User Research

For this sprint, we experienced the process of user research through observation and identifying practices. During this process, we observed people in one of two given public locations and identified practices done by users.

studio activity

I chose to observe the food market because I often go to Safeway and QFC for grocery shopping. The method I used was P-cubed heuristic that stood for people, practice and place. I chose the QFC located in university village to conduct my observation. I first stood near the entrance of QFC for three minutes and then walked through each aisle. After that, I found out that three practices users normally did were looking for a specific item, communicating with salesperson and using self-checkout. So, I focused on one user for each practice and recorded my observations.

self-checkout in QFC


One problem I had during my observation activity was that people felt uncomfortable when I stared at him or her. I tried to focus on one user to conduct my observation and so I kept looking at the user and took notes of his or her actions on the notebook. This made some people uncomfortable. Next time, I would be more casual when doing my observation. I would use mobile phone to record data instead of taking notes on notebook. Also, I would observe one individual person for no more than three or four minutes to ensure I wasn’t being ‘creepy’.

Wildcard: What were some interesting facts from your observation?

One thing that I found it interesting was that using self-checkout sometimes took longer time than using cashier even though the customer only had a few products to purchase. This was due to some difficulties involved in the self-checkout transaction. Some self-checkout machines were not sensitive and the user had to call manager for assistance. Some products did not have bar code and user had to look it up on the machine. Designers could work on these problems to make the self-checkout transaction smoother.


An example of how I could have influenced my own research is by observing more people as I could. Since I chose to focus on one user for each practice, I could’ve missed things that other users did. A time it might be important to address this reflexive issue is when you are trying to provide data for designers to design or redesign. For example, I followed a young man to record the communicating with salesperson practice. I could’ve followed more customers to see how they interact with salesperson. In the future, it might be a good idea to switch spots within the environment to observe various people so I can observe all users from different perspectives.

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