I’ve been designing and executing Research projects for a decade now, and through the journey, I have learned and realized one most important rule that
‘NOTHING IS OBVIOUS.’
This is true in all phases of the research. To begin with, when you receive a requirement to plan a research, you’ve got to be extremely clear about the scope and goal of the research. If this goes wrong, the foundation of the project can go weak and can mislead you to brilliant solutions, that may not be useful, as you have just solved a wrong problem!
Ask as many questions as you have in your mind to the client/team at this phase of the project, this may set the clarity and the purpose of the research, the target users profiles, and the stage of the product.
In one of my past jobs, we were reviewing the usability test guide and scenarios shared by the client, and my team had many doubts. All these were well documented and sent to the client, and I am happy these queries were sent, as the responses were not as obvious as we thought it would be. In the absence of sharing these initial set of queries, there would have been a lot of mess and misunderstanding of the product behaviour and the execution of the research.
Then when you are screening the potential participants for the study, you have to ask many questions, direct and indirect to make sure he/she IS the target user and if you should invite him to the study. Again there isn’t anything obvious. In the absence of asking and confirming all the required details, there are chances that you have recruited a wrong participant, and this will skew your research findings, as he/she IS NOT your desired end- user.
In the next phase, when you are in the usability study session or on an ethnography study, the moderator needs to be 100% attentive and concentrate on the participant’s behaviour, environment and discussions. Again it is important to ask and clarify with the participant the reasons for his particular behaviour if you aren’t sure. He must be having a very different reason and logic which is not ‘obvious’. In the absence of asking appropriate and timely questions, you could have potentially missed an important finding from the user interaction, and in turn, reduce the scope of improvisation of the product being designed /evaluated.
If you are playing the role of an observer and note taker, you have to record every observation and not log a couple of words as a final status, thinking that the navigation path he took was as it was designed and was ‘obvious’. The chances are that because you have not noted the navigation path, you have missed his little deviation and finally, have no count about how many participants must have displayed that navigation path.
Then while doing the analysis and reporting, you must have all the findings, it can be backed with numbers in the final report. Even if the results show that the user’s behaviour and product offerings matched well, you have to report this and not miss as it was ‘obvious’ and that there were no issues.
Many a time it’s important to know what part of the product works well and should be retained, even if other parts should be iterated.
So, ask as many questions as you can and do not hesitate because you think it’s a ridiculous question and has ‘obvious’ answers. After all, there isn’t ‘anything such as OBVIOUS’, else there would not have been a reason to conduct research.