You know that user insight  is important for the success of your digital project. You have victoriously persuaded senior management or the Board that investing in user workshops is an essential part of your plan, but have you underestimated the challenges you’ll face when arranging the sessions?

The recruitment of participants for user workshops can be surprisingly hard. Yes, you may have some loyal customers who casually said they would give up their time to help you, but when it comes to the crunch, will you find yourself coming up short?

Here are 6 things to consider when planning your user workshop sessions…

1. Have a strategy

It is essential that you have a clear plan in place before you start organising any workshop sessions. You need to know your objectives for the research, how you will use the insight gained and what are the ‘need to know’ versus ‘nice to have’ outputs.

You should also think about how you will validate your research from the workshops, if it’s via a survey could you be building up a respondents list whilst also working on a workshop participant list? By documenting your goals and approach to the research project, you’ll be clear on exactly what you are trying to discover and achieve.

This knowledge will enable you to work responsively and agile, helping you to draw out as much insight as possible from your captive audience.

2. User recruitment

For an effective workshop you need five or six people of the same user type, with a balanced representation of gender, age and culture etc. It is important that participants don’t previously know each other, this is to avoid bias and could affect their propensity to share in public.

Depending on how many different user types you have, you may need 20 or 30 different participants across multiple workshops. Existing customers, non-customers, influencers, suppliers and partners might each form various user groups, and so the number of participants required can easily grow. It’s also a good idea to have reserve participants lined up in case people drop out at the last minute.

Think about how you will reach these audiences. The process, from starting your plan, profiling suitable users, contacting them, recruiting them and then co-ordinating diaries, can take a significant amount of time. We advise that you allow 4 to 6 weeks for this activity.

Once recruited, it’s important to remember that each participant signs a consent form. This is to indicate they are aware of their (anonymous) participation in research activity and they consent to the results being used and published.

3. Make it easy for participants

One you have identified your participants, you may find that actually getting them to attend a workshop is much harder than you thought. They are busy people and why should they give up their precious time to talk to you about your website, application or project.

The location of your workshop will be a vital factor on whether users attend, so don’t expect them to travel too far. Make it convenient and go to them. Tailor the choice of venue to the user group; whether it’s an upmarket hotel or funky city meeting room, you should make them want to visit your chosen venue. If you can provide transport, that’s even better. Provide refreshments, and if your session is more than three hours or running over a mealtime, ensure you provide food (having checked dietary requirements in advance).

4. Reward your participants

You need to make it worth their while. Cover their expenses and offer an appropriate incentive. It doesn’t have to be a cash payment, just something that the participants would value, such as free tickets to an event they’d like to go to or complimentary use of your product/ service.

Another way to increase attendance is to provide the reward instantly once the workshop is complete, for example supplying the financial payment / complimentary voucher or access to the event immediately after the session.

5. Get them excited

It is important to express how valuable the participants’ contribution is to you, share with them how their views are going to impact your organisation and benefit others like them. It is also useful to explain who else is getting involved and how this is a unique opportunity for them to be involved in the development of such an important project for your company.

6. Communicate regularly with your participants

Ensure you are in regular communication with the workshop participants. Be available to answer queries, contact them the day before to confirm their attendance, engage with them on the day to reiterate directions, timings, workshop duration to prompt notification of any last minute drop-outs. After the workshop, follow up for feedback, participants naturally want to know the outcome of the research effort.

These 6 tips should help provide the foundations for running successful user research workshops.

Here are a few ‘Don’ts’ to remember which can also impact the success of your user research sessions:

1. Don’t be tempted to mix different user types in the same workshop session, it will stifle the flow and mean some users won’t be able to participate.

2. Don’t be tempted to run a workshop with too few participants; you wont gain the insight and level of detailed discussion that you need to make the exercise worthwhile.

3. Don’t underestimate the skills of facilitating a workshop. Having the right person run your workshop can make the difference between people feeling comfortable and openly sharing their thoughts and ideas, to people being non responsive.

4. Don’t underestimate the skills of a user experience professional when it comes to drawing out the best ideas and solutions. Being able to identify ideas with potential and asking the right follow up questions can influence the quality of actionable insight you gain.

User research through workshops is a great way to get valuable insight and help the success with a digital project. If you would like some professional UX support with your workshops, DotLabel’s experienced team can help – contact us to chat about your upcoming project. We offer UX support as a standalone service or as part of a web design and web development project.


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