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Generative research on behalf of IRCC

Welcoming Newcomers

Business Problem

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) increasingly relies on the internet as a service channel offering self-service options designed to help overcome the information overload that can be confusing to clients, resulting in a higher level of telephone inquiries and application errors.


As part of its effort to improve the quality and accessibility of information provided to newcomers, IRCC sought to publish a ‘Come to Canada’ tool, an interactive tool designed to match individuals with the immigration option best suited to their specific circumstances. 

Cheering Crowd


In order to understand the potential for the ‘Come to Canada’ tool, IRCC identified the need to test the content, layout and language level of a mock-up of the ‘Come to Canada’ tool. Qualitative research was intended to further refine the ‘Come to Canada’ tool with a view to maximizing its effectiveness, relevance and ensuring the content on the tool can be easily accessed by its intended target audience. 


In response to this need, I conducted a series of dyads (groups of two participants) designed to test the content, layout and language levels of the ‘Come to Canada’ tool mock-up. Newcomers to Canada who had been living in country for three years or less were recruited using a screener designed to include a mix of nationalities as well as diverse participation by gender, age, education and income. Dyads were conducted as opposed to one-on-one interviews in order to encourage participants to share experiences and ideas in a way that would not happen with single participants, but still allowing an evaluation of the usability of the mock-up site. 


Initial reactions to the ‘Come to Canada’ tool were very positive. The opening page was seen as both inviting and visually appealing. Participants assumed the tool would be user-friendly, simple and straightforward. However, the information was a source of confusion for some participants who incorrectly surmised that the ‘Come to Canada’ tool was part of the formal immigration application process rather than an informational tool.


Participants reacted favourably to the initial questionnaire page noting that the question-and-answer approach presented was both logical and intuitive. Visually speaking the questionnaire layout was well liked. Specifically, the use of drop-down boxes/menus was well received and facilitated the user experience. Finally, the type and nature of the questions presented was seen as appropriate.


There were a variety of issues with the nomenclature used in the site. For example, while most understood the differentiation between the TIP and HELP buttons, those less familiar with the web as well as those with limited vocabulary were at times confused as to the difference between a ‘tip’ and getting ‘help.’


Most participants understood that this section presented a summary of programs for which they may be eligible based on their answers to the questionnaire. When specifically prompted, a strong minority wondered aloud about just how customized the information was to them as individuals. From this perspective, a tool that claims to offer individualized information instead provides generic information only relevant to their unique circumstances in a very general way. 


As a result of the research, IRCC published a version of the ‘Come to Canada’ tool responsive to the informational needs of prospective immigrants, helping to advance Canada’s economic and social interest in fostering a smoothly functioning immigration system. 

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