5 Tips for Making Intercept Approaches Successful

As a consultancy, we’re often asked to get feedback from folks our clients may have trouble otherwise accessing. One method we use is intercept testing, a form of usability testing either during or after an event. It can be a quick and useful way to get contextual feedback from people using your products or services, and while there are a couple of ways you can do them, we prefer incorporating public intercepts to help find the right opportunities to improve upon the user’s experience

This informal approach to usability testing allows you to physically approach a person in public to uncover user pain points, test out ideas, or just gather high-level feedback without having to recruit participants beforehand. Plus, it’s fast and budget-friendly, and who doesn’t like that? 

On top of the usefulness that public intercepts bring, it can also be a fun and engaging experience. That said, putting yourself out there for an in-person, public intercept can be a little daunting for anyone with less experience. So how do you do these correctly? 

Our designers at Grand Studio have explored and tested out some successful public intercept approaches that will hopefully make you and your team more confident in your approach to get the number of people and the right kinds of feedback you need.

Tip 1: Understand the context of location and people

Before getting out into the field to conduct in-person intercepts, we find that it is important to take into consideration what the location/environment will be like and consider how the people are expected to behave in that location, as it will likely affect your protocol and materials needed.

  • Is the environment busier? Are people in a rush? In-person intercepts last anywhere between 5-10 minutes, and not everyone you encounter will have that luxury of sparing more than a few minutes as they are making their way to the next thing in their day. So ask yourself, what’s the one question that you need to ask if you only have a couple of minutes of this participant’s time? And what’s the max amount you can ask within a 10-min time frame? Those questions can relate to an observation you’ve just witnessed in their experience, or it can be a question that ties back to what the client is wanting more insights on, or both.
  • Is the environment more laid-back? Are people more likely to sit and stay? You may think that a more laid-back setting, for example, a coffee shop, would be ideal and easier for grabbing people’s time, but that’s not always the case. Likely scenarios such as two friends who are intently catching up or someone taking an important phone call, or a student cramming for an upcoming exam would make it difficult for anyone to interject. In such cases, we try to respect the customer’s space if they decline to participate. An alternative approach to actively approaching customers would be to let them approach you. Try setting up a table with a sign that clearly but briefly states the objective of the study/survey and call out any incentives to hopefully make it worth their while to participate.

The next several tips compare standard approaches that may work for some against alternative approaches that have proven to be more successful for our designers for in-person, public intercepts in busier environments.

Tip 2: Think about how you appear to the participants

  • The standard approach: Standing around wearing a lanyard, with a pen and clipboard in hand. This is a universal passerby repellent as it is a pretty common indicator that the person with the clipboard wants you to sign up for something. 
  • Alternative approach: Instead, try stashing your clipboard or ipad away in a backpack or tote bag until you’ve successfully engaged with the participant. This will hopefully give off less of a solicitor vibe.

Tip 3: Start specific

  • That standard approach: “Hi, Do you have a 5-10 minutes to spare to answer some questions as part of a research we are conducting on ________?”. We found that approaching people and asking them if they have a few minutes to answer some questions usually gives them an easy way out to give a “No” response.
  • Alternative approach: Instead, try “Hi! I have a question. Have you shopped here before?” or “Hi! I have a question. What did you think of your shopping experience today?” People are usually more inclined to answer questions that are easy to answer. This also sets them up on the other questions that are to come if they’re able to stick around. Overall, this approach was more successful for our team.

Tip 4: Keep your intro short, sweet, and shoved in the middle

  • The standard approach: Usually, right after the standard approach you might feel that you need to explain yourself with a “My name is _______ , I’m a researcher and I’m doing a study on _______.” This may be a lot of information for people to process right off the bat, and the reasons still might be vague.
  • Alternative approach: We find that, tied with the previous alternative tip, people will likely understand what the study is about. Once you get talking to them, we find this is the right time to quickly introduce yourself, explain your objective of the study and ask if they have 5-10 minutes to answer some questions. 

Tip 5: Give them something for their time

We find there is no wrong way to incentivize participants. Here are a couple of ways we’ve tried it out.

  • Incentivize at the beginning: If offering and handing the incentive at the beginning or after your introduction, people may be more inclined to answer questions in return. One thing to be careful of is not to make the incentive the main reason for people to participate as it may skew participation or quality in answers. 
  • No mention at all: We’ve even tested going through the full intercept without mentioning the incentive at all. At the end, we thank them for taking time to help us with our study and hand them the incentive. The surprise and delight on their faces makes it all worth it.

