Why Moderated ResearchLast Updated: March 06, 2019
A Better Experience Begins With Understanding
Moderated research is a great method for researchers to gather qualitative information that helps them gain a deeper understanding of users’ needs, wants, and desired outcomes. In moderated research a session moderator (or facilitator) is in a same physical or digital location with a participant and interacts directly with them. This allows researchers to capture detailed responses and behavioral observations.
It's a very flexible method for user research. Typically, it's used to capture verbal responses from participants, probe deeper into responses, allow for follow-up and clarifying questions, as well as capture non-verbal reactions observed during sessions.
Moderated research is incredibly useful when you want to gather in-depth wants, needs, reflections, and insights about use of a product or service. Popular study methods are field studies, ethnographic studies, and user observations.
Types of Moderated Research Supported
Questions for structured studies are specifically developed or predetermined in advance. In this type of research, facilitators ask the same questions through all their participants. Since it is not recommended to adjust questions that have been already answered during the sessions, structured questions should be reviewed thoroughly before starting the study.
Semi-structured studies are a little bit more flexible. They can contain structured questions, but they allow for open discussions on topics during the session. Semi-structured studies enable the facilitator and researchers to explore more in-depth thoughts and ideas from the participants.
Although it is possible to have a basic structure, unstructured studies generally have free formats and do not contain specific or predetermined questions. This type of research may contain broad topics of discussions researchers want to learn more about but provide the most flexibility when having an open discussion with participants.
Unstructured studies are great for researchers that want to learn about users and their natural responses in-depth since it allows the facilitator to ask follow-up questions based on users’ responses in real time.
Types of Moderated Activities Supported
Field studies allow researchers to get into the environment of real users. It provides thorough understanding of user behaviors when users are conducting their everyday tasks. Also, researchers can obtain an empirical domain knowledge through field studies.
A researcher becomes a member of their user group. Although this method seems similar as field studies such as observing user behavior, it allows researchers can experience their users’ roles. Ethnographic studies allow researchers to learn about users’ mental models and work situations.
User observation is one the basic research methods that helps understanding how users conduct their tasks. It is also great for learning users’ words, social situations, reactions on their tasks, interaction with their co-workers, and daily behaviors. It can be performed with field studies or ethnographic research.
A user interview is one of the most popular research technique used to understand how users interact with products, services, and tasks. Moderated user interviews allow researchers to ask individualized questions in real time. It is widely used in the product development cycle.
Field Studies/User Interviews
Generally, field studies indicate a researcher viewing users as they conduct tasks in their workspace. It can include user interviews and note taking on the activity as well. Observation may be direct (in-person) or indirect (video or audio recording). Those methods are useful to figure out user requirements, specifications, and environmental limitations.
Getting user feedback is essential to make sure product design is heading to the right direction. Researchers should continuously capture users’ thoughts to de-risk in their product design cycle. User feedback shows not only their needs and wants, but also trends of current market.
Usability Testing & Assessment
Usability testing or usability assessment is to evaluate products, services, or any types of artifacts by conducting assessment testing sessions with participants. Generally, participants are asked to complete certain tasks during a testing session while researchers are observing their reactions. Usability testing aims to clarify any usability problems, capture user thoughts, and learn how to improve their products.
Benchmarking refers comparing one’s products or services to competitors by using business process, performance, and evaluation metrics. It is usually conducted at the early stage of product development cycle to learn market trends and product opportunities. By using benchmarking methods, researchers can learn what the promising direction is and how to approach for their product development.
When usability experts or practitioners walk through products and evaluate them based on usability knowledge, it is called an expert review. They use their skills and experiences when they test products but trying to keep in their users’ shoes. They can spot usability problems and provide insights to improve products. It is generally conducted before a user testing with participants.
Accessibility evaluation refers to assess products or services by employing accessibility standards. Since it is conducted based on certain criteria, it is important to decide or develop evaluation standards. It often includes requirements and limitations of user, stakeholder, and environment. Since it is possible to neglect diverse range of users when researchers focus on only technical side of their products or narrow target users, it is important to conduct an accessibility evaluation for people with wide varieties such as disabilities, minors, and foreigners.
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