Have you ever felt you weren’t digging deep enough into the context of research participants’ responses? Even if you were asking follow-up questions? Sometimes, simply asking questions isn’t enough. You need to introduce other tools to help participants better express themselves.
I learned this the hard way, by interviewing sixth-grade primary school students on what engaged them while learning in class. Nearly an hour of semi-structured interviews with a few questions too many resulted in restless and tired children, very short answers, and increasingly frustrated researchers.
How simple images enriched our interviews
John Rimmer’s article on alternative user research methods encouraged me to think outside the conventional. I learned that to engage children in primary school and fully understand their feelings and opinions, other tools would need to be used in the next round of user research.
I used one of the methodologies Rimmer mentions – the comparable experience – in a semi-structured group interview. This method is based on a set of positive and negative images. Our team looked for images to associate with a variety of possible emotional responses to our product – engaging, boring, helpful, incomplete, and so on.
The students were asked to select one or more images that represented how they felt while using the product. Eagerly choosing images and detailing their associations with the product allowed the participants to tell richer stories about their experience. Their associations with the product made it easier to follow up on and identify specific elements of the product that made them feel this way. This really helped the team to identify improvements required to increase the children’s engagement with the product.
Beyond conventional methods
John Rimmer’s article on less conventional methodologies inspired me to think differently about conducting interviews. The knowledge gained from this article has not only contributed to my own user research skills and to the product but also allowed participants to express themselves better.