Post-Pandemic In-Person Research: 3 Tips for Safety & Success
Updated: Feb 23
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UX research field almost completely switched to remote research. Naturally, remote interviews and usability studies are both safe and convenient, especially given the dangers in-person research presented during the pandemic. Another advantage of remote research is that it allows companies to continue to gather valuable insights from users while practicing social distancing.
However, we all know that meeting with someone virtually is very different from meeting with someone face to face. There are certain elements of human interaction that don't quite translate via the screen.
For example, you can’t have eye contact with the person you’re video chatting with. You may also miss certain body language cues during remote meetings. Additionally, there is a sense of intimacy to in-person sessions that allow participants to connect with researchers in a more natural way. Disruption in communication thanks to faulty equipment or a poor internet connection can interfere with a researcher’s ability to gauge a participant’s perspective. There can be no doubt, in-person research offers distinct advantages over virtual communication.
As the world slowly begins to open up, the UX research field also begins to conduct in-person research again. In this blog post, we share our top 3 tips for how to conduct in-person research in a way that’s safe and comfortable for both the participant and the researcher to ensure successful research projects.
1. Consider pandemic perspectives and precautions
Due to the pandemic, in-person sessions now require some extra precaution for both participants and researchers. To begin with, it is best practice to gather whether participants are vaccinated or unvaccinated for COVID-19.. Note that unvaccinated participants will most likely require a negative rapid COVID test before their session. It is also best to highly recommend or encourage participants and researchers to wear a face mask throughout their session for everyone’s safety. Always confirm with the participants, researchers, and project sponsors for anything else they may require for the session (ie: face masks are mandatory at all times throughout the session).
2. Be transparent with meeting details and ensure safety
Additionally, you want to make sure the participant feels safe and comfortable with meeting researchers in-person. If the participant will be meeting with researchers at their home and they live alone, you can suggest that they have a friend/family member present, if they feel uncomfortable.. You can even offer to pay the friend or family member an incentive. If they are meeting with the researchers in a public space (e.g. a conference/meeting room), you want to make sure that the space is located somewhere that feels safe for the participant to travel to. You can also share a little bit of information about the researchers with the participants prior to the meeting (for example their bio, picture, or Linkedin profile) so they know who to expect.
3. Express your gratitude and respect through your words and actions
In-person sessions are naturally more effortful than virtual. They require taking into account availability, travel time, and now COVID testing as well. You are not only gaining participant insight, but you may also be taking them outside of their comfort zone. With that in mind, it is important that participants are consistently reminded of how valuable and apprecIn-person sessions are naturally more effortful than virtual. They require taking into account availability, travel time, and now COVID testing as well. You are not only gaining participant insight, but you may also be taking them outside of their comfort zone. With that in mind, it is important that participants are consistently reminded of how valuable and appreciative you are of their time. Whether it be through expressing gratitude in words at every point of communication or providing a higher incentive, appreciation is always welcome. Other ways you can show gratitude throughout the pandemic is to consider asking participants what would bring them the most comfort, for example providing flexibility in scheduling, no shoes in the home, or meeting somewhere with parking. This is especially effective for reducing any friction or delays of the session as well as enforcing to the participant that their values are highly respected and that their time and insights are truly appreciated. As always, make your participants feel that they matter: that they are valued and are adding value to your projects.
Share Your Thoughts
We hope you enjoyed this blog post and that you gained inspiration for how to make your in-person research sessions safe and successful. Do you have any questions? Are you curious to learn more about our work? Feel free to reach out if you would like more information about the recruitment services we offer or wish to explore how we can support your research projects.
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This post is co-written by Justine Diaz (to the left) and Cecilie Løvestam (to the right), who both hold degrees in Applied Psychology. They are passionate about applying their psychology expertise to their work at Generation Focus by generating insights for their clients and creating positive experiences for their research participants.