HCDE 210 User Research Process Blog

My Challenge

Seattle’s city link

This week, I tried to conduct an user research mainly through the “Look” methodology in “Learn, Look, Ask, Try”. I chose to conduct my research on the train of Seattle’s city link because it can provide me an ideal environment to observe people’s practices when commuting, which is the theme of my research. I used “jotting” to record my observation, a note-taking approach combined with writing and sketching. Jotting allowed me to quickly record what I observed. I employed the “p3” method to guide my jotting: Practices done by People at Places. For example, I noticed that passengers, especially younger generations(People), often interact with their mobile devices(Practice) on the train(Place).

Passengers interact with their mobile devices

With my jotting notes, I organized a memo that includes my observing method, concludes 3 common practices, and points out a most interesting practice.

The link to my memo is here: https://medium.com/@cuiyuxi/hcde-210-user-research-deliverable-950bd993c8f2#.xna22rs1c

Critical Reflection

In the observation process, I gained some direct experience of reflexivity. Reflexivity is defined as “an attitude of attending systematically to the context of knowledge construction, especially to the effect of there searcher, at every step of the research process.” according to www.qualres.org/HomeRefl-3703.html

In the preparation process, I thought my decision to address the influence of my presence on users was enough: I chose the link train, a commuting tool that usually has enough empty seats which can help me to act as a normal passenger and reduce my influence. However, my presence still affected my user research. For example, I saw a passenger put his legs on the empty seats opposite to his direction. Considering this as an interesting practice, I decided to take some note. I thus stared at him, wrote down on my sketch book, and repeated these procedures. This action apparently has an impact on the passenger because he immediately put down his legs after noticing my action, which makes the observation not natural and accurate anymore. In retrospect, I should have been more cautious about my actions. For example, I could bring a company and “chat” with him as a way to disguise my true purpose so that passengers would not be easily alarmed. I thus gained a better understanding that how reflexivity is not only about accepting and acknowledging researcher’s influence but also about actively anticipating and addressing this influence through different methods.

Future Application

User research can help designers to identify user’s daily practices, discover existing problems, and therefore can improve upon these observations. It is a very crucial and useful tool in terms of improving existing designs. For example, a designer is invited to analyze the reason a coffee shop has less and less customers. It is hard to directly conduct surveys to customers considering the difficulty of reaching out to customer group who no longer go to the coffee shop. Plus, sometimes survey cannot represent people’s true opinions because, as often pointed out in user research area, people tend to say what they think you want them to say. At this situation, a responsible user research will help identify practices in the coffee shop that drove customers away because it can often discover what might be obvious but do exist in the coffee shop’s daily practices. In short, whenever there is need to improve something, user research can always help.

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