Engaging with previous research participants as part of ongoing research

Adam and John reviewing workshop notes on the wall

In a recent project, our recruitment process led us to engage with two repeat research participants at different stages of the work.

One of the participants took part in an initial interview and then a month or so later came back to give us some feedback on our initial prototypes. The other participant took part in a moderated content hierarchy session, then a prototype feedback session. 

Occasionally this happens on projects, however it is not typical. Sometimes, we are guilty of feeling that researching with the same users more than once is a failure in our recruitment process.

We (perhaps rightly) think that new users are capable of bringing fresh ideas and perspectives that we may not have heard before. Clients too have expressed a nervousness about using the same participants on multiple occasions. There is a fear that surrounds a missed insight or user need. This extends to a risk that a narrow viewpoint is created by designing for fewer people.  

Whilst these are legitimate concerns, we are quick to forget about the benefits that can stem from engaging with people more than once. 

From the user’s perspective they often feel more relaxed in a follow up session. They are broadly familiar with what to expect and are more comfortable as a result. This can make the sessions easier to moderate and allow the researcher to gain better insights. 

It is also a chance to determine whether prototypes match up to the expectations that users may have had when they first engaged with the project. This can be hugely valuable to the research process at the point of validating concepts. It is also beneficial to the research participants who have the opportunity to see first-hand and reflect on how their past participation has influenced the future direction of the work. 

Whilst it is clearly beneficial to engage with a wide range of research participants, I hope that this blog can be a reminder that sometimes it is ok (even preferable) to talk to the same people more than once throughout a research project. It is important to be reminded of that sometimes.

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