So the reason you decided to do one survey or one usability test or interview two of your friends is because you didn’t have the time or budget or user research buy-in. And now Dumi and Lade have said, nope. What do you do instead? Well there’s this beautiful thing called Guerrilla Research (not Gorrilla Research lmao)
What is guerrilla research and when can you use it?
Guerrilla means of or relating to an unauthorized, edgy, or disruptive version of an activity (dictionary.com). If you apply that concept to UX Research, it means moving from a super-structured & planned research to scrappy, quick, barred down research so you can get insights as rapidly and cheaply as possible.
So what then is Guerrilla research? Well it is a quick, low-cost way of learning about and understanding experiences. Commonly done in super public places, guerrilla research helps you prove the value of research when you have limited resources (time inclusive).
Guerrilla research is pretty amazing because of it’s quick and scrappy nature. You could just walk into a coffee shop or a mall, identify people who may fit your target demographic & ask them a few questions about your idea or product. It’s that simple but it’s not without planning too.
One thing we must heavily emphasize is that guerrilla research doesn’t give you the permission to throw all planning or structure out the window. There are still procedures and processes that needs to be followed because guerrilla research is still research. What this means is that you still need to think through the research process.
It’s even more imperative because you’re running a scrappy operation. Guerrilla research is really about being innovative with your research, essentially finding low cost & quick ways to answer pressing questions about your idea, prototype, or product.
It’s not the answer to everything though
It’s important to note that guerrilla research can’t be used at all points to answer any question. In fact, the best time to do this kind of research is if it’s small in scope. For example: guerrilla research cannot be a replacement for foundational research, but it could be a starting point for exploratory research.
When you’re not sure what exactly you’re looking for. It could help you define what to explore more deeply with other methods like ethnography and participatory design research. You can also test prototypes of various fidelity, from paper prototypes to functioning prototypes.
Guerrilla research may also not work when you’re focusing on a sensitive areas like: sex, health & finances, so keep that in mind.
How to do guerrilla research * Define what your goals are: No matter the type of research you do, you can never skip this step. Identify & define what you want to test (idea or concept or product or flow or wireframe) and what you want to learn by the end of the research activity.
Define who you want to talk to: Again, another step you can’t skip in any research activity. You want to make sure that you’re talking to the right people at all times because talking to the wrong people would lead you astray 99% of the time.
Create a screener & discussion guide: Yet another step you can’t skip. A screener is useful for making sure you’re talking to the right people, so it’s a follow-up of the previous step. The shorter your screener, the better. You also need a discussion guide to help you guide the conversation & ensure that you’re asking the right questions. It’s not enough to have a mental screener & discussion guide, you need to put it into writing. Physical copies > Mental copies.
Finally, you need to choose a location: You need to figure out a suitable location that is public and has your target demographic.
I know what’s on your mind now: “Why am I just hearing of this for the first time?” Well, because User Researchers try not to talk about it too much. We understand how quick & scrappy guerrilla research can be, and we don’t want people substituting structured research for guerrilla research all the time.
Guerrilla research can be addictive when you fully explore it’s greatness, the thing though is that: Structured (or Non-Guerrilla) Research will always be better & provide better quality results than guerrilla Research.
The reason for this is that guerrilla research has its pitfalls. A major one being its scrappiness. The scrappy nature of the research method makes it prone to error, shallowness & overall unreliability, which can have a negative impact on what you’re looking to test.
Choose a location? But corona is outside
With the rise in remote work & the pandemic still ongoing, doing guerrilla research (or anything really) in person has become unsafe & almost impossible. The good news though is that you can conduct guerrilla research online, but it requires a little more tact & time.
The obvious problem with doing remote guerrilla research is recruitment. With guerrilla testing in an ideal world, the expectation is that you can just find a public place with humans & talk to them. Social distancing has obviously made that very difficult. But being online is a goldmine
Following the same “go and find the people” principle, in doing recruitment for remote guerrilla testing, instead of focusing on physical locations, you focus on virtual locations. You already have the demographics of the people you’d like to speak with, so figure out where they hang out virtually and go there.
This is where social media comes into play. Go on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Amazon etc. Find the online places where people in this demographic hangout, strike up a conversation with them and get the feedback you need.
You could either: ask them the questions you have on those threads with hope that they take their time to respond to it (there’s always that one person that does that) or you could set up some time to have a quick 5-10 minute chat with them, the method is all up to you.
I know it’s a 50/50 thing but even physical guerrilla research is 50/50. I’ve had many people turn me down, in person, while I was conducting guerrilla research, but that didn’t make me stop and it shouldn’t make you too.
The advent of polling on social media & online communities has made it even easier to gather raw data in a scrappy way. There are lots of opportunities for you to do good research, you just need to open your eyes to it.
“Outside guerrilla research, what other types of research can I do?” I’m glad you asked. We’ll talk about that next week. In the meantime, check out this beginner guide on Guerrilla research (https://www.invisionapp.com/inside-design/a-beginners-guide-to-guerrilla-research/) that Lade wrote.
Till next week, kids.
With Love & Yam, Dumss and Lade