User Research 2–12–16

Observing students in their day-to-day student life at the CSE Commons

Activities and Processes

This week, I went straight to the inspiration for ideas by completing my own user research. First, I investigated the concept of P3 with my peers. P3 is a guideline for observing users in the field by realizing that all users are “people doing practices in places”. By being aware of these facets, we analyze situations at a deeper level and can ideate better design challenges. I practiced this method of observation with two of my peers by going to the CSE commons and making some initial observations.

Presenting our findings and design challenge to peers as a team

We then analyzed our observations and presented our results along with a possible design challenge to the rest of our peers. I then traveled to the Seattle Central Library to make observations of the library patrons on my own from an area between the cafe, bookshelves, and work area. After observing for 30 minutes in the field, I compiled my observations and created a memo that elaborated on my personal experience with user research.

My area of observation at the Seattle Central Public Library

Reflection and Analysis

One surprising practice that I observed in the field was sleeping in the library. A substantial number of patrons slept in the chairs nearby the work tables and were not disrupted by other patrons or the library staff. This surprised me because every time I fell asleep doing work at the public library by my high school, the staff would consistently come to wake me up. I think that I projected my own experiences and these expectations caused me to be surprised. While my observations were not biased because of this, being free of these expectations in the future would allow for me to better view the world objectively.

Fascination and Enjoyment

Was this your first time completing user research? What aspects of this activities did you enjoy the most? How did your expectations for people watching compare to how it ended up being?

While I have observed people when I am waiting in public, this was my first time professionally people watching for user research. I found that when I focused on analyzing the practices of each individual to pinpoint possible ways to improve their lives, the setting became much more interesting. I thought the activity was enjoyable because it made a quiet place come alive simply by paying closer attention and realizing how interesting people can be. At first I thought that I would be bored by this activity because it wasn’t incredibly interactive and libraries don’t usually hold much social interaction, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it both relaxing and fascinating. There was not a moment where I felt that my time was being wasted.

Expectations and Influence

During my user research, there were many times where I felt that the users I was observing were completing “normal” tasks. After I took note of what users did and wrote it down, I went to observe the next person because I felt there wasn’t much more depth to their actions. By viewing their actions in this light, I could have skipped over important features. This would prove detrimental to my user research as it closes off possible design challenges because I didn’t feel the need to analyze their activities at a deeper level. Knowing that the most innovative designs could be the ones that people don’t know they ever needed, this was a major fault. Paying closer attention to the everyday activities people complete and improving on them in the future would allow for a whole plethora of ideas to be created.

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