How to run a successful mobile study

October 7th, 2016 by Ben Claxton

People for Research recently teamed up with nativeye, an innovative platform that allows researchers to test their products and understand the customer experience in a smart, effective and affordable way. After asking founder Ben Claxton to write about why mobile research should always be an option on the table for any researcher, we have also begged Ben to share some expert tips so you can run the perfect mobile study.

Welcome to our second post in our two-part series on mobile research. For the purpose of clarity, here we are mainly talking mobile qual or ethnography, rather than mobile surveys.

Broadly you can run two types of mobile study – a diary or a series of individual tasks. With a diary, you are asking people to complete the same questions daily, weekly or whenever the moment arises. A series of tasks is useful when you are interested in testing different aspects of a brand, product or service.

Over five years of mobile research studies, we’ve seen a few factors that constantly emerge as explainers and predictors of a successful project. Now, I’ve condensed them all below to help you run your own kick-ass mobile studies!

Keep It Simple

Like a lot of research, simple works best on mobile. This doesn’t mean you won’t get rich data; it just means you won’t confuse your participants. A great example is the recent “How we pay today” project for a fintech company, which asked people to simply ‘post every time you pay’.

Taking a photo and noting the purpose of payment captured the context, asking people how they felt, tying an emotion to the event. Repeat with 30 people over the course of two weeks and you have a powerful body of data.

Brief Well

Good briefing is essential whether you do it or your recruiter does it. If your recruiter is in charge of briefing, make sure they really get the project and get mobile (someone like People for Research, for example!).

Make Sure Your Project Has A Natural Evolution

A good evolution to a project is where you start with a simple diary task and then move on to more in-depth tasks, if required. For example, in “How we pay today”, the project went from a diary task, to a ‘video tour of your wallet’, and then to ‘how would you improve payments?’.

Engage With Participants

As I mentioned in the first post in this series, commenting and liking people’s posts makes a real difference in mobile. Firstly, it helps to keep people engaged – providing that little serotonin reward that makes it feel worthwhile because someone is listening to and validating what the participant does. Secondly, it can help you course-correct or probe further into the detail.

As you can see, these are mostly standard good practice applied to a new context. Hopefully this will give you the confidence to explore mobile as a new tool in your kit.

Interested in finding our more about mobile? Or maybe you have questions about this type of research or the technology? Get in touch with Ben at

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