A critical task of our job as UX researchers/designers is talking and listening to real users to understand their needs, motivations and experiences. However, the challenge we face here is how do we facilitate that process. This especially difficult when dealing with difficult users
Who are the difficult users?
Several traits could fall into this category of users, which includes:
- Shy users
- Passive users
- Conformist users
- Privacy-concerned users
- Users coming from cultures where talking about personal views and values is uncommon practice
- Users who are unfamiliar with what it means to participate in a research
- Users who constantly go off topic
- Users asked to talk about sensitive topics
- and others [please add in the comments (: ]
How to deal with them?
It is the researcher/interviewer responsibility to identify which group of these a difficult user falls into and how to deal with them. From my personal experience, I found 3 main strategies proofed useful with many users:
(1) Raport, Raport, Raport
It is vital to establish raport in any interview in general, but it is more crucial with difficult users. The ice breaking activities up front should be specifically tailored to the users to establish a mutual understanding of the topic to be discussed. This is especially relevant when dealing with shy users, passive users, privacy-concerned users and users asked to talk about sensitive topics.
(2) Depersonalize the discussion
This helps users unconciousely revealing their values without necassily talking about themselves directly. This is especially relevant when dealing with shy users, conformist users, privacy-concerned users and users asked to talk about sensitive topics. The depersonalization process could take different forms from talking about a third person, to talking about imaginary cases or engaging in creative work such as stories or sketching.
(3) Co-guid the discussion
To eliminate the power sruggle, it is important to creat a balance in directing the discussion and allowing users to take the lead. This is common in participatory research and design and it could take many different forms such as working with incomplete stories or objects, and restructuring or reordering them. This is especially relevant when dealing with passive users, users coming from cultures where talking about personal views and values is uncommon practice, users who are unfamiliar with what it means to participate in a research, and users who constantly go off topic.