Just read A Plethorah of Participant Personalities by fello UX researcher Adina Klein, and got a good chuckle out of some of her descriptions. Within a research session, many times you feel like you’re playing an active game of volleyball – you are having to jump, duck, swerve, and reach to get the ball.
Adina’s description of The Venter is especially appropriate, as in any given round of research I get at least one of each of these (that said, after most projects I amass and share this feedback, even where not related to the subject at hand, because I feel the more insights you can elicit from customers the better off, and more informed, a business will be.)
I differ in valuing the tech-savvy vs. blank slate participant. Yes, there is such thing as recruiting people that are not familiar enough with using a computer or mobile device. That said, since designs should be intuitive, and provide constant feedback, in many instances I’d rather work with those that have less experience with a given device. Reason being that those with too much background will be evaluating and comparing to what they’ve learned from the sites or apps they’ve used before. With participants that are less exposed, we can better balance what the human brain sees and wants to do, rather than rely on what the human brain thinks is right. With these Blank Slates, we often spend an extra 5-10 minutes on extra tasks meant to get the participant oriented around the inherent nature of the device before delving into design elements we need testing – but this is often a price worth paying to ensure the nature of feedback we get will help to design a winning, intuitive, easy-to-use interface for tech savvy, time-crunched professionals as well as those with little or no exposure.