User Research: Public Transportation

This the focus on understanding user needs, behaviors, motivations. Essentially, user research shows how we, as users, use things and in the following case, use public transport at Westlake Station in Seattle, WA.

Westlake Station

Field Notes

In order to accurately remember and therefore record data which you will then use to make decision on design with you will need to record your observations. In order to do this I begin by the following.

  • Select practices (3–5) surrounding your topic of study to create a domain of practices to look out for. I chose to study how user interact with the routes. As such I chose to study phone, people-people, and route sign/map interactions.
  • Under that domain watch and listen for anything related to those practice categories and note them.
  • Finally if possible taking a picture of the area I was in helps to get a reference for the future.


Team problem solving can help relieve frustrations

As with most research problems will arise. In my case the main problem was deciding whether or not to include information about when people tried to interact with me for directions. Though I would normally qualify as a “people-people” interaction including myself as a subject of the study was worrisome. I decided to leave myself out which was unfortunate because though I had headphones in and was quite distant from what was happening near the actual bus/train stops my attentiveness to my surroundings seemed to give rise to tourist inquiry.


Another common issue I found was what to do with outliers. They are the people that instead of making any interaction with the station instead came down there to sell tacos. While they interacted with the space it wasn’t in my field of study and drew abnormal attention from from the station. As it wasn’t a common occurence at the station I assumed I kept it out of my final statements, but whether or not that was the appropriate thing to do seems to entirely depend on the context.


Previously I had not understood the need for distance in regards to observation. However, now upon seeing how my presense can interfere with the potentially normal interactions within a studied space I see now how important it can be to have that room for distance. Next time I will have to be sure to create some sort of way to remove myself from relating to the others around me such that they feel the immediate need to interact with me.

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