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In user research, every interaction gives a unique learning opportunity. I have a few years of experience under my belt before joining Jiva, but then I mostly dealt with users with urban characteristics that I was used to a certain level of user tech savviness. In Jiva, I work with users who live in rural areas; and this has been a whole different ball game. This is what I can tell you: my time researching Jiva’s users has been an eye-opening experience that goes beyond mere data collection.

In-Depth Interview: An Overview

In‐depth interview is a qualitative research technique with a conversational format. It is aimed to explore, in depth, a person’s experiences, feelings, and perspectives. Usually, It is conducted one-on-one and primarily open-ended, giving people the room and time to tell their own story in their own words.

Through in-depth interviews, the researcher is able to establish a connection with the participant, allowing them to gain an understanding of the participant’s social reality and capture the rich data of the participant’s words, illustrations, and emotions.

With its subjective nature, trust and openness are required in in-depth interviews. While researchers may begin with a structured outline guided by research objectives, the questions are intended to encourage detailed narratives.

The effectiveness of an interview is determined by how comfortable and open the participant feels, so the researcher’s primary task throughout the interview is to establish an interpersonal connection that allows for comfort and trust.

We often hear or read descriptions about what an interview should be like. There are tips and tricks for interviewing users over the internet, like how we should avoid leading questions, or how we should use simple terms. Throughout my time at Jiva, I particularly searched for tips and tricks for interviewing rural users. However, those may not always work.

What if the participant has a different concept of an “interview”? How do they feel about the interview? Dealing with rural users through interviews requires an additional level of empathy in order to gather answers that address our research objectives.

Challenges with Interviewing Rural Users

There are a set of particular challenges in a rural setting that I found when interviewing Sahabat Jiva:

1. Recalling Experiences and Verbalising Them is Not an Easy Task

Our users often find it challenging to articulate their thoughts or feelings, especially about past events. They may be able to describe the facts of the events, yet they struggle to identify their own internal thoughts and feelings surrounding the events. In the rural areas where our Sahabat Jiva live, traditional practices are still strong: only authorities, leaders, or older people have a say on something. Everyone else will follow without questions. Therefore, they are accustomed to accepting things as they are taught and are unfamiliar with expressing their opinions, let alone voicing them to others. Even when they start feeling comfortable sharing their opinions, elaborating and expanding their thoughts is another struggle. Giving examples during an interview can be useful at times, but it may limit their responses. It is important to remain patient and not rush them.

2. Language Barriers

Language plays a crucial role in communication. Many Sahabat Jiva speak their regional language and find formal Indonesian difficult. Not only can it make it even harder for the participant to express themselves, it can also hinder trust establishment between the researcher and the participant. This language barrier highlights differences between the researcher and the participant, making them more hesitant to open up.

3. Endurance in Remote Interviews is an Issue

While in-person interviews can last much longer than planned (usually an hour, but they can extend to 2–3 hours), remote interviews make our rural users tired quickly. Living in rural locations, Sahabat Jiva are less used to digital technologies which may cause fatigue during remote interviews. They may struggle to express discomfort, which requires the interviewer to pay attention more closely to their gestures (eye-contact, movements, how they respond to questions, and so on). It is important to keep conversations simple and straightforward to help them stay engaged and comfortable.

4. Formal Setting Might Be Seen as Intimidating

Normally before starting an interview, participants should be informed of the interview’s rules and restrictions. This includes explaining the objectives, technical details, and the interview topics. Formal settings, on the other hand, can highlight the boundaries between the interviewer and the participants.

Many rural participants are self-conscious of their limited knowledge of specific issues. In communal societies where individual boundaries are vague, setting formal boundaries can sometimes make participants feel closed off, treating the interviewer as superior. This dynamic can make them feel inferior and hesitant to speak up.

To mitigate the challenges above, I found that an informal approach is more suitable for our users, Sahabat Jiva. Starting off with light questions about their daily life combined with an inductive probing could position the participant in the right spot (not as the centre of attention, nor someone inferior) and will slowly direct to a more in-depth and clarity to their perspectives.

