User Research Process Blog

What did I do?

For this project, I observed people during their commute for about 40 minutes and took notes on what people were doing. My site of observation I chose Red Square because it is a major crossing point for most people leaving or going to campus and a large number of people go through it. The reason for this project is to practice user research, which is crucial to the user-centered design. After deciding on Red Square, I went out and sat down on a seat near the middle of the square facing towards Kane Hall. After watching people in that spot for 10 minutes, I moved across the square and faced the other way, thinking perhaps I would see more practices and people from a different perspective. For the three practices I chose to describe, I chose the ones people are doing the most, an improvement to them could benefit the most amount of people. My observations led to the three practices I wrote a memo about by describing who did the practice, what the practice was, how the practice was done, and how it related to the surroundings. For the interesting practice I believe is worth further investigation, I chose the practice that seemed like it could have the most details that still needed to be learned about it. From this project, I learned that by taking time to look around at people in your surroundings, you can observe many new behaviors you wouldn’t have noticed before.

Reflection

With this project, I had trouble with how to decide if something was worth writing down, because it is difficult to judge how important a behavior is before you realize you need to know of it when designing something. This also raised the issue of reflexivity. I needed to understand that I am biased and therefore my observations will be, so I also had to think about what behaviors someone else may not notice that I think of as normal or routine. How do researchers decide that someone else might not know a fact and therefore need to include it in their notes? How do they judge whether or not a detail is worth taking note of? I wonder if there is a standard judgment test or if there are discrepancies between different researchers. I hope there are some readings I can look into to answer some of my questions.

Application

I could see user research being applied to almost any product, service, or project. Almost everything we create has a purpose, and behind that purpsoe is a user. With more information about the user, we can better design that product to improve its functionality. The only thing I can think of that may not benefit from user research is art because the purpose of art varies from person to person, and the artist doesn’t necessarily create it with its audience in mind. After this project, I hope to learn more about what other ways there are to conduct user research because I enjoyed conducting mine.

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