As UX practitioners, we are well aware of the importance of UX research in the life-cycle of building a product. During projects, more often than not, we may experience battles with internal stakeholders or clients that are usually around priorities, scoping and good old fashioned change management. Depending on how ‘new’ UX thinking is to the organization, you may end up in projects that your internal clients say “we don’t really need UX research” and then you have to convince people otherwise.
Having faced a very similar scenario at work recently, I sought the help of the UXSG Meetup #18 attendees to share their thoughts and tips around the topics:
– Conducting UX research with very little or no budget
– Thoughts / ideas on how to deal with internal stakeholders or clients who may be opposed to doing UX research
Below is the summary of the research methods that were discussed during the meetup.
Guerrilla testing (Café) method
To be ‘guerrilla’ is to practice faster, cheaper and often less formal research alternatives; alternatives that don’t necessarily need to be sponsored, budgeted or signed-off on. Much like the warfare from which it takes its name, guerrilla research is unconventional yet effective, in that it allows the designer to gather meaningful data at low cost. 
One of the members in the discussion, Raven, shared his experience of Guerrilla testing at a cafe, where he had a tie-up with the cafe staff to help recruit potential test subjects, who would then receive a free coffee in return for helping with the prototype testing /survey.
$$ — $$$
› A café setting is great for showing the prototype and interviewing your users for feedback as well.
› This method works best for testing ‘concept’ stages (pre-design) of your product.
› User research/ prototyping early leads to quicker iterations on the end product.
› You might not always end up with the desired candidates for conducting research as they may be from different backgrounds that might not necessarily match your app / product’s target audience.
› This might turn into a costly affair depending on how many users you conduct research /interviews with.
Pro Tip: Ask your users to perform simple tasks and feedback on it. Concentrate on only one flow or feature to test on. Remember to document your research in the form of videos / photos to share with your stakeholders. Better still bring them along while you do the research!
Another method that was suggested by the group was using social media to recruit potential candidates to conduct the research with. In this method, participants would be offered incentives (e.g. cash, gift certificates, freebies etc.) in return for their help in answering the survey / testing questions. The testing in these scenarios could be moderated or un-moderated (remotely) while using various usability testing methods or tools.
› The research participants are more likely to co-operate in answering the questions as they would have an incentive to do so.
› If a testing tool is being used- the user behaviors and responses can be recorded easily.
› The participants’ answers may be biased or dishonest if they are only in it for the incentives.
› Budget for incentives can be limited, therefore recruitment of the right type of participants is extremely important.
› This method does not necessarily allow researchers to observe any user behavior in context of their actual environments.
Pro Tip: Offer contextual incentives. For e.g. if the research is being carried out for a supermarket, offer gift certificates that the participants can redeem at there.
Hypothesis testing is at the heart of modern statistical thinking and a core part of the Lean methodology. Instead of approaching design decisions with pure instinct and arguments in conference rooms, form a testable statement, invite users, define metrics, collect data and draw a conclusion. 
As discussed in the group, to conduct hypothesis testing, begin by evaluating your design or prototype and identify key questions that you want answers to.
“Will labels on the top of form fields or the left of form fields reduce the time to complete the form?” or “Will users find items faster using mega menu navigation or standard drop-down navigation?”
Once you have defined the question, describe the assumptions implied in your prototype. Make predictions about users’ behavior and develop the hypothesis about what they will do next. Next, structure your testing method (e.g. A/B Testing, Unmoderated user testing etc.) to address that hypothesis. That way, whatever the result, you have specific, relevant information about the design.
$ — $$
› Creating a hypothesis, forces you or your team to think through the assumptions in your designs and business decisions.
› Easier to get buy-in on the feature/cost of development from your stakeholders once you have refuted / proved the hypothesis
› The hypothesis may not be correct, which could lead to negative feedback instead.
› If the testing goals are not clearly defined beforehand there is a tremendous tendency to find whatever results one would like to find.
Pro Tip: Real users may not necessarily behave the way you’d like them to. Don’t try to prove the hypothesis but try to test it instead.
Other suggested methods
› Download and compare the competition’s app / product
› Use Google analytics as a first step to gathering info about users
› Test with paper prototypes
› Use more than 1 research method to validate your ideas
› Test stealthily and collect evidence to build up your case for validating the research with stakeholders
› When your project is under an NDA, test within your trusted circle of either co-workers (within the same company) that are not part of your project or with friends /family (although results might not be completely unbiased)
Getting them in your corner
Trying to get a buy in of your stakeholders, whether internal or client-side might seem like a daunting task at times but is an integral part of the product building process nonetheless.
Some pointers from the group regarding this topic:
› In a large group of internal stakeholders, start by convincing 1 stakeholder within your company and use their help to evangelize the idea with the rest of the group.
› Get social with your stakeholders! Drink lots of tea, coffee or beer and build up your rapport with them
› Educate your team – Change the mindset of the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinions) by gifting them a UX book / article. Basically, make them see the return of investment in UX research.
› Involve your stakeholders in the UX process and make them feel like they’re contributing.
Pro Tip: Be a problem solver, not a roadblock. Make stakeholders lives easier by clearly communicating how your design will solve their business problems and support their objectives. Use evidence, gathered from data and UX research, to communicate why your design will be an effective solution.
* The dollar sign is indicative of the budget as below
$ – Pocket Friendly
$$ – Tighten your belt
$$$ – Break the piggy bank!