Guerrilla research and how to keep research low cost

Lately we are able to make our clients understand the value and the need of conducting research in order to deliver a good design work. But it still is a struggle in some projects. Often, the need to stay competitive and to cut costs, has an direct impact on research, which tends to suffer the first cost cuts.

Leaving research out of a project might result in disastrous final outcomes. Specially because without the information we need to take decisions, we have to rely on assumptions, often our own or the client’s. And this is especially delicate because, being objective, we as designers are not really a good representation of the average population. We are the nerdy, weird guys that do a lot of stuff in a very different way. That is not bad, it only means that we are very biased towards ideas that do not represent the general way of dealing with things.

“Leaving research out of a project might result in disastrous final outcomes.”

Guerrilla research means that it is less formal, so it might not be as representative as a more thorough research process. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get a lot of great information, and it will always be way better than basing your decisions on presumptions. Another good thing is that being more informal you can be agile, incorporate changes on the go and even get a wider implication from the entire design team. This can also be used as a training for designers to the research process.

You can practice faster, cheaper and in an alternative way with guerrilla research. This doesn’t mean that we should stop doing research and just do guerrilla research from now on. Obviously, conducting formal research is what we should always aim for, but in case it is not possible, doing some kind of research is always better than not doing research at all.

“Doing some kind of research is always better than not doing research at all.”

Pros of guerrilla research

  • It is cheap and implies little effort. Doing some guerilla research doesn’t compare to lab UX research in terms of money and effort.
  • You turn away from your own presumptions. You get to talk to real users instead of philosophizing about your own assumptions.
  • It adapts to your needs. As it is informal, you can handle it as you please, adapt it to your deadlines and also due to the lower rigor you can involve other design team members.
  • You choose your scope. You are not limited to a certain amount of interviews or a specific sample. As long as you get people to participate you can do whatever you want. You have access to a natural and large sample.
  • You can use available information. Depending on the project, there might be a lot of information available that can come handy.

Cons of guerrilla research

  • It might not be thorough. As it is quite on the go and quick you might miss doing the right questions or not get some answers due to the informal approach it has.
  • You can get shallow results. Some things take time, and doing a good work is one of them, most of the time. So obviously guerrilla research might provide you with shallow results.
  • It can be very biased. Getting all participants from the same place might give you a very strong bias. Or even if you ask colleagues to find you some friends, they might have a similar background, so the bias stays.
  • Some kinds of users won’t be represented. The good thing about recruitment agencies is that they are able to find you very specific users, while finding them in a cafeteria might be impossible.

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