Doing (remote) user research for government services in times of COVID-19

Summary ‘Doing (remote) user research for government services in times of COVID-19’ — Image by: Marlieke Kieboom and Melissa Sasi / graphic design by: Smriti Shakdher — CC-BY-4.0
Example of a rich picture. Source:
  • Set the stage: Take more time for the introduction at the beginning to set the stage: lay out ground rules, consent, agenda, territorial acknowledgements, ways to keep track of inclusion (who talks, who doesn’t?). Laying these foundations before you start your activity is key!
  • Troubleshoot early: Take time to troubleshoot your technology and give user-research participants a chance to get familiar with the way you will be communicating and working before you start.
  • Pause for a moment: Take time for breaks and break-out groups, just like you would in regular workshops. You might want to take more time for breaks– it’s more tiring to be on a 2 hour video call than doing in-person group activities for 2 hours.
  • Assign roles: Consider different team roles: facilitators, break-out group facilitators, presenters, scribes (for screenshots, recording, taking notes) and a tech-support person.
  • Stipends: How can we reward remote participants for their time and engagement? There are some particular challenges to delivering and documenting stipends in a remote setting (for example, how can we ensure the participants received them?)
  • Less is more: Set one goal for a session, such as making or reviewing a journey map. Gathering stories, building a systems map, reviewing/discussing findings are all separate sessions.
  • How to ask for consent when a paper + pen signature is not possible?
    Let’s not make it into a big headache for our research participants. Think of an audio recording that includes the participant’s consent, have someone take a photo of their signed form, use a digital signature. Also think of properly storing and filing this data. Hopefully in the future signing digital consent forms will be the new normal!
  • When using new digital tools, make sure to check whether their security measures and data storage are in line with your government’s regulations. In B.C. please refer to ‘Guidance on Ministerial Order 085 — using third party tools and applications.’
  • Think of doing a ‘digital check-in’ in advance of your session to gauge participant’s digital skills level without making assumptions. You can think of questions like: what is your access like to a reliable internet connection? What is your level of comfort with the following tools?
  • It helps to be specific on how the chosen technology will work in advance of the session.
  • When recruiting online (for example, in Facebook groups) make sure to ask permission from the online group administrator.




Service designer + anthropologist in BC Public Service | Dutchie in Canada | Hobbies: people, power, politics | Currently on mat leave | Views my own

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Marlieke Kieboom

Marlieke Kieboom

Service designer + anthropologist in BC Public Service | Dutchie in Canada | Hobbies: people, power, politics | Currently on mat leave | Views my own

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