I asked Keren Solomon to come give a talk on how to run deprivation studies. Deprivation studies are a user research technique where you take something away from someone that they love to learn just how much they rely on that product or service. For example, in 2004, Yahoo conducted a deprivation study where they took away the Internet from people for 14 days. So in this case, Yahoo was interested to gain a deeper understanding of the behavioral and cultural impact the Internet was having on American households. Deprivation studies create a pain point, validate if that was indeed a pain point and then shows you the participants’ work around.
A few weeks ago, we at Mozilla, ran our first deprivation study. Keren worked with my colleague, Mary, to learn more about people’s phone and tablet usage and as part of their research they conducted two day-long deprivation studies. The first was a “No Browser” day and the second was a “No Apps” day. The participants didn’t know that they wouldn’t be allowed to use their browser for a day or their apps for a day, but that was by design.
They got some great results. One participant said “I had no idea I used a browser that much” and another one said “No, I did not bring my phone with me in order to completely restrict myself from using my phone. I knew that if I brought it, I would have cheated!” So here we find that the deprivation study was successful in helping them find out how much of an effect browser and app usage had on our participants. If Mary and Keren had asked, “How would you feel if we took your phone’s browser away?”, they probably would have heard a mixed response – maybe some people would down play how hard it would be, while others would shrug and say “Oh I can do that”, but when you just take it away from them and you don;t premeditate on the fact, you see what really happens. So much of user research is observing what people do in addition to listening to what they say and so here the deprivation study let them really observe the behaviors instead of just relying on what the participant thought they would do.
Thanks Keren for sharing your deprivation study expertise with us!