Overall, an in-person public intercept is an energizing experience and a great way to hear what people have to say. Have fun and enjoy the experience.

Want to learn about how Grand Studio can help with your next research project? 

Why Design Thinking (Still) Makes Better Products

Ten years ago, almost every design review started with an impassioned argument for design thinking or user-centered design. We’d bring out beautiful personas and journey maps and run empathy-building exercises with our business stakeholders. After all, we were fighting for a seat at the table for design!

In 2022, it’s pretty much taken for granted that products should be built with the user in mind. Now that we’re comfortably seated, the nature of “design thinking” has changed a bit. We’re still all about user-centricity, but these days, we find ourselves talking to more senior stakeholders who are further removed from design decisions. So we’re learning to speak a different language. 

The TL;DR to our stakeholders is clear: a user-oriented approach to product design and product management will solve for today’s problems AND will prevent problems from emerging later in the product lifecycle. User-centricity protects the top and bottom line by ensuring that product requirements align well with user needs and complement business objectives. 

As designers, how do we deliver on this promise? That part of the story hasn’t changed – it’s still all about research, analysis, and collaboration between design, product, and business. Grand Studio’s secret sauce is our empathy and ability to use storytelling techniques to demonstrate and persuade. 

Design thinking, at its core, is a learning process that demands that we be flexible to accommodate the ever-changing context. By keeping the user at the center of the design thinking process, we can ensure that our final product will be the best fit possible and defend our seat at the table.

The Consequences of Bad Design

A bad design can be the demise of an otherwise good product. Likewise, something can have a beautiful-looking design but can be otherwise unintuitive and useless. 

At this point in the world of design thinking, it is almost a given that a design will be aesthetically pleasing. While maintaining that visual appeal, it is now essential that a high-quality product design also be capable of solving the specific problems its users face. 

When a product’s design doesn’t quickly solve these problems, or if it requires excessive steps to get to the problem-solving point, no one will willingly use it. In corporate situations where it is mandatory to use the product, it will cause more internal problems in the form of IT tickets and help requests, leading to massive inefficiency.  

From a purely UI/UX standpoint, things can always be improved in any given design. Because of this, it is essential to have reasonable expectations for the completion of the project, or else you run into the vicious cycle of perfectionism. 

In a perfect world, we would have unlimited time to create the ideal product that would never need to be updated once it was released. Unfortunately, deadlines are real; at the end of the day, a solidly done project is better than the idea of a perfect one.

How We Develop and Articulate Design Thinking

At Grand Studio, we take a future-centered approach to design thinking. Tools of the past, such as archetypes, service blueprints, and personas, are no longer stand-alone products. Instead, they are strategies that can be used as tools to help us better understand the complex needs of our users. In turn, this allows us to understand better the people we are designing for, leading to better product design. 

As an integral part of our future-centered approach, we incorporate a consultative technique into our design process by continuously asking “why?” until we can identify specific problems that need to be solved to improve the quality of the product. 

Pride has no place in design thinking. Instead, we must remain highly critical of our work throughout the design process, the experimental phase, and after the product has been launched. 

We need to be able to define our product’s features and the metrics that will determine the success of the product early on. Once those goals have been met, it is time to reexamine them to determine if there is more that can be improved upon. 

What Are the Goals of Design Thinking in Product Design?

The most important things we consider in design thinking are product strategy, future road mapping, and understanding user behaviors. The kinds of questions that we ask throughout the process include:

  • What is the end goal of the product? 
  • What is the problem, or problems, that we are trying to solve?
  • Do the problems that we’ve identified matter to the end user?
  • Can these problems be solved through design, or is there a larger underlying issue?
  • Who is our end user?
  • In what context will this product be used? 

These are just a few of the countless questions that can be considered when developing a product. As we convince more companies to utilize a design thinking approach, we help minimize the chances of creating products that nobody wants or needs. 

When we incorporate design thinking into product planning, we help minimize wasted time, resources, and money on never-ending projects. Instead, we schedule frequent releases containing customer feedback to ensure we are constantly working on the products and services our end users are asking for. 

Want to learn how Grand Studio can help with your next project and build clarity out of complexity?

We’re here to help!