User Research — Observation and Design

Observations — what was done?

Some observations made of what practices were done by individuals.

For my user research project, I chose to observe individuals and their practices in The 8, a dining hall in a large North Campus dorm, McMahon Hall. The reason I selected The 8 was because personally, I have done a wide range of practices while dining there such as studying, watching TV, and socializing with friends. I thought it would be interesting to see what variety of practices people did in The 8, since so many students spend their time in The 8 at all hours of the day. My field notes consisted of sketches of the layout of The 8 as well as observations including individual’s behavior, what they were doing, and what food they ate. My observations revealed that there were in fact important differences between the behavior of different individuals, and I saw that the dining hall’s design could be optimized so that people who went to do different practices would be satisfied.

Observing individuals — enjoyable aspects :

Individuals sitting by the TV area in The 8, some in groups, and others studying.

I found this project particularly enjoyable because it gave me an opportunity to observe the behavior of people who surrounded me everyday in a cafeteria that I often frequent. I thought it was interesting that once I wrote out notes and categorized behaviors and practices, I noticed a clear pattern and found that I had an idea for a new design just from observing other people. I thought that there were lots of improvements that could be made that I had never noticed before, and it intrigued me that just by observation, so much could be discovered.

What did I discover, and how can this experience be applied later on?

While I have always known that “people-watching” could tell you a lot about individuals in a certain area, I learned immensely from this project because it forced me to apply it to a new design idea. At first, I thought it would be very difficult to use my observations of people to come up with a new design challenge. However, as I recorded more and more information and looked back on my research, I realized that it became very clear to me what the flaws with the design of the dining hall I was looking at were. This project helped me gain the skills of being able to analyze results and form conclusions from them. Before, I would have just looked at my notes and observations and not known what to do with them, but after this project, I see that design and user research from observation is very interconnected, and if I were to ever create a new design based off user research, I can draw from what I learned after this experience.

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