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

 

ineedusers-ux-user-research-participant-recruitment-specialists

Smyths: Increasing conversion through user research

(Scroll down to watch the video)

I’ve had a fantastic time this week working with Smyths Toys to improve their future e-commerce website.

As part of improving your customer experience and online conversion, it’s crucial to involve user research / user testing. If you’re job title includes the two letters ‘U’ and ‘X’ but you’re not including real life users in the design process, then you’re kidding yourself, you are not a UX designer, you’re just a designer. But don’t worry, you don’t need to do the research yourself, it might be another member of your team or even an external agency, but it’s so crucial to your understanding of your customers, how they think and how they behave that without research, it’s unlikely the experiences you design will be as successful because the more you get to know your users, the better fit your designs have to their needs and the more you’ll be able to influence their behaviour.

Smyths Toys have been working to improve their e-commerce website, particularly their mobile experience. They recognise the importance of listening to their customers, watching how they interact with their website and making design changes to be more in line with customer needs in the online environment. Of course, they’re aware that the more they do this, the more customers will enjoy using their site, they’ll be more likely to transact with them as opposed to a competitor, they’re likely to increase their basket size, return to buy again in the future, recommend the website to friends and family and shop in-store.

 

Here’s what the team had to say:

It’s important for us to get feedback from test candidates to see if we’re on the right track and we certainly spotted some things that we need to work on in the future and the team here helped us to identify those little issues and gave good recommendations on how to improve those for the future. And that’s what we’re going to do now… go back home, work on it and come back to do another session to evaluate that we’ve done the right changes.

 

Companies used in this research:

UX agency for UK research: Keep It Usable

User recruitment: INeedUsers.com

UX Lab: HomeUXLab.com

 

 

 

My nightmare user recruitment experience…

As someone who has worked both client and agency side, I can tell you that I’ve found it very difficult finding good participant / user recruitment agencies. The country where I’ve had the most issues has been the UK and I believe this may be because of the recent explosion and in cases exploitation of ‘UX’. Companies who traditionally recruit participants for market research, have added UX, usability testing, user research recruitment to their list of services without making any changes to how they approach the recruitment.

 

My nightmare experience…

One experience that I remember very well (because the recruitment was an absolute nightmare!) was a project that my agency Keep It Usable was conducting for a global retailer. This was several years ago, when we used specialist recruitment agencies to find our participants for us. We had done everything for them to prep, including writing the screener, so all they had to do was promote it and screen people to find our users. It was a very niche user group (roughly about 3% of the population) so we made sure to give them plenty of time to recruit (about 5 weeks) and they were certain there would be no issues.

You can probably guess what happened next… with one week to go they told me they had found it impossible to recruit even one person for me! One week! With such a niche user group and only a week to go, no other agency would take the recruitment so we had no other option but to bite the bullet and pull out all the stops to try and recruit users ourselves. We did it! It wasn’t easy but we managed to do in one week what an experienced recruitment agency couldn’t do at all.

I guess this was the starting point for me in not trusting participant recruitment agencies. I’m very conscientious about the work we do (in fact in my school reports the word conscientious cropped up all the time), and the reputation of our work was potentially at risk if this happened again.

 

4 weeks notice…. really???

Another problem I had with agencies was that they needed at least 4 weeks notice which is just ridiculous in the world of UX. 4 weeks notice is a real luxury that us UXers just don’t have.

We’re iterative! We’re lean! We do things fast!

 

The solution…

Not being afraid to innovate and pioneer, we decided that if no one did UX recruitment up to our standards and the needs of us as UXers, then we’d just go ahead and create an agency that did! We’ve been testing and refining our recruitment methods over the past 2 years and after many happy clients, we’re now opening up the best user recruitment experience to you too.

 

Welcome to I Need Users

I hope you like the name 🙂 I Need Users is a specialist user recruitment agency for UX research. Founded by and run by UX experts, who totally understand your needs and the research you do.

ineedusers-ux-user-research-participant-recruitment-specialists

 

Bonus….there’s a loyalty scheme too!

Why shouldn’t you be rewarded for your investment into improving user experiences? My original motivation for getting into UX was to make the world an easier, less frustrating place to live in through our everyday interactions. So, to encourage you to invest in your UX and improve your experiences (as well as of course your conversion), every time you buy user recruitment through I Need Users, you’ll receive loyalty points that can be swapped for fantastic rewards!

You can also earn points for any spend with our full service UX agency Keep It Usable and our pioneering UK based UX Lab HomeUXLab.com

 

I’d love to hear about your experiences – have you had any nightmare user recruitment experiences?

 

You might also be interested to read:

Top 10 major risks of poor user recruitment