Human Experience Research: An In-Depth Guide

Human Experience Research: An In-Depth Guide

It is our obligation as researchers to investigate a variety of various techniques and methodologies for any given assignment. This allows us to select a method that will provide us with the greatest and most relevant data available. Experimenting with several strategies is necessary to establish which methodology is best suited to a given brief.

To be honest, I've just become acquainted with human experience research. After researching this new topic of research, I hope to be able to give you a brief overview of what it is and how it varies from other widely utilised methodologies.

So, let's start from the beginning by going through some of the more common ways and seeing how they differ.

CX, UX & HX – What’s the Difference?

A brand, product, or service's customer experience is linked to it. It examines any interactions or points of contact that a customer has with the brand. This could range from their first experience with a brand and early impressions to a deep look into the entire customer experience. Although it's in the name, customer experience (CX) focuses on the customer's overall experience and perceptions (bearing in mind that the customer may not always be the user of the end product).

User experience is a subset of customer experience that focuses on how customers engage with a brand or product. This is centred on the end user, with particular care paid to the quality and simplicity of the activities they take, as well as how well they interact with aesthetics and navigation.

Now let's turn our attention to HX – human experience research. HX prefers to talk about ‘people' rather than the terms that could be used to the other two groups, such as ‘customer,' ‘consumer,' ‘user,' and so on. Sue Bell of Susan Bell Research elaborates on this by describing her own practical research approach, saying:

“In my work, I talk about 'people.' I try to avoid using words like 'consumer,' since perceiving someone solely in terms of the items they consume misses the whole picture of their lived experience.”

With the perspective that looking at the wider picture of someone's life experiences helps us understand why people act or believe in a specific manner, the approach places a strong emphasis on the individual, immersing yourself in their life, experiences, and influences.

The contrast is to 'user experience' or 'customer experience' in this case. It appears to me that the term "human experience" applies to all human experiences, not just those of consumers or customers. – Sue Bell

Individual encounters that form a narrative will be the focus of HX researchers. The storey of how we make sense of our own reality, remember our own unique experiences, and how this changes us and informs our future decisions.

I get the impression that the other two approaches are more concerned with what we do and how we feel about it than with the larger context of why we do it in the first place and why we naturally have those sentiments.

What Does HX Mean for Research?

Doesn't it sound fantastic? But how do we put this into practise in market research?

A 'people-centric' method begins by learning about people's lives and then identifying gaps or requirements; this method turns traditional research on its head. Typically, we would begin our research by considering a set of objectives; predetermined areas of focus. The first stage, though, is to use respondents to establish a focus. Then we might start looking at something we didn't realise was relevant in the first place.

I recently listened to a fascinating TED talk by Tricia Wang, in which she described how she gained human insights by immersing herself in the daily lives of low-income Chinese individuals. She lived with them, worked with them, and came to know them on a personal level. She began to notice areas of need, needs, and desires that were not yet documented in the bigger quantitative research that was taking place at the time using these approaches. Her narrative demonstrates how this technique to study can aid in the identification of new trends and the identification of inventive areas of development before it's too late.

Now, it's possible that we don't always have the resources or time to get to know people as thoroughly as the preceding methodology suggests. However, I've come across a couple more subtle ways that I thought would be fascinating to discuss, and which may be more relevant to research methodologies that are more mainstream and well-established.

The first method could simply be included into much of the research we conduct on a regular basis. It's known as name piping. This is including a respondent's name into a research activity, such as a survey, in order to assist personalise the experience. “Thank you, Sammy, for taking the time today to answer our survey questions,” or “Welcome to the survey, Sammy!” We're quite interested in hearing about your own experiences.”

Another option is to make use of what you already know. A respondent may participate in multiple tasks, and it's not uncommon for them to feel as though they've already provided feedback on a topic we're asking about. You would use this strategy to refer back to a previous response. With qualitative research, reading up on the participants' earlier comments may take some time, but in quantitative research, we can stem through a previous answer and utilise it for reference or question structure in a survey.

Finally, it could be as simple as shifting the subject of the question, such as asking how respondents relate to an advertising campaign rather than just how they react to it. Questioning in a style that elicits a respondent's identity and feelings.

Integrating HX

By utilising HX research and truly getting to know people, deeper insights and a whole new universe of understanding may be gained. This type of study can reveal new connections and lead to questions you didn't even realise you needed to ask.

I initially felt that HX was a galaxy away from how we now operate, but I've discovered that we can make some tiny tweaks to our study design that shift the tone of an activity to be more targeted and specific to the individual.

Not to imply that with this first introduction to the field, I'll be able to completely operate HX style... but perhaps contemplating some of these minor adjustments can broaden the scope of our investigation. I've come to the opinion that encouraging individuals to share more about their stories can only be a good thing, and that perhaps refocusing our research thinking to include the individual and their storey is the next step toward innovative discovery.