Posted by AnswerLab Research on Oct 15, 2021

At AnswerLab, our team is constantly looking across our clients to keep an eye on what’s trending and evolving when it comes to research needs, from methodological focuses to bigger topics and priorities. As you start to build your roadmap for next year, we wanted to share some of the trends and questions we’re seeing in the research field right now. Consider how your team is preparing to address these topics and how you might build them into your research plans:

1. A renewed focus on privacy, privacy, privacy

Privacy and safety weren’t heavily considered issues even just 3 years ago. Until just recently, most brands were publishing wordy privacy statements, sending them out to their customers, and calling it a day. Time and time again, we hear from participants that they rarely take the time to read companies’ security, privacy policies, or terms and conditions. This often leaves a bad impression on your customers as it can feel as though brands are intentionally trying to mislead them. 

Privacy issues have been coming up more and more due to data breaches and news reports on how companies across industries are using your data. And as this becomes more top of mind for customers, brands need to respond accordingly. Many of our clients are now conducting regular research on privacy concerns to understand how they can improve this experience for customers. Ensure you’re putting the right amount of focus on communicating trust and security across your products and services.

2. Connecting with users through diary studies

Over the course of the last two years, we’ve honed and refined our remote research methods. While exploratory research was often conducted in-person to give researchers a glimpse into the participant’s experience in context, we’ve all had to make do with remote swaps. For the most part, remote research is here to stay, and while it has its drawbacks, it also enables you to reach a diverse group of participants beyond a geographic boundary.

Without in-person and in-home ethnographic research, diary studies are a great way to connect more closely with participants. We’re seeing many more requests for diary studies across clients to get those deep insights in real-time in their real environments without requiring us to be physically there with them.

There are a number of ways to utilize diary studies in remote settings, including:

    1. Diary studies can be used to dig into big picture questions with prompts for your customers to answer from their own environment over a period of time. 
    2. You might also include a diary study prior to one-on-one conversations to help get the conversation moving. As a moderator, you can type responses to their entries to build some rapport and familiarity ahead of time. 
    3. When you really want to get to know your users, we recommend a three-pronged approach: a survey to learn more about who is or isn’t using your product or service, a diary study to assess how, when, and where your service comes into play, and last, in-depth interviews to explore the why behind these choices.

Ask yourself if diary studies might be able to help or build on your research plans for next year. You might discover it’s the perfect method for digging deeper.

3. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are under scrutiny

In 2021, the biggest tech giants were faced with increased public attention on how their advanced uses of new technologies are impacting different groups. We’ve been seeing many of our clients, big and small, take action to address distrust and unintended bias, combat misinformation, and increase cross-functional efforts to prevent negative outcomes.

Trust and transparency are key issues that user research can address directly. We’ve seen this in finance, social media, retail, and beyond— users are wary of how their data is being collected and used, and how the algorithms behind services are impacting their experiences. Make sure you’re building in research that addresses these concerns.

4. International work is returning and brands are looking to expand

Many teams hit pause on international research during the pandemic as the challenges and logistical complications of doing this remotely outweighed some of the benefits. While it presented a significant challenge to teams, we’re starting to hear more and more questions about international studies.

A number of our clients are looking at how they can build their presence in other parts of the world, which means conducting exploratory research on the needs of those users, while also vetting existing and building new features for new markets. It’s time to bring international research back, even if we do have to tackle it remotely! 


5. Accessibility is on our radar again

Last year we predicted that accessibility was going to be top of mind for brands building their research roadmaps in 2021, and it’s not going away. Designing accessible experiences is a critical step in making sure you’re meeting user needs. As you’re thinking about 2022, make sure you’re leveraging your accessibility research for the richest insights. We recommend testing for common technical errors first to ensure you’re meeting the set standards. This can be done without participants and helps you get your prototype in a better state for research with users. Then, bring in participants to dig into deep usability findings and understand their unique perspectives on your product. Learn more about this approach.


6. Turning to the next generation of users

We’ve been hearing a lot about Gen Z users and their influence on the digital landscape lately. A lot of research has been conducted on this group, their values, habits, and what they want out of technology. And, brands are starting to understand that this generation is going to require a different approach than we’re used to, and it’s ripe with opportunity.

But, Gen Z’ers can be a challenging audience to recruit! First, they often respond better to text messages or social media DMs than phone or email, which isn’t how typical research recruitment is usually done. We’re also hearing that many Gen Z participants are getting many invitations to participate in research given so many brands are starting to reach out to this group. This highlights the importance of reaching out in the right ways and thinking about your incentives to foster engagement.

For more tips, read our article on conducting research with Gen Z and our recommendations for research ops and recruiting for this population.

Do these sound familiar to you and your team? Get in touch with a strategist to hear how AnswerLab can help. 

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AnswerLab Research

The AnswerLab research team collaborates on articles to bring you the latest UX trends and best practices.

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