It is also crucial to avoid questions that might sound interrogative or accusatory. A “why” question is usually the case. For instance, instead of asking “Why do you prefer purchasing from farmers outside your area?”, it is neutral to ask “What are the major reasons you prefer purchasing from farmers outside your area? What do you like about it?” It can relieve pressure and increase empathy and trust that facilitate the discussion of feelings and emotions.

Our Research Coordinators (RCs) are our on-ground research team; they are great resources for facilitating communication between users and researchers. The RC speaks the same regional language and is from the same area or culture as the user. They help in convincing Sahabat Jiva that the researcher is not someone superior but rather someone who is really interested in getting to know more about them.

So What?

Interacting with our Sahabat Jiva has taught me more than just interviewing techniques; it has offered a thorough understanding of how to connect on a human level. It also taught me the value of immersing oneself in their stories and validating their perspectives. It is about keeping the conversation as casual and easy as possible, moving away from rigid formalities to build genuine trust.

When facing these challenges, keep in mind that an interview is simply a conversation between two people. Trust our human instincts and allow the conversation to unfold naturally. Forget the formalities and backgrounds; simply interact as two people getting to know each other, gaining trust as the conversation progresses.

There are no general tips or tricks to navigate these challenges seamlessly. Interviewing is more than just gathering data; it is about engaging with another person, listening to and understanding their life stories, and appreciating their uniqueness. In other words, seeing them as more than just research subjects.

This journey with our Sahabat Jiva has emphasised the value of compassion as the foundation of meaningful research, and the ongoing learning that comes with each interview.

More readings:

Fathia is a part of Jiva’s Design Research team. Her research topics often address sensitive issues such as money, user’s personal finance, or business strategy. This made her particularly empathetic and always finding different approaches to make her participants comfortable with sharing such supposedly private matters.

Want to read more #BehindJiva content? Follow Jiva on Medium, LinkedIn, and visit our website jiva.ag!

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Beyond interviews: Reflections from researching our rural users

May 30, 2024

Beyond interviews: Reflections from researching our rural users

In user research, every interaction gives a unique learning opportunity. I have a few years of experience under my belt before joining Jiva, but then I mostly dealt with users with urban characteristics that I was used to a certain level of user tech savviness. In Jiva, I work with users who live in rural areas; and this has been a whole different ball game. This is what I can tell you: my time researching Jiva’s users has been an eye-opening experience that goes beyond mere data collection.

In-Depth Interview: An Overview

In‐depth interview is a qualitative research technique with a conversational format. It is aimed to explore, in depth, a person’s experiences, feelings, and perspectives. Usually, It is conducted one-on-one and primarily open-ended, giving people the room and time to tell their own story in their own words.

Through in-depth interviews, the researcher is able to establish a connection with the participant, allowing them to gain an understanding of the participant’s social reality and capture the rich data of the participant’s words, illustrations, and emotions.

With its subjective nature, trust and openness are required in in-depth interviews. While researchers may begin with a structured outline guided by research objectives, the questions are intended to encourage detailed narratives.

The effectiveness of an interview is determined by how comfortable and open the participant feels, so the researcher’s primary task throughout the interview is to establish an interpersonal connection that allows for comfort and trust.

We often hear or read descriptions about what an interview should be like. There are tips and tricks for interviewing users over the internet, like how we should avoid leading questions, or how we should use simple terms. Throughout my time at Jiva, I particularly searched for tips and tricks for interviewing rural users. However, those may not always work.

What if the participant has a different concept of an “interview”? How do they feel about the interview? Dealing with rural users through interviews requires an additional level of empathy in order to gather answers that address our research objectives.

