Our mood and mindset impact how we think and behave, which can change from one extreme to another. Trying to replicate these exact conditions during a test is a challenge in itself. Replicating the moods and mindsets your participants are likely to be in when they use your product during a testing phase will give you more relevant insights. This is because you are considering the context in which your product will be used and we will cover this in more detail later.
Whilst we can’t always recreate the exact context i.e. the mood and mindset product users may experience, what we do have control over, is the ability to create a testing environment in which participants feel relaxed and comfortable.
So why does this matter?
When we are relaxed, we can focus because our minds and bodies aren’t experiencing our fight or flight response which would be the case if we were in a stressful situation. When relaxed, we can broaden our thought processes rather than focus on a single problem or perceived threat of danger. When our fight/flight response is triggered, our ability to see the broader picture, decision-making and attention span are impacted.
This may seem a little dramatic in the context of user research, but given the unfamiliar nature of product testing, there is a chance that our participants may not feel as at ease as they would in their home environments. This could impact the user and, therefore, the credibility of your research, so it’s important to keep in mind how your behaviour as the testing host could impact the user and how certain stresses can affect the outcome of your research.
How to relax yourself
No matter how many times you have conducted user research, there is always some level of anxiety, and that’s perfectly normal, but what you want to avoid is showing that to your participants.
Here are a few tips to help you feel more relaxed:
- Preparation – Sometimes ‘winging it’ can work, but it’s always better to arrive prepared. Have a clear plan before running your session, write a script and ensure you have somewhere to capture notes. Consider anything that could go wrong and create a backup plan to ensure you are ready for anything.
- Time – Allowing enough time between sessions. Running sessions back-to-back means there is no time to reflect, which will ultimately lead to stress.
- Food and Water – It sounds simple, but it is an easy thing to miss; build in breaks to make sure that you stay hydrated and well fuelled.
How to relax your participants
Building rapport with participants and making them feel at ease should be the main priority if you host a test. This is especially true for remote sessions, but the good news is that there are several techniques you can use to make sure your participants are at ease:
- Reassurance – It’s more than likely that participants will feel under pressure to perform and be fearful of saying the wrong thing; you must reassure them. Let them know that you are not here to judge them in any way, shape or form and that they can’t do or say anything that is ‘wrong’.
- Use your camera – as you would with an in-person session, talk to the camera, make positive facial expressions, listen with intent and make eye contact.
- Personalise – try and get the participant to perform tasks as if they were doing it for real, for someone they know/love, using statements or words that help the user relate and have a more realistic experience.
- Questions – Ask general questions about the participants or their habits; these require minimum cognitive effort, help the participant feel at ease, and provide valuable data.
- Language – Be clear and concise. Your participants could be from anywhere in the world, so keep the language simple, speaking in a slow and controlled manner.
As mentioned earlier, replicating the exact conditions in which someone is likely to experience your product or service is a challenge. There are stress factors and scenarios that are out of our control, but there are a few things that we can aim to replicate which will improve the reliability of your results:
- Environment– Assuming you can do face-to-face research replicating the environment in which the user is likely to perform such task, i.e. In a car showroom, queuing in an airport etc.
- Equipment – As part of qualifying participants for your research, you should aim to identify and test users with the devices that match your user profile.
- Time – This very much depends on what you are testing, but we are naturally time-poor. Try and find a balance between not rushing a participant but replicating a level of pressure relative to the task at hand.
It may be the case that you want to run a test that requires the user to be in a ‘stressed’ state, as that is the typical scenario in which they would most likely use your product/service. This can be tricky and even unethical, so do so with caution. Find out more about improving ethics during testing here.
We all have our ways of performing user research. We adapt and learn from every session, ensuring we extract and capture the most useful information for our project. There isn’t any one size fits all approach which makes user testing so exciting. We hope the above advice helps you with your projects; alternately, if you would like us to perform some user research for your company, please get in touch.