Remote moderated user research is the most common type of research conducted at VA. Teams are encouraged to run discovery research before design begins as well as usability testing to validate that their prototypes work for Veterans. This process applies to teams doing in-person research as well with the exception of recruitment.

Research plan

Taking the time to plan your research is an essential first step. Use this research plan template to guide you through decisions about your research:

  • What are your research goals?

  • What methodology will you use? (More on that below.)

  • Who do you want to talk to?

  • What is your timing?

  • Who will do what during the sessions?

Your research plan will become the doc you use to plan your study and the documentation that project teams, research, UX lead, leadership, et al., use to find your research in the future. Add anything you need to make this document work for you. If your team creates research issues or epics, you can cross-reference your research-plan.md file in that as well. Discuss your research plan with your team.

Conversation guide

Once you've filled out your research plan, write a conversation guide. Use this conversation guide template as a starting place. Generally, the moderator should write the conversation guide.

A conversation guide is a script that organizes how you'd like each user research session to go. The moderator should plan to use it during each session and read directly from it. Feel free to go off-script and follow the natural flow of the conversation.

These are most commonly used in moderated research sessions but can be adapted as instructions given to the user in unmoderated sessions if necessary.

Pro tips:

  • When drafting questions, write down every question you can think of and get input from all team members. Organize later.

  • When organizing, start with high level and general questions, then get more specific.

  • Always begin with an intro that sets the stage (you can start with the intro included in the template)

Get your prototype ready

If part of your plan includes showing participants a prototype, have the thing you're testing ready and reviewed by the Collaboration Cycle a week (minimum) before starting your research sessions. This will typically be a midpoint review. This will ensure that what you’re showing Veterans meets the VA.gov quality standards.

Recruiting participants

OCTO has a contract with Perigean Technologies to help us recruit, screen, gather consent forms, and schedule research sessions with Veterans. To start recruiting participants for your study, refer to the research checklist and recruiting participants.