Getting out and about with user research

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2019 Leeds Service Jammers get the lowdown from the locals

You’ve framed a problem, but how do you know it’s the right problem?  Is it even a problem at all?  At Govjam you will go out into the community and conduct some user research to test your idea.

To do this, you will need to prepare.   You will need to consider the interviewees’ experience when planning this work:

– Who will ask the questions?

– Who will capture the answers?

– How will the answers be captured EG recording, writing down?

– What permission will be needed from the interviewees?

– How many people from your group are going to take part?

– How many questions will you realistically expect people to answer?

Think about how you will explain the issue you are researching to someone who has never met you before.

Design the questions in plain English so that people are not confused by ambiguous words or jargon.

Test your questions out of one the mentors to ensure they work on someone who isn’t in your group.

Try to keep your questions open so that people are free to tell you what they really think.  Closed questions will limit what people can tell you.  Here’s an example:

– Do you attend arts events?


– Tell us about the last arts or community event you went to

Let’s go to work

Try not to ask multiple questions in one, for instance:

– Tell us about the last arts event you went to, why you went there and whether you’d do it again.

This can lead to the interviewee feeling overwhelmed and unable to think of what to say.  Keep it simple, and break it down to the key things you want to know about.  You can drill down into the detail of the answers as the conversation flows, using the occasional closed question to clarify things.  Eg:

– Tell us about the last arts or community event you went to

‘I went to Leeds pride parade recently, does that count?’

– Yes, what made you decide to attend it?

‘A friend had been before and invited me along’

– Would you have gone without that invitation?

‘I don’t think so’

– Why?

And so on ….

Tell me more…

Try to capture what people tell you in their own words so you get the real meaning and sentiment behind it.  It’s tempting to paraphrase to fit your own assumptions, but try hard not to.

What do their non-verbal signals tell you?  For instance, their gestures, facial expression or tone of voice.  This can be especially revealing.

When you get back to the rest of the group, report back your findings and use them to refine your problem statement.  Don’t worry if you learn that the problem doesn’t exist, and you need to start a new one.  This is all part of the learning!

Further reading:  Try Design Kit by IDEO for a range of methods

Book your tickets and get involved!


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