Monkeying around – Guerilla research @ONSdigital

Guerilla research is described as the method of user research that is low cost, flexible and quick – the Nike ‘Just do it’ to user research (or even more inspiring Shia LaBeouf’s speech)

GDS provide a good overview of the what’s, how’s and where’s of guerilla testing. Essentially it’s a research method of going out ‘into the wild’, where your users are and testing/researching a select few questions with members of the public who can spare a short period of time for you. After a day of going ‘guerrilla’ you should have;

  • got some user insight into your questions
  • have (more) evidence to base (some of) your decisions on
  • generated new research questions
  • and, scrapped others

Right now, guerilla research is looking pretty darn good, cheap and insightful. That’s not a wrong assumption, many blogs, books, articles and tweets recite how great it is to go ‘guerilla’, especially due to it’s low cost and low time pressured nature. However, there is other advantages that are less noted. The high ecological validity that ‘guerilla’ gives you compared to lab testing is unique as the users are in an environment in which they are comfortable, in addition your users provide a more true reaction as they have had no time to mentally prepare for the session.

How did we go Guerilla?

We’d determined that after the eQ discovery, we still needed to discover, so we did. We ran a discovery spike, a time boxed intense piece of research with the the aim of understanding the behaviours and attitudes of our respondent user when providing personal information. One of the activities of this spike was a piece of Guerilla research, this technique was ideal as it flexible to the objectives of discovery, fitted into our spike and gave us access to many different types of people that we might not see in the lab.

Now guerilla research is seen as a gateway to do more research, to show the project the worth of research with a lack of budget or buy-in. This is quite the opposite when you work in a research intense office, there is a desire to plan research thoroughly; which does have its worth. However, what was needed by the team was timely research to inform research plans and discussions down the line.

Assumptions held about guerilla research

People wouldn’t give up their free time – Wrong, some users did explain that they didn’t have time but in the main people were happy to have a conversation and share their stories with us

People would think we were weird – Wrong, users commented how good it was that a government department was out speaking to people to understand how they felt

A conversation would be difficult without a product to test – Wrong, with a concise and engaging explanation around the purpose of the conversation users were happy to have a conversation

What we found, and what can we do with this?

Having spoke with 26 potential users in a cafe and library in the centre of Cardiff we found;

  • Trust and Security are EVERYONE’s main concerns, especially when personal information (e.g. Bank details, Address, Email, DOB) are involved.
  • A recognisable brand helps with the above point
  • People sometimes provide fake information for various reasons
  • People are less comfortable providing information to ‘the government’ but there are differing perceptions around this. For example, applying for a passport isn’t seen as giving information to government.
Perceptions of providing data to government

Perceptions of providing data to government

  • People are cautious when providing information about others
  • It can be frustrating being asked for information when it’s not clear why it’s needed

From these insights, we will be able to provide evidence to align research activities in the office, to incorporate more of the issues that matter to users like trust and providing information of others (something we rely on with some of our surveys). For the eQ team we now know that Authors will have needs to apply extra text to questionnaires because respondents need to know why they should trust something and why they are being asked for something.

Ben Cubbon – User Researcher – eQ

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