An Inclusive User Research Practice
Keywords: User research, facilitation, toolkit designRole: Self-led project which started during my dissertation, and continued while I was an intern at STBY.
During my dissertation –– making things with newly arrived migrants and long-time residents of Coventry –– I needed to facilitate group sessions with people who don’t necessarily share a common language. I realized that many user research methods common in group workshops aren’t inclusive.
Over the last year and a half, I’ve tested different user research methods and tools, contributing to my understanding of which activities are more or less inclusive and for whom. In addition, I’ve developed and tested new methods –– particularly for facilitating research with participants whose native language differs from the facilitator’s. A few of these are shown below, I plan to write more about this soon. Note: the “building kits” in the last 2 pictures we’re developed during this project with my team.
I’ve also interviewed and conducted surveys with design researchers, user researchers and designers who facilitate workshops, to learn more about their hesitations, failures and successes in conducting research with participants who hold specific access needs.
“We haven’t considered enough how we can recruit and facilitate sessions with people with disabilities… I think we should be more aware of how we can be more flexible.” - A design researcher
My learnings so far, include:
- In a research setting, access needs can range from linguistic, cultural, visual, hearing, mobility, proximity, emotional, ideation and learning.
- Our needs vary in different circumstances, and can change over time.
- Which means, nearly all participants may encounter a barrier to access during an engagement. Some will be easier to plan for and identify ahead of time, others may come up with less warning.
- User researchers are very interested in learning more about inclusion, and mostly agree things can be done better.
In early 2019, I developed a toolkit, or a series of practical worksheets, to help guide designers and researchers towards thinking more about inclusive practices within their projects.
“The last few [worksheets] especially brought up some good insights into how to frame our questions going into our next workshop […] from the ones we went through, they were very clear and easy to follow.” - Product Design Student
The latest form of this research was the development a set of open-sourced principles: 9 key considerations for inclusive research. This list is meant to be a useful resource for researchers and designers approaching the topic of inclusive research. It’s also my way of learning in the open. Earlier this year, this work was presented at Policy Lab in the UK Cabinet Office and for STBY, a design research consultancy.