Is your online research implementation terrible?

There are some great research and insight project implementations, including surveys and online Insight communities. However, there are also some terrible ones. So for the participants are about as exciting as reading a dictionary from A-Z or requiring an input which is as laborious as writing your name out a thousand times.

To be clear, you don’t have to entertain people when conducting research, but you do have to make it easy for them to participate and complete. When the participant or research respondent spends less time trying to understand what you’re asking the more time they have answering your questions.

Whether you’re introducing a new survey or you’re setting up the guidelines for a five-day online insight community, never assume that the participant who is taking part knows what you’re anticipating. Sometimes we get so involved in the project that we’re creating that we communicate to the participant as if we were talking to one of our peers.

So, here are some basic guidelines to help improve the usability of any research:
  1. Assume the respondent or the research participant knows nothing, behave as if you were introducing the research methodology.
  2. Use precise and plain language, and where ever you can dot points no higher than three will help frame your thinking to provide a clear and accurate message.
  3. If you can use imagery to help get the point across do so but don’t use imagery just because you think it looks nice, it has to have contacts and purpose. The last thing that you want to do is influence the research result by using an image to reframe the participant’s perception or reference. You don’t want to guide the participant to give you a particular answer based on the theme of an image.
How to make insight communities and bulletin board focus group more usable.
  • Let’s say we’re introducing an insight community where people log in, and the first task is to read a set of instructions that you provided in the welcome message.
  • You need to introduce yourself, make yourself human! What I mean by that is in today’s technology of artificial intelligence you want them to know that there is a human being sitting behind a keyboard. Not only does this make the research more personable, but it ensures that the participants of a higher propensity to stay on track.
  • Set up the ground rules make it clear to the participants precisely what you expect from them how you expect them to behave in the level of required interaction between each of the participants.
  • If there are rewards or incentives for people to participate, use the introduction to specify what you need from them for them to be able to earn that incentive or reward.
  • When creating your topics, remember that people will be reading these either on mobile phone iPads or computer screens and in general, and we tend to read less online. Keep your topic subjects short don’t introduce too many concepts, ideas or questions in a single topic. It is far better to split up the items into smaller question segments than it is to push everything together and expect them clearly and concisely.
  • Make sure you make it easy for participants to contact you if they need to come, they send you a private message can email or text message you.
  • Take the time to check up with participants to make sure they know what they need to do. You put in the time, and you make the contact the participation rate with any discussion or online research will improve. The technology will only go so far; it’s up to you to make it work!
Time is an essential consideration.

Not only for you but the participant, when you put together an online project, you need to think about the length of time it will take to complete the project survey, diary or community. A general rule would be to add 20% to 30% of the extra time this will allow for those people who take longer. Moreover, it’s always a good idea, to be honest, up and upfront with participants to let them know how much the time is going to be required.

When asking participants to complete something (a survey or diary topic) that you can anticipate the questions that they may ask – we call this human error handling – what that means is that you anticipate some of the issues or problems the participants may have and build the help into the questions or topics that you’re asking.

For example, if you have a topic within the online community and in that topic you have a link to a survey anticipate that when they click on the survey it will open a new tab or it will take them to a different window – so what are the questions that they may ask in response to that? Maybe by clicking on the survey link it opens a new window with a not aware of how to go back to where they started. Please don’t assume they can because you can! Anticipate the issues and put a link back to where they started at the end of the survey.

By incorporating usability into your online research experience, you will improve the quality of the response.

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