Kelly Dawson Head of Insights and Innovation

A window into a new world

Advantages of remote user research

Gaining insight into the lives of people is key to successful innovation and design, to ensure that the right problem area is identified and defined.

Testing and validating solutions with users further down the line is equally important to verify assumptions and ensure that the best possible experience is created. Gaining insight is critical throughout the iterative process. This is design thinking in action.

Being in context with people is often the ideal approach. However, there are alternative ways to discover insight that can offer real benefits that might not be found in person. We’re well versed in remote research at KD and have long recognised the advantages in connecting digitally with people worldwide to gather insight. The smartphone offers an instantaneous window into a new world, to learn about people’s homes and environments, the products they use and the lives they lead. It’s possible to elicit genuine and visceral responses when remotely engaging, that can sometimes be hindered when the researcher is present in the room.

Four ways of making remote research more agile

With the market  and businesses  moving fast, we too need to be dynamic in how we address challenges. KD employs a mixture of approaches that can help to uncover unmet needs and discover what is often hidden in plain sight. With almost all recent research studies  being  conducted remotely, we have been pleasantly surprised at how this has enabled, in many cases,  more rapid and direct engagement with users to either discover or test and learn more about concepts and solutions,  as  well as providing opportunities to reach a broader geographical range of users than the practicalities of in-person studies in specific locations allow.

1. Conversation in context

One to one discussion with people reveals a lot behind rituals, habits and everyday behaviour. It’s possible to strike a rapport with participants via video call, and with the recent necessity of a global lockdown, we have all grown more comfortable talking online.

In a recent project uncovering insights into people’s bathing and personal hygiene routines around the world, this method of contextual inquiry revealed some stark differences in attitudes and values. Often, participants would gladly provide a tour around an apartment or grab a product to discuss further. Through this, we identified insights to inform and create innovation and new value in crowded global markets.

2. Realtime digital diaries

Digital diary capture gives us access to people’s daily lives and behaviours, in their own words, without the presence of onlooking researchers. The richness of capture, which can often be instantaneous, gives us a glimpse into people’s worlds, their motivations and the thoughts that drive their everyday decisions.

We recently investigated consumer behaviour and attitudes related to monitoring food product freshness. We asked people to document their interactions with a few specific products over the course of two weeks in a diary study before engaging with them in small, like-minded groups. In this case, we asked them to download an app and simply snap, comment and film away.

3. User co-creation

Creativity resides in us all and a user-centred approach champions this. Designing in real time with the person using a product or service is an extremely powerful way of visually understanding their true thoughts and feelings. Engaging and interactive stimulus sparks conversation whilst inspiring new ideas that can lead to winning solutions. Taking an open and collaborative approach to the design process can be liberating and demonstrates that we are all capable of designing solutions to our own challenges.

After speaking in depth with people living with diabetes, we followed up with a structured co-creation session that focussed on the topic of setting, monitoring and achieving personal goals related to improving long-term health outcomes. To do this, we created a virtual space, accessed via a group video call that immersed each person in our thoughts and early designs for a solution that might assist in the goal setting process. Sharing creative power in this way resulted in a deeper understanding of experience, interface and tone of voice which, from a design perspective, created an ultimately reassuring brief.

4. Usability assessment

Formative and summative studies are, for products such as medical devices, a vital, and necessary requirement for product validation and regulatory approval. In recent months, the team at KD have had to be creative in planning and implementing new ways to conduct these remotely. Interactive stimulus, and a systematic approach has enabled us to undertake even the most complex human factors studies remotely.

In a recent HF validation study that remotely captured product interactions and feedback in an engaging virtual space, we balanced systematic moderation with remote observation to ensure robust data acquisition of the product over a variety of user groups. Using technology that enabled capture of the interactions from multiple angles actually allowed a closer insight into the usability of the product, despite the distance.

KD helped to identify fresh insight with consumers from around the world and fresh ways to connect and ideate with a global team, during a challenging period in lockdown

Joe Cooke, Design Project Lead

Unilever

Unlocking a better future

The pandemic has necessitated quicker adaptation to new ways of working than any of us could have imagined 6 months or a year ago. Future predictions have been brought forward dramatically. Remote working is here to stay. Remote research is here to stay too; the benefits are clear.   Whilst we are continuing to carry out in-person research as social distancing restrictions are  easing, we will also continue to call on remote research to bring flexibility and speed.

What hasn’t changed, is the need to  apply our best strategic and creative brains to interpret that research into meaningful insights that  drive design  innovation  that  is  truly  people-centred.

Find out more?

Get in touch with Kelly Dawson, our Head of Insight & Innovation.