HCDE 210 Sprint 5: User Research
User Research is the process of understanding the basics of people’s motivation, needs and behaviors through techniques involving observation, task analysis and feedback methodologies.
On the 6th day in studio lab, I was introduced to the practice of User Research and its role within Human Center Design Engineering, including the process of conducting field research.
What did I do?
The purpose of User Research is to help us to understand practices done by people in places. If we are able to understand the motivation and reasons people perform certain behaviors in specific settings, then we can attempt to support that practice and improve the overall quality of life or experience. Before performing any type of research methods, we had to recognize an important concept.
•Reflexivity: Being aware that researchers themselves can have an effect on the process and outcomes of the research.
As an aspiring researcher, it is important to note we have our own set of personal backgrounds, experiences and bias. Sometimes, our emotions are triggered in response to certain events. This emotional response can cloud and distract us from providing accurate details on the spot and skew our observations. Therefore we want to be careful and try not to prescribe or interpret behaviors by our assumptions.
Observation study of Commuting Practices:
As I am now aware of my personal opinions, we were told to conduct an observation at a site of our choice that relates to ‘commuting’. I decided to conduct my observation by riding as a passenger inside a King County Metro bus and observe people who commutes. As a bus commuter myself, I had to be careful not to let my experiences interfere with my observations and prescribe any current-existing judgement. As I rode the bus in the back seat for about 30 minutes, I quickly field jotted down the raw notes and observation.
After I stoically jot and record for about 30 minutes, the results of my observations were interesting. In response to the bus environment, people practice different, common behaviors. After analyzing my notes and speculations I was able to proceed to conclude my observation research with meaningful design questions and thoughts.
Reflection on the User Research Process
I was surprised how fast time flies as I was jotting down my observations at the scene. It was quite difficult to keep up the immense exposure of detail at a relatively fast pace. Due to the overwhelming pace of change, I am afraid that I possibly did not capture enough meaningful or crucial details from the observation-site. Next time I am involved in field observation, having another researcher to accompany me would aid and capture observations much more effectively and beneficially. Not only we would be able to record twice the amount of observations, we would also be able to compare and recognize patterns or trends out of people’s behaviors and practices.
User Research for the Future
In any field of design or study, user research is crucial. It is very important to know exactly who we are designing for, for what purpose, and in what specific context. We must understand why people may react or behave in response to any stimulus. This helps us to pursue a design that can cater for that specific purpose. Projects that can definitely utilize this technique may include game design, industrial products, improving user interface, restaurant planning/layout and much more. Any future projects that results or involves user experience in general will greatly benefit from conducting a User Research.