The Tricks and Treats of Field Research – Halloween Special
Field Research is research that is conducted outside of a lab or familiar workplace environment. Although it is an exciting way of conducting research, it also comes with various ghoulish challenges. This week we will explore some of the tricks (and treats) of Field research to lift your Halloween spirits and prepare you for research outside of your comfort zone.
But when is it beneficial to use field research?
Field Research involves contextual studies, when a product’s relationship to a specific environment must be analysed as well as the product itself. This makes fieldwork perfected for services that are designed to be used outside the home or workplaces – which the lab can effectively emulate… Conducting research with users in their home can often put them at ease and allow for more of a natural conversational flow in the session.
Furthermore, when participants are difficult to recruit for in-lab research, Field Research is a great back-up. It allows you to go to them, or even run sessions on the move. Not only this, but sometimes research requires the use of equipment or systems that are not accessible in the lab (e.g. in-office CRM systems, accessibility equipment, or in-store ordering systems) which means that you may have to leave your home base and be ready to conduct research in unfamiliar environments.
Now that you know which situations Field Research should be used in, we’ve shared 6 top tips with you below that cover how you can get the most out of your field based sessions:
1) Consider who and where:
Having decided to conduct Field Research, it is likely you are looking for a particular group of people, in a specific location. Therefore, early preparation is crucial to ensure you can observe the natural behaviours that you need. You must also consider any logistical issues there may be with signing-up these individuals, as recruitment can be a tricky process.
Additionally, be well prepared for your travels to avoid being caught out with missing cables, power supplies, and documents. Whatever tech you might have, be it a recording device or a more advanced set-up (e.g. screen recording and video), ensure that you have all the necessary equipment and even consider making a checklist!
2) Practice makes perfect:
When running Field Research sessions, practice is important if you want to attain golden insights. For guerrilla research, this could be simply running through your questions to ensure that they flow. On the other hand, if you have chosen to conduct in-depth sessions, then you will probably have a series of tasks to complete, or in-depth questions to follow. Therefore, it’s important to have a piloted session (trial run) guide at the ready to ensure you are fully prepared for the research days.
3) Have a back-up plan, or three:
Another key consideration that can easily be overlooked is ensuring that you have a back-up plan before you set off for the trip. Technology can be troublesome on the best of days and when you are conducting Field Research you may not have all of the resources you need to fix things in the moment. Therefore, make sure that you have a back-up plan in case something goes wrong, and remember, that even without your usual tools to help you, you’ll still have a willing participant who is ready for whatever the session might hold – so make the most of it.
4) Keep an open mind:
Like with any research, it is best to go in with a set of assumptions and research questions so that you stick to your brief. However, when it comes to Field Research, things do not always go to plan. Remember best practices, but ultimately, you’re there to learn how participants behave in their natural environment, so allow for tangents and dig into anything relevant to the questions you have in mind, even when unexpected.
5) Bring assistance:
For safety, the company, and also an extra pair of hands, it’s a good idea to bring a colleague along with you on your adventure. Stakeholders also benefit from observing the research sessions first-hand. Consider who is essential to bring along to have your back, and reassure other people who can’t attend that the sessions will be recorded for them to watch and analyse at a later date.
6) Keep track of your findings:
Although you already have your notes it can be useful to spend 10 minutes following the sessions also summarising the behaviours that you observed. This can really help to speed up the debriefing and reporting stage of research, and will save you from having to go through each session videos to find critical findings that you might have forgotten.
If all this sounds daunting, then fear not, here at SimpleUsability our team of seasoned moderators will be more than happy to assist with, or run fieldwork for you. We’ve run projects in board rooms, bingo halls, and fast food restaurants; without compromising quality for convenience.