19th February 2018
If your goal is to get quality feedback from participants shared in a comfortable environment, then in-home interviews may be the way to go. Although this type of qualitative research can be challenging from a logistical point of view, the reward is often worth the hard work – in-home interviews are the source of feedback that hasn’t been conditioned by a strange environment, the stress of finding a research location in an unknown part of town, or the awkwardness of arriving at a daunting office building and not knowing who to talk to or where to go.
Still, despite the many advantages of offering a participant the opportunity of being part of a qualitative research project without asking them to leave their home, there is a lot to plan and think about, especially if this is your first time running in-home interviews. Here are the top nine things you need to consider before jumping into qualitative research and talking to participants in their natural “habitat”.
Running in-home interviews might mean you have to cover a lot of miles in one day to get to all the addresses where you’re scheduled to run the research sessions. It can be stressful, whether you’re driving and get stuck in traffic or use public transportation and your train gets cancelled. Our advice is to allow for enough time to travel and plan your day taking into account potential disruptions and delays. The last thing you want to do is to arrive to a qualitative research session feeling stressed and out of sorts.
According to a discovery study ran by user researchers at Participant Needs in partnership with People for Research, the participant journey starts sooner than we think. The users see the first contact with a user recruiter like People for Research or directly with the user researcher as the start of this journey, and they want to be reassured from the start about the stranger who is going to interview them at home. We recommend sharing a short bio of the user researcher with the participant beforehand, as well as showing ID when arriving at their home.
Things pop up, people get ill, children fall sick… Anything can happen! If you’re running qualitative research sessions at your participants’ addresses, make sure you have one to two days overflow to conduct any rescheduled sessions. According to our experience, your recruiter is unlikely to be able to find a replacement at short notice for an in-home interview if someone can’t host you on the day, so you will need to provide extra availability in case of last minute drop-outs.
Do you want your recruiter to manage all scheduling and planning? This is probably the best option as they can work around participant availability. Consider how far you can travel and what is realistic within the research project’s time frame (the number of interviews per day, for example, should not exceed three). Advise your recruiter how you will be travelling so they can help you to keep costs down and plan effectively.
Your user recruiter should use their judgement to decide if someone is suitable to include in a research project. Anyone appearing to display concerning behavior should not be recruited for in-home interviews to protect the researcher or the research team on the day.
You can never entirely safeguard against all hazards of field-based research. However, a user recruiter can help you to be prepared for most eventualities. If you are running qualitative research either in a participant’s home or other location outside of your office, we would recommend always having two researchers attend each session; if this is not possible, then we advise the researcher to share their schedule and location with a colleague and check-in/check-out between appointments.
Asking a person to have a stranger enter their home and ask questions is a big ask. Think about incentivising your participants appropriately according to what you’re asking them to do, how long the session will be, etc. You may need to offer a little more than to a standard in-person appointment.
Our advice is to be upfront about what will happen during the in-home interview. Are you just planning to ask questions or would you like to take a look at the apps they have on their phone, for example? Does the participant need to set their desktop or laptop up to feed back on a website? Make sure the participants know, for example, that the interviews must be completed on an individual basis (i.e. not with other family members or friends present). The more prepared people are, the more they will feel relaxed during the session and the better their insights will be.
In-home interviews are a great way of capturing your users’ feedback, but if you’re working according to strict personas, consider offering other options to your participants. According to the Participant Needs’ discovery study, 48% of people wouldn’t take part in an in-home interview, so you could risk losing almost half of your potential participants, potentially skewing your results.
Although we find that running in-home sessions with participants who use assistive technology is often a preferred option – as it allows the participants to use their own assistive devices/software at home with minimum disruption and the hassle of travelling –, this is not always the case with participants without accessibility needs. Speak to us for more advice and top tips if you want to run qualitative research, and specifically in-home interviews, with people who use assistive tech.
Owain Johns, Head of Projects
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
At 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 up with a number of end clients who are leading the way with in-house user experience and insight.