Running research sessions to understand assisted digital support

Running research sessions to understand assisted digital support

As a User Researcher, it is important that we design services that work for everyone. To do this, we need to make sure that we research with people who can’t or don’t want to use digital services.
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Katie John

Head of User Research

20 Sep 2022

What is assisted digital support?

Assisted digital support refers to the help some users may need when using online services. Some users can’t or won’t use digital as a channel for a variety of reasons, and we need to ensure that we include them in our research, in order to design inclusive services. 

This is not to be confused with people who have access needs; people who have access needs may use assistive technology, or their impairment may impact the way they use tech. 

Purpose of testing assisted digital support

Testing assisted digital support is crucial. By allowing your team to learn where people may need support we can ensure that everyone can use the service.

For instance, Universal Credit (UC) has a significant number of users who may need help using digital. To help these users, UC instructed Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to offer a support channel for their service. This means that users that need support to complete the transaction could work with a caseworker at CAB to complete the service.

Running sessions with people who are less digitally literate

1. Assess a user's digital skills and how they behave online

Ask questions such as: 

  • How much experience do you currently have going online?

  • How do you usually access the internet (phone/tablet/desktop)? Do you use multiple devices? 

  • Where do you normally access the internet (home/library/friends, community centre, neighbour, on the train)? Why there?

  • Do you have access to the internet at home?

  • How do you rate your ability to use the internet? Expert/confident/basic skills/I use it for specific tasks/learning the ropes

If the participant does go online:

  • Can you tell me a little bit about things you do online (social media, emails, shopping, paying bills, banking, surfing)?

  • Which websites do you use and why? What do you tend to look for?

Support: How users find help

  • Can you think about a time when you were stuck while you were trying to do something online? What happened? What was the problem?

    • What did you do? (Call helpline/ring the company/ask friend or family) — Is this what you would usually do?

  • Thinking about that situation or other times when you have got stuck, what would have helped you? (Helpline/online guidance etc)

    • What kind of support would you expect from the service provider?

If the user is unable to use online services themselves ask them what they normally do?

2. Create scenarios based on how users behaviour online 

If users would never complete a digital service on their own, you may want to consider role playing the assistance, and ask the user to direct you as they would someone at home.

If users do some things online, ask them to run through the service. Pay particular attention to questions around any pages that they might need support with, and how they would get that. 

3. Wizard of Oz style testing contact centre scripts 

Some users may call the contact centre in order to get support completing the service. Have the contact centre script written out and ready to be tested. 

A member of the team can role play a call handler, and offer support to the participant. 

By doing this, you will learn how to improve the contact centre scripts, and where users may fall out of the digital service in search for alternative channels. 

Pay special attention to upload screens here, and how you might help users upload documents to the digital service through contact centre support. 

4. Allow more time for sessions 

Given that users may have limited experience using digital, they will need more time to complete the service. Allow more time for the session, as well as opportunities to break. 

5. Judge very carefully when you may need to intervene

Make sure not to let users suffer. As a researcher it is your responsibility to judge when you may need to intervene within the session. Be mindful that users might not feel confident using digital services, do not inadvertently make them feel worse about their digital skills, by allowing them to suffer through the service.

In the session, continuously ask what would you do if you were at home, and you were finding something difficult. Mimic this within the session to avoid unnecessary distress for the participant, who is struggling through a service they would never complete on their own.

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