KS&R Blogs


Dear Diary,

"Am rushing to pick up kids at school to get them home, fed, and off to soccer practice. Just made a call on my new cell phone for take-out -- and misdialed AGAIN 'cause the keys are so close together! Am SOOO frustrated with this device. It looked very small and lightweight in the store so I thought it would be perfect for my busy lifestyle.—NOT! Also had a problem this morning when I couldn't figure out how to use the speakerphone for a conference call with my client when I was on the freeway 'cause it doesn't have a separate button. I need to buy a new Bluetooth headset -- but it won't be the same brand as this cell phone. I won't buy this brand again!"

I am a big fan of homework. I loved watching my son Adam and his father struggle, then succeed, in building a sewage treatment plant out of popsicle sticks for an elementary school science fair. While my husband worried about being too involved/not involved enough in helping with homework, I took great pride in the "Aha!" moments as Adam made connections between process and outcome.

Assigning homework to respondents prior to their participation in a focus group or an In-Depth Interview often results in such exciting "Aha!" moments. While not new, homework -- photo journals, collages, video diaries, online diaries is a surprisingly underutilized technique. The benefits it provides are tangible and many as it serves as a portal to accurate, candid data and authentic insights.

  • Identifies unarticulated wants and needs, even the ones customers aren't aware of themselves
  • Reliable data collection for everyday, routine events that are easily forgotten, or difficult to recall accurately
  • A cost effective way to capture data over time ("for the next five days record...")
  • Helps drive innovation because it provides a first-hand glimpse into the tasks that customers want the product to perform, in the environment those tasks will be performed in.
  • Serves as a trigger for discussion

In a recent KS&R usability study on mobile devices, "alpha moms" were given homework consisting of video diaries or "talk back sessions" -- using digital cameras installed on the dashboards of their vehicles. The in-car digital camcorder is an inconspicuous video recorder with a high quality zone microphone and low light handling, ideal for in-car use. An attached USB port allows for easy upload of respondents' video after each drive session.

Online diaries are another very effective homework tool KS&R employs to capture "in the moment" information and insights. Respondents make notations as they happen through a secure link that KS&R provides. This paves the way for deeper revelations that are key in successfully delivering on the research and business objectives.

Time to go and read some homework.

All the best,
Lynne Van Dyke