HCDE 210 User Research Deliverable


I decided to conduct my user research observation on the train of Seattle’s city link. I chose this location because there are usually plenty of empty seats on the link to let me “blend in” so that the influence of my presence on passengers can be minimized. Plus, seats on the link provide me a comfortable work station so that I can observe more efficiently. For jotting methods, I mainly employed quick writing that is not necessarily sentence and rough sketch because these two combined approaches enable me to effectively record my observation. Writing, of course, is the most common way to record observation. And sketching can help visualize the situation hard to describe and help the later organization of the jottings. Often as a passenger myself, I decided to use this user research as an opportunity to identify common practices, discover current problems, and help improve the transporting condition so that both other passengers and myself can have a better commuting experience.

Three Practices

1. Passengers interact with mobile devices

On the link train, a large number of passengers are interacting with their mobile devices. These passengers are mainly younger generations. The devices I witnessed include smartphones, mobile e-readers (Kindle, for example), mobile tablets, and laptop. Most of these passengers usually interact with their devices in the position of holding their devices on their laps and lowering their heads. But some passengers, however, will keep their devices in their pockets or bags with earphones plugged in and listen to the content being played. Besides from listening, other interacting activities I noticed include reading, typing, game playing, and talking over phones. The surrounding of the link is related to this practice in that certain parts of the link tunnel provide public wifi services(from International District to Capitol Hill, for instance). And in these parts, there is an obvious increase of portions of passengers who are interacting with their devices, indicating many activities passengers did with their mobile devices are internet-based.

2. Passengers communicate with each other

In the process of my field jotting, I noticed it is often for passengers to talk with each others on the link train. The age of communicating passengers is relatively evenly distributed. Multiple conversations are observed among younger generations, middle-ages, and seniors. But the communicating action happens more often in passengers that have accompany. The talking partners of these passengers are mainly other passengers sitting next to them. Most communicating passengers seem to be familiar with each other based on their actions, including constant eye contact, direct physical touch, and getting off the link at same destination, all of which show signs of familiarity. The content of these conversations varies and no obvious pattern can be identified. Several themes I overheard include political argument, weather, personal relationship, academic discussion, and food. In the conversations, passengers not only communicate through verbal language but also used sign language such as hand-waving, shrugging, and facial expressions. The surrounding of the conversations(the train) have an impact on them in terms of conversation duration. The duration of these conversations is about the same as the transporting time(the period passengers were on the link) because passengers usually start the conversation when getting on and stop when getting off.

3. Passengers approach exit before their destination stop.

When the link is approaching to a certain stop, passengers who need to get off at this link station will often stand up in advance and walk toward the exit door and wait nearby. The age distribution is about even among these passengers. But those with luggage or multiple bags will usually stand up more often and earlier than others. Passengers who do this practice will often gather their belongings if any, stand up, sometimes organize their appearance, and leave to areas nearby the exit door. While waiting near the door, these passengers often show signs of impatience like watching for time, looking back at their seat, and looking at the LED screen displaying the name of the next stop. The practice itself is fundamentally related to its surrounding — the train’s movement. Passenger will only approach to exit when they think the train is about to stop at their destination. Therefore, the movement of train decides whether this practice will happen or not.

Interesting Practices

The most interesting practice I observed is the third one: passengers often stand up ahead of time before their destination stop and wander around at exit for a long time, which, according to their reaction, will make them impatient. It is interesting because this practice raised the design challenge of how to help passengers to avoid this unnecessary stand-up waiting action and therefore improve the transporting experience. A possible direction for further exploration is the time. One plausible explanation of why passenger get up too early is that they cannot accurately estimate how long will there be till the train stops. Therefore, future design of the train can look into it and help passengers to solve the problem of inaccurate time estimation.


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