Challenges with Interviewing Rural Users

There are a set of particular challenges in a rural setting that I found when interviewing Sahabat Jiva:

1. Recalling Experiences and Verbalising Them is Not an Easy Task

Our users often find it challenging to articulate their thoughts or feelings, especially about past events. They may be able to describe the facts of the events, yet they struggle to identify their own internal thoughts and feelings surrounding the events. In the rural areas where our Sahabat Jiva live, traditional practices are still strong: only authorities, leaders, or older people have a say on something. Everyone else will follow without questions. Therefore, they are accustomed to accepting things as they are taught and are unfamiliar with expressing their opinions, let alone voicing them to others. Even when they start feeling comfortable sharing their opinions, elaborating and expanding their thoughts is another struggle. Giving examples during an interview can be useful at times, but it may limit their responses. It is important to remain patient and not rush them.

2. Language Barriers

Language plays a crucial role in communication. Many Sahabat Jiva speak their regional language and find formal Indonesian difficult. Not only can it make it even harder for the participant to express themselves, it can also hinder trust establishment between the researcher and the participant. This language barrier highlights differences between the researcher and the participant, making them more hesitant to open up.

3. Endurance in Remote Interviews is an Issue

While in-person interviews can last much longer than planned (usually an hour, but they can extend to 2–3 hours), remote interviews make our rural users tired quickly. Living in rural locations, Sahabat Jiva are less used to digital technologies which may cause fatigue during remote interviews. They may struggle to express discomfort, which requires the interviewer to pay attention more closely to their gestures (eye-contact, movements, how they respond to questions, and so on). It is important to keep conversations simple and straightforward to help them stay engaged and comfortable.

4. Formal Setting Might Be Seen as Intimidating

Normally before starting an interview, participants should be informed of the interview’s rules and restrictions. This includes explaining the objectives, technical details, and the interview topics. Formal settings, on the other hand, can highlight the boundaries between the interviewer and the participants.

Many rural participants are self-conscious of their limited knowledge of specific issues. In communal societies where individual boundaries are vague, setting formal boundaries can sometimes make participants feel closed off, treating the interviewer as superior. This dynamic can make them feel inferior and hesitant to speak up.

To mitigate the challenges above, I found that an informal approach is more suitable for our users, Sahabat Jiva. Starting off with light questions about their daily life combined with an inductive probing could position the participant in the right spot (not as the centre of attention, nor someone inferior) and will slowly direct to a more in-depth and clarity to their perspectives.

It is also crucial to avoid questions that might sound interrogative or accusatory. A “why” question is usually the case. For instance, instead of asking “Why do you prefer purchasing from farmers outside your area?”, it is neutral to ask “What are the major reasons you prefer purchasing from farmers outside your area? What do you like about it?” It can relieve pressure and increase empathy and trust that facilitate the discussion of feelings and emotions.

Our Research Coordinators (RCs) are our on-ground research team; they are great resources for facilitating communication between users and researchers. The RC speaks the same regional language and is from the same area or culture as the user. They help in convincing Sahabat Jiva that the researcher is not someone superior but rather someone who is really interested in getting to know more about them.

So What?

Interacting with our Sahabat Jiva has taught me more than just interviewing techniques; it has offered a thorough understanding of how to connect on a human level. It also taught me the value of immersing oneself in their stories and validating their perspectives. It is about keeping the conversation as casual and easy as possible, moving away from rigid formalities to build genuine trust.

When facing these challenges, keep in mind that an interview is simply a conversation between two people. Trust our human instincts and allow the conversation to unfold naturally. Forget the formalities and backgrounds; simply interact as two people getting to know each other, gaining trust as the conversation progresses.

There are no general tips or tricks to navigate these challenges seamlessly. Interviewing is more than just gathering data; it is about engaging with another person, listening to and understanding their life stories, and appreciating their uniqueness. In other words, seeing them as more than just research subjects.

This journey with our Sahabat Jiva has emphasised the value of compassion as the foundation of meaningful research, and the ongoing learning that comes with each interview.

More readings:

Fathia is a part of Jiva’s Design Research team. Her research topics often address sensitive issues such as money, user’s personal finance, or business strategy. This made her particularly empathetic and always finding different approaches to make her participants comfortable with sharing such supposedly private matters.

Want to read more #BehindJiva content? Follow Jiva on Medium, LinkedIn, and visit our website jiva.ag!

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