A former client and friend called me this spring and invited me to collaborate on a super fun and dynamic project: experiential “hike-alongs” with Millennials. I’ve done “shop-alongs,” where we go to a store with a respondent and talk to them about their experience, decision making, and what they’re seeing and doing in the moment– but hike-alongs were something new. I do love being outside, though, and after a few weeks sitting in the office and not getting enough sunlight, I was excited to hit the field (or in this case, the trail).
The logistics were intense; a respondent was recruited and instructed to bring 3 friends “dressed to hike,” and meet our team at a trailhead. We ran into some hurdles that you might expect: no cell phone service at the trailhead; our client got lost and was 15 minutes late to the first session; a respondent’s dad, alarmed that his daughter was meeting a bunch of strangers in the woods, called to check on our intentions.
We must have been a sight to see setting off into the woods in a group of 11 (me and my collaborator, plus someone else from his team to help with note taking and photography; the videographer and all his gear; 4 respondents; and 3 representatives from the client team). After about 20 minutes hiking in, we parked it on some logs with our laptops and camera equipment and started talking.
I love doing this kind of exploratory, experiential work– seeing people in a “real life” situation (not just a focus group facility), watching them interact with their friends and do something they might do on a normal day– and coming out of the research (12 of these sessions!) with insights that can help the client design products based on how people interact with an environment and what they need.
Definitely one of my favorite projects to date!