Identify and Reduce Biases in Usability Study Interview

No one is free of bias and it is wise to expect it to happen during the interview. The good news is that we can reduce the biases by identifying it and reflecting on it. Be mindful that it needs times and a lot of practices when it comes to reduce biases. Let’s look at five commons types of bias that might come up when conducting UX research and some tips for how to overcome those biases.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias – the tendency to focus on information that matches a pre-existing belief. Have you ever tried to find evidence to prove a hypothesis that you already have? If so you are on the verge of confirmation bias. To fight the confirmation bias you can do the following:

  • Recruit an appropiate sample size. In the real world, five to eight participants is a large enough sample size to gain valuable feedback. There is often diminishing return on investment if more than eight participants are added to the study. Interviewing the right number of participants and gathering a variety of perspectives will help reduce confirmation bias.
  • It’s not about your beliefs. Pay attention to and embrace findings that challenge your hypotheses. If participants share ideas that contradict your assumptions, it could highlight the need to dig into an issue more deeply and can pave the way for new learnings to emerge.

Leading Questions

Leading questions – research questions that are intentionally framed to guide participants to respond in a certain way. Considering the following questions:

  • “How did you locate the product you wanted to buy?”
  • “Is having the product you wanted to buy under the blue tab easy to find?”

The first question is an open-ended question and encourage the participants to talk about their actions or process, while the second question is a leading question that lead particitpants to agree that the blue tab is the right design in helping them finding what they wanted.

To avoid leading questions in your own research, try these pro-tips:

  • Encourage participants to think aloud. This will ensure that the information collected comes from the participants as they interact with the product. Plus give participants extra time for each question for them think and give more extra input.
  • Limit your reponses. Having the researcher’s repsonse on certain features or function of the product. It is like the validation, which make the participants try to please the researcher. This will lead to the invalidate response, which would not be usful to the product design.
Photo by Maranda Vandergriff on Unsplash

Friendliness Bias

Friendliness bias – the tendency of people to agree with those they like in order to maintain a non-confrontational conversation. It is also called “the principle of least effort” because people have a tendency to avoid resistance when completing tasks, so the session can end quickly.

How to overcome the friendliness bias when conducting interviews:

  • Honesty is the best policy. State upfront with participants to be as honest as they can because their feedback won’t hurt you.
  • Stay consistently engaged. As a researcher, you should staty curious and practice actively listening like ask the same question from a different angle to get deeper in the response.

Social Desirability Bias

Social Desirability Bias – the tendency for people to answer questions in a way that will be viewed favorably by others. This is when research participants provide answers that they think are popular rather than what they actually believe. It can be the focust on the positive aspects than the negative aspects of the product.

To fight social desirability bias, keep these pro-tips in mind:

  • Conduct 1:1 interviews. Social desirablity bias usually happens in the group setting, so an one on one interview reduce the influence from others.
  • Ensure confidentiality. As a researcher, you need to let the participants that their perspective is kept secret and won’t share with anyone else in the orgainzation. It gives them the confidence to be honest about the product.

Hawthorne Effect

The Hawthorne Effect describes how people tend to act differently when they know they’re being watched. People often work harder or perfrom better when they know there people on the side or room are watching them. This is often the case in UX research, when we want to involve team members to understand and empathize with the users. Thus, it can influence the participants’ beheavior in an undesired way.

To avoid the Hawthorne Effect try the following tips:

  • Create a non-threatening environment. Let the participants that there is no right or wrong answers to make environment comfortable before diving into interview questions.
  • Establish rapport. This is when small talk comes in as it makes the participants feel comfortable with the researcher so does their response.

To sump up, as a UX researcher, it would be useful to keep these practices in mind when preparing for the user research study. It ensure the honest feedbacks that would eventually benefits our users.

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