Process Blog #5 — User Research

The Process

For this week, I went out into the field and observed people commuting to supplement my understanding of the principles of user research. I chose to observe people walking through Red Square, because it is a central location that gave me access to a large number of people to observe. I picked a good vantage point then observed people walking through Red Square for 30 minutes, attempting to discern patterns, or “practices”, that occurred frequently. In principle, these practices are the basis of future design opportunities, which was why it is important to recognize them. To discover them, I took copious amounts of notes on what I observed people doing while walking, then reviewed the notes afterwards and noted similarities across different individual observations.

Some of my notes from my user research session.

User Research — Reflection

One of the problems I encountered while observing my commuters was the weather — because it was raining, the practices I observed were much more narrow in scope than if I had done my observations on a sunny day. This could be a positive or a negative, depending on whether I was focusing on a general commute or commuting in specific weather conditions, so in the future I think I should define a specific direction for myself before conducting my user research. Also, because of the rain, I inadvertently looked for people slipping more than anything else, because I tend to slip while walking through Red Square when it is raining. While this is inherent to conducting user research in a familiar setting, in the future I think I can mitigate this problem by either acknowledging that that bias will be present beforehand or by making a conscious effort to observe every interaction with an equal amount of attention.

User Research — The Future

Given that I just agreed to help develop a game with a friend, game design jumps to my mind when considering appropriate situations to apply user research. For example, in the first stages of a game, when we’ve determined a genre and general direction, we can observe people playing similar games and examine what they do and don’t like about that game, thus informing the design process for our own game. Once we have the majority of the game done, we can go through the same process, but this time observe people playing our game to inform the tweaks we make before releasing the finished game. As such, I feel as though I stumbled into the concept of user research at just the right time, and now the game we’re building will likely turn out much better as a result.