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Thursday, November 6, 2003

Design Research
Ethnography is the study of people as they go about their everyday work for the purpose of connecting deeply with the content and issues that matter to that community. Then you document in a regular, systematic way what is learned and observed so that you accumulate a record of activity. In this way, you gain a deep knowledge and insights into user processes.

there are a range of research methods, but what's important is to use multiple methods to help overcome your preconceptions. You triangulate your findings to get multiple views of what is being observed.

Targets of Observation:

  • activities
  • events (activity sequences that can be bounded in time and space)
  • settings (locations where behaviors and activities relevant to a study take place)
  • behavior
  • conversations
  • and interactions.

Working in groups or pairs is important; if you miss something while, say, writing a note, your partner can catch it. It's also extremely important to decide how you are going to record data before you go in.

If you can't directly observe something, use directed storytelling. Ask the subject to recall specific instances for you ("Tell me about the last time you bought shoes.") If you have props for the subject to use, that's good too.

There are a number of ways to capture your data. Video and audio recording are not recommended. Structured note taking during the conversation works best. If you can't take notes during the research, do it immediately afterwards. Always diagram the environment. Annotated drawings are good.

Features of good field notes:

  • exact quotes with selected words
  • pseudonyms for confidentiality
  • describe activities in sequence
  • no personal judgements
  • capture history or extended context where relevant
  • separate out your inferences, reflections, hunches, and emotional reactions
  • and name of observer, date, time, and place.

It's also good practice to treat your test subjects ethically. Meaning

  • get their informed consent
  • explain the risks and benefits of the study
  • respect their privacy
  • provide remuneration for their time
  • and provide data and research results to them.

Treating your subjects well helps immensely when it comes time for them to adopt the processes or product you've designed.

posted at 10:29 AM in big ideas, design 101 | comments (0) | trackback (1)


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