Three things ethnography taught me about design

#1. Define the w’s sincerely

When I started out with my research, somewhere I was already inclined towards designing an ICT solution leveraging mobile phones. Because, why not? We all use mobile phones in our daily lives right? I was so happily married to this idea that for a long time, I kept ignoring the fact that almost all of the TB patients from the rural areas rarely knew how to use mobile phones if at all they had one. Mobile phones were solely used in case of emergencies. Clearly, I was living in a false world and I had not made a sincere effort to understand my user.

#2. United we stand, divided we fall

Although I started out alone, to do the research successfully, I had to take help from people from different walks of life. As I progressed with my research, I formed my “A-team” of multi-disciplinary stakeholders, comprising of doctors, lab assistants, ASHA members, