Running feedback sessions with under 18 users and the challenge of these not feeling like a test

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Facilitating concept feedback sessions with under 18s isn’t something we do every day at Lagom.

However, my involvement with the development of the RAF Air Cadets website meant that I recently ran a number of concept feedback sessions with young people on designs for the new website. To ensure that we reached the prioritised user roles of those most likely to visit the site, I engaged with adult volunteers alongside under 18s who were either current Air Cadets or looking to join. 

Before the sessions began, I reflected on the fact that it can sometimes seem that young people are continuously being assessed and tested – whether this takes place as part school, college, or through hobbies such as taking music exams. Participating in a concept feedback session risks putting these younger users in a situation that could easily feel like just another test they have to get ‘right’.

This was confirmed by reading around the topic which highlighted that these kinds of sessions could remind young people of examinations, potentially leading to increased stress levels due to a focus on trying to give the ‘correct’ answer.

It goes without saying that this was a situation I wanted to avoid. With this goal in mind, I found it useful to particularly emphasise that the sessions were a test of the site itself and not of them as a user. For example, when users struggled to locate features of the website which I’d asked them to look for I reiterated that this was really useful for me to know as I could then feed it back to the team working on the new site.

The researcher stressing that they want to learn more about the thoughts and opinions of users is an important part of sessions of this kind with all users. However I returned to this point more than usual to ensure that younger users were put at ease, and to remind them that I wasn’t testing them. 

Adopting an increased awareness to the potential for feedback sessions to feel like a test of the user helped me to take steps to mitigate this risk with under 18s. For instance, I was mindful of the need to remind users that if they couldn’t find something on the site this was useful feedback to help improve the new website, rather than reflecting poorly on them. This has also helped to inform my thinking and practice when engaging with all groups of users.

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