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Every Researcher Should be a UX Expert: 6 Tips for Re-thinking Digital Research Experiences

[Big Ideas Series] Market researchers need to adopt user experience and accessibility guidelines for increased repondent engagement.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Big Ideas series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Betty Adamou will be speaking at IIeX Europe (February 19-20 in Amsterdam). If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX EU. Click here to learn more.

At this time in Market Research, we have just a handful of people who are consciously looking at participant User Experience and accessibility (if you are one of those people, please come find me at IIeX Europe) but this is by far not enough.

Everyone involved in market research should be a user experience expert.

In my world of designing games, I meet user experience experts often; they come in the form of consultants, or it’s an integral part of their role (perhaps as a game designer, a gamification strategist, or an app designer). Either way, these people combine two fields of knowledge to create what I’m calling the ‘venn diagram of user engagement’ because on the one side, these experts bring their vast knowledge and experience in their field and combine that with their knowledge of best user experience and accessibility practices, to produce the highest possible user engagement.

So why isn’t this on the radar in Market Research? Why isn’t this already part of the discussion, or indeed, a subject we hear about at our industry conferences?

Because historically, user experience and accessibility practices have been in the ‘creative’ domain; designing games, designing apps, designing websites, designing any kind of digital experience really. But researchers must realise we are providing digital experiences; we are providing research experiences. And how we provide such experiences is (at least in the UK) a government requirement.

For about a decade (the guidelines have been updated recently) what are called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (or WCAG) have been available. Developed by authors from Google, three universities and W3C, these guidelines are based on four design principles:

  • Perceivable – allowing people to use your content with the senses that are available to them – in ways they can perceive.

  • Operable – make sure users can find and use your content, regardless of how they choose to access it (for example, using a keyboard or voice commands).


  • Understandable – making sure people can understand your content and how the service works.
  • Robust – making sure your content can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents – including reasonably outdated, current and anticipated browsers and assistive technologies.


If we researchers did not know about these principles before, we have to know and adhere to these now more than ever.

With the adoption of new software and hardware in research, not only do we have to build ethical practices for these (consider that as yet, we do not have any ethical guidelines for the use of VR as a research instrument) but must build user experience and accessibility practices which are sympathetic to the technology we use, and adhere to WCAG.

A small example: in the UK, 1 in 12 males are colour-blind. How colour-blind people experience, for example, your research stimulus – be it the video content or even just accessing your company website, could be an easy experience or a frustrating experience, depending on the design and colour palette used.

So what can you do?

  1. Realise not everyone is like you: some participants may have full or partial hearing and/or vision loss, may be colour blind, or have another condition which means they may require additional digital support.

  2. What does that digital support look like: My father was deaf in one ear and blind in one eye, and things like hearing aids and vision-loss friendly signage in particular stores clearly made things easier. But what does that kind of real-world support look like in the digital space in your research?

  3. Read and adhere to the WCAG: Check out what your digital research content already adheres to, and what could be improved. Set milestones for these improvements internally.

  4. Participant feedback: Give participants opportunities to leave feedback about your study – not just about the content but the accessibility and design. They may have insight that can help you improve the research experience for many more people.

  5. Knowledge for hire: If you’re unsure where to start regarding user experience and accessibility, work with an expert. The people over at UX Live, a conference focused on user experience, can help you out (or message me for recommendations).

  6.  Champions: You might wonder who should champion the application of WCAG for say, Virtual Reality, or Augmented Reality, or Game-based methods? (or whatever digital content your company uses for research) It can be anyone in your company. It can be you. It doesn’t matter, as long as those guidelines are checked and the ball is rolling to help all of our participants enjoy the digital research space.


More links:

Colour Blind Awareness recommend this site: to check your own photos etc. and convert them to colour-blind vision, while Daltonise corrects the image: .

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Betty Adamou

Betty Adamou

Founder & Chief ResearchGame Designer, Research Through Gaming