – User Viewing – that stakeholders are always captivated when watching live lab-based research sessions. However, when research is done in-house, stakeholders are often too tied up in their own job to make time to come along and view.

If you are running research in-house, and struggling to get stakeholders to attend, try booking space off-site and getting stakeholders to come along so they are away from other daily distractions and can focus entirely on the users. If stakeholders view research sessions, it can help them understand the necessity for more research or any other objective you are trying to achieve.

Use empathy

Recruitment for user research and usability testing is not an exact science, much like user research, it involves listening and observing behaviour. Although we are not user researchers or trained psychologists, we know how to empathise with users we are recruiting, and this is an invaluable skill set when it comes to knowing how to source and identify the relevant users for the research we support. If everyone is empathising with the user, this will help us collaborate from the same starting point.

Optimal Workshop is a user research platform that offers a set of usability tools to help improve user experience, structure information architecture, capture data from qualitative research and more. They are celebrating World Usability Day with the help of partners like People for Research and they will soon have a dedicated online page where you can find useful (and free) information and tools about user research.

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If you would like to find out more about our in-house participant recruitment service for user testing or market research get in touch on 0117 921 0008 or info@peopleforresearch.co.uk.

jess lewesAbout the author: Jess Lewes is passionate about making research user-centred, and she is a source of knowledge for how to approach the recruitment process to get the best results for your UX research and testing. Jess is available to speak at your event, conference or company workshop.

About People for Research: We recruit participants for UX and usability testing and market research. We work with award winning UX agencies across the UK and partner with a number of end clients leading the way with in-house user experience and insight.

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