4 Steps to Field Studies with Users

Conducting user research is a very important aspect in digital marketing. There are lots of different research methodologies we can use to gain insight about our users. But if you’re looking for a true picture of how users behave in their own environment, conducting a field study is the way to go.

Field studies are conducted through observing people in their natural environment you should do this while they do the activities that interests you most, rather than bringing them into a lab setting or asking them for their insights on their behavior out of context. This allows you to gain real insight into their activities. You can also witness their social situations that can help you understand how to fit the products and services into their lives.

There are four main steps for planning and conducting a field study visit. The first is screen for participants. When you’re screening, look for a mix of participants that will fit within your user base. As a part of the screening step, ask the potential participants if they will agree to be observed, recorded and photographed during the session. After that schedule and brief participants, ask them about their typical day. Then schedule the session when you think they will do whatever it is that you’re interested to see. You may also discuss logistics of the visit. So prepare them for what to expect during the session and also let them know how many people will be joining and what you also plan to do with that information you gather. Remember to set them at ease by letting them know there is no special preparation necessary for your visit. You should remember not to tell your screening and briefing participants into what you are interested to see because it can affect what they say in your screening and it can also affect how they behave when you visit. Next plan is your set up. Recording the sessions can be helpful so you can revisit and recall what you saw in the session and share the data with others. This may be especially helpful if you will be the only person conducting the field visit and taking notes. However, you choose to record it inconspicuously so it will not make the participant nervous. One thing that I find best to work well is to have a GoPro camera connected to your notes. You can take notes on a tablet like I do, or a typical notebook. The camera will be recording them as you do. Finally conduct the visit, brief your users once again after you arrive and let them know that they should behave like they normally would, as if you weren’t even there, provide them with their payment or incentive and have them sign any consent forms you may have.

Then just stand back and observe them as they go about their activities. Try not to be overly intrusive. You should get up close behind that person if they’re using a device that you need to see. Remember, you’re just observing at this time. You also need to take time at the end of the session to discuss anything you observed and ask any questions to clarify things.

Now you’re all set. So get out there in the field and happy researching.

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