HCDE 210 User Research Process Blog
User Research/Observation Thought Process:
This past week involved learning and applying the concept of user research and observation. To me, user research was only about finding out how people interact with things. Although that is true, throughout this past week, I also learned that it is what we learn from the practices that are being done between people and things in order for us as engineers and designers to enhance the experience of the interaction. One big thing I learned about the observation project was that you don’t have to be a good note-taker to be a good observer or to do well at observation. When I first tried to jot down notes during the observation exercises in studio, it was very difficult, because I didn’t know what to focus on when taking notes and/or what to exactly write. Over time, however I realized that taking notes whilst observing is exactly that. You take notes on what you are literally observing. There is no need to interpret what you see while observing. When the task was given to observe anything under the broad topic of commuting, I decided to observe people at the bus stop. The process was quite simple to be honest when beginning the assignment. I chose a specific bus stop to focus my observation, sat there for roughly 30 minutes while trying to blend in as best as I could, and wrote what came to my mind while I observed the people- who were on average college students aged from 18 to 22, with some being older gentlemen/women. The decision to focus on observing people at the bus stop came because many students that attend the UW are commuters, especially by bus, so it is an easy topic to relate to. Furthermore, I felt as if there were specific patterns that could be picked up on while observing, and to try and see if any design changes can fix or enhance said patterns could be enticing and interesting.
Looking back the observation project and how I went about it, one thing I wish I did differently would be to try different ways to jot down my thoughts. The most common way to take notes while observing is to just write down what is seen, and while that is not a bad strategy and it is an efficient way to jot down thoughts and what is seen, it is possible that there could be others to jot down what is being observed. Although I did draw some sketches to some of the notes I took, maybe drawing more quick sketches no matter how bad they are, it can help to better cement what was observed. An example was when I was at the bus stop observing the practices by the people, I saw a bus come and a swarm of commuting students clumped together close to the edge of the sidewalk to all want to get on the bus, I realized that it was difficult to describe what I saw with only mere words. Hence, it would have been a lot more helpful by drawing a rough sketch of what I saw. And even though I did apply that during my time observing, I feel if I did that more, it would benefitted not only my time observing at the bus stop, but for others that may look at my work.
Future Observation/User Research Application:
I definitely see myself using the practice of observation and jotting to not just human centered design (HCD), but to anything else that I may go into in the future. With so many things I want to do, such as modeling, and photography, and even wanting to start my own clothing line, it seems that observation and note-taking is crucial to learn more about what you are assigned to be doing. I also learned that a large chunk of time to observe does not mean that more will be learned. It can be better to take a short amount of time and efficiently jot down what is being observed, as long as a focused and targeted mind is in place. Without learning the potential of short and quick observation, it could have been very possible for me to have wasted a lot of time observing anything I might want to pursue, whether it be observing how professionals take the perfect photo, or how models achieve such aesthetically appealing poses with such ease.