User research during Covid: Keeping it real, when everything’s online
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we live our lives and work. And as user researchers, where meeting and observing users is integral to the role, we've had to adapt.
Even though we're working remotely with users, our purpose remains the same — to champion users’ needs and see how technology can best help them to achieve their goals.
For public sector organisations, investing in the right digital solutions matters now more than ever. And we're helping these organisations take a user-centred approach to creating and iterating their digital services.
What is user research and why does it matter?
There’s a common misperception that user research is just about understanding people’s likes and preferences, but it’s so much more than that.
User research builds empathy and helps to recognise the users' whole journey, from start to finish.
It’s about understanding people’s thoughts and behaviours (as sometimes what people say they do, doesn’t match up with what they actually do!) And user research allows you to be truly innovative in your product design.
Instead of making assumptions about users, it’s essential to reach out and talk to them and learn about their goals, needs and motivations. This helps define the problem spaces where digital solutions can make the most impact.
How we’re undertaking user research during Covid
There are many different research methods we can use to understand how people interact with technology. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Social distancing means ‘in-person’ research - such as observing people in their natural environments and interviewing face-to-face - is not currently possible.
We deal with this by:
- creating engaging online workshops and interview sessions with a friendly atmosphere. It helps users be comfortable and open up about their problems.
- utilising screen share to observe users as they complete tasks. It means we get a sense of what they see and the steps they take.
- being flexible in our approach. If things don’t go to plan - such as last-minute cancellations, internet connectivity issues, etc. - we adapt and have contingencies in place to still meet our goals.
Teamwork makes the dream work!
Another important aspect of user research is that we don’t work by ourselves. We work within multidisciplinary service teams made up of a range of digital specialists.
At Zaizi, we emphasise the importance of involving the whole team in the research process. Our developers and designers help brainstorm questions, observe live research sessions and discuss the main take-aways from findings.
This helps us stay cohesive as a team — even though we’re working remotely with colleagues and clients that we may have never actually met in person!
And it means the whole team can see the pain points that users experience. It helps them gain more empathy for the user and feel invested in the solutions they design and build.
By working together and taking a user-centred approach, we’re able to focus on what matters most – championing users’ needs to deliver more effective design solutions, more efficient systems, and greater user satisfaction.