Tips for conducting international user research

This week I’ve once again been conducting and overseeing an international user research project, so I thought I’d share with you my top tips for finding trusted research partners, managing and conducting international research projects.

 

Finding a trusted partner

When it comes to conducting user research in another country, your biggest challenge will be finding an agency you can trust to:

  • Be there for you when you need them.
  • Communicate well enough in your language that nothing is lost in translation.
  • Have good project management in place.
  • Find good quality participants/users.
  • Provide a good quality technical setup.
  • Conduct user testing well (many aren’t used to this).
  • Not rip you off.

 

Beware of time zone differences

With any agency you use, it’s important they are there for you when you need them. If you send them a message about a project, you will need to take into consideration the differences in time zones as it can cause delay to your projects.

I’ve recently been working with an agency in New York and on another project with Mexico, so have had to be flexible with my hours, working into the late evenings for calls and emails.  I also have to bear in mind that when I want something the next morning, I’ll have to wait until 2pm at the earliest to receive a reply.

 

Good communication is crucial

You’ll need to check both their written and verbal ability to speak your language. It’s no point them conducting great research, if they can’t communicate the results well in the report or presentation. For example, I find that people in some Asian countries write English very well but it’s more difficult to understand their spoken English especially as we’re often communicating over the phone/internet so the line isn’t always very clear.

 

Project management needs to be awesome

Leading on from communication, their project management needs to be really tight. How are they getting on with their recruitment? When are they seeing their first user? How did the first interview go? Do they have any concerns? You shouldn’t need to chase them too much, a good partner will be pro-active in letting you know where they’re up to and any potential issues in the project.

 

Finding good quality participants

It can be difficult enough finding a good user recruitment agency in your own country, nevermind one in a different country where you don’t speak the same native language or know the culture. You’ll need to feel certain the agency can recruit your user types and do it in the time they state. Trust your gut feeling and beware of costs that appear too low as they may be using methods that are easier for them but attract lower quality participants.

 

Technical setup

Always ask for a sample of a previous research video, to check the moderator or agency’s previous recording quality. Check the video and audio quality, especially where devices and screens are involved. You’ll also need to check that they have the equipment and software to test mobile devices.

 

Can the agency conduct user testing?

This is something you’ll need to check. If they say they do user testing, you’ll also need to check to confirm they’re telling the truth – many market research agencies have added this on to their list of services without any experience. It doesn’t necessarily stop me from using them  – it depends on the project and I may decide to spend a little time training them over Skype if, for example, the website testing is a smaller part of the research hour.

 

Are they ripping you off?

I’ve certainly experienced receiving a quote from a research agency or a recruitment agency in another country that I knew was far too high. Watch out for agencies who see you’re from (the UK in my case) and hike their prices up. If I feel they’re way too high and they’re taking the mick, I’ll simply go to another agency. If I feel they’re slightly too high I’ll address it directly with them to see if they’ll come down. Remember, for some countries, negotiating and haggling prices is expected.

 

Add additional translation time

Translation is one of those activities that takes far longer than you expect. If you’re getting a translator in your own country to translate research conducted in another language, make sure you give yourself plenty of time, then add some more as a buffer!

 

Need help?

Need help with international research? keepitusable.com

Need help with recruiting users in other countries? iNeedUsers.com

 

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