If you have done primary research of any kind, you will be nodding your head in agreement over my next statement. We’ve all had our difficult research participants; the ones who don’t say anything out loud, the ones who say everything put refuse to put a hand on the mouse and show us anything, the ones who refuse to stay on topic and end up telling you about completely unrelated stories. However, it’s easy to mitigate the risk that of those types of users from ruining your test. While we don’t expect half our participants to be “bad”, we tend to recruit a few extras in case we need to disregard one’s input.
What we want to avoid though, is getting a pool of users whose feedback is useless to us. Those are the ones who want to portray your real users. The ones that say, “Well, I would do this, but if I know others who would do this.” Now, while the argument can be made that this type of research participant can show up as one of the six you recruited, the possibility rises in situations where you test with friends, family or co-workers and set it up so they feel they are to represent your real users. For example, usability testing a new feature here on sears.com with Sears employees MIGHT be ok, but only if they were 1. not aware of the project and 2. participated as a real customer, not an employee. However, I am not convinced we could overcome the bias of company loyalty when using employees let alone get them to avoid trying to play the role of customer.
So, what are our options?
Fortunately, over the last number of years there have been plenty of new research techniques added to a solid set of traditional techniques from which researches can pull. Remote testing has been a great option for uxSears. It is not that expensive, is fast to set up, and allow participants to conduct online activities in their own environment.
We also currently benefit from having our offices right by a Sears location. We have often been able to set up in the store and recruit customers right on site.
Given the wide range of tools at our disposable, I am positivie that we can avoid using the wrong audience and providing our teams tainted data.