How to commission usability research

in Managing usability agencies

When you’re commissioning a user experience agency to do work for you, it’s important to choose the right one. It’s your neck on the line if they don’t answer the research questions or produce a poor report.

While it’s easy to blame the agency, there are things that you can do to mitigate the risks of your project going awry.

My advice is to go through a well-managed process so that you end up with the best consultant for the job and who is clear what is expected of him or her.

  • Write a clear brief that has well-explained and concrete research questions. (Tip: Use these 6 questions as a guide when meeting your client.)
  • Get at least two agencies to pitch for the work
  • Involve internal stakeholders early so they feel part of the process
  • Get your stakeholders’ agreement on the agency who gets the work
  • Interview the consultant who will be doing the work – the quality of consultants in usability agencies varies hugely – make sure you get a good one
  • Implement a quality review process during the all the key project phases
  • Be explicit on what deliverables you expect – I cannot overstate this as it’s a common source of real headaches.

As a first step, you might like to tick-off how many of these steps you did on your last project with an agency. What would you do differently next time? … Why not write it up as a list of Lessons Learned and distribute to team members?

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