Notes on Monal Chokshi & Guerrilla Research

(From Monal’s 11/16 Mind the Product talk, link here. Monal is Head of UX Research at Lyft.)

Guerrilla research is an informal method of gathering quick, low-cost feedback from user

It’s unplanned and informal; you simply go out into the world and approach people in an impromptu manner

  • The famous example is approaching strangers at Starbucks and offering to buy their coffee if they will sit with you for 5 minutes and test something. You observe their reactions and any problems as they test the feature or experience

Use guerrilla research to stop those endless, philosophical boardroom meetings by collecting real data

Guerrilla research is:

  • Fast
  • Cheap
  • May expose glaring product problems
  • A quick gut check during prod development
  • Can reveal user perspectives the team hadn’t anticipated
  • Hopefully a compliment to more robust user studies
  • Not that rigorous or reliable since you usually can’t find your target users to test with
  • Best used to research smaller features or updates during the design process

Guerrilla research is not:

  • A method for deciding big or important product strategies
  • A method for validating  primary features or experiences
  • A replacement for formalized user research (such as usability testing and in-context interviews)

5 key principles for guerrilla research:

Quick tip first: Choose your target audience wisely. Where can you find them? Try to select a place where you are more likely to find your target users

  1. Approach the person
    • Maybe wear your company swag (can make you seem more legit and cool depending on where you work)
    • Don’t approach people who clearly don’t want interaction. Best to find folks who are waiting around for something
    • Take along a flier that advertises your value proposition (“WANT A FREE COFFEE? Take 5 minutes…”) Leave them at the register and tables at a coffee place (if the staff agrees!) Include your company logo on it in a creative manner
  2. Let them do the talking
    • Give people a simple real-life scenario and task to perform
    • Encourage them to think aloud while performing the task and listen to their pain points, confusions or distractions
    • Ask they respond, continually ask “Why?” “What are your thinking now?” etc
    • But don’t direct their path, even if they are on the wrong one—try to learn why they chose the wrong path instead
      • If the person is really unable to find the feature you want to test, you can direct them as a last-ditch effort. Tell them their feedback is great but you want to switch the focus now
    • Ask them how to improve the experience they just had
  3. Don’t ask leading questions. Ask people generalized, open-ended questions (“What can you do on this screen?” rather than “How would you buy a gift card?”) so you get unbiased answers
  4. Pay close attention to what folks DO. People can struggle with a task but then say it was easy after completion—people are often shy about giving negative feedback
  5. Show appreciation to testers by paying their purchase, giving them gift cards etc. And remember to say thanks for the help!

About Monal (from Mind the Product’s notes): Monal Chokshi is currently the Head of UX Research at Lyft. 

A UX professional for almost 20 years, Monal has worked as a UX Researcher, Designer, and Manager. She began her career at Trilogy and various other startups during the dot-com era. She then spent over four years as a UX Researcher at Yahoo!, and more recently, she’s built and led UX teams at Intuit, SoundCloud, and now, Lyft.

Monal has a B.S. from Stanford in Symbolic Systems with a concentration in Human-Computer Interaction and an M.S. from UCSD in Cognitive Science, where she focused on the use of ethnographic methods to inform the design of technology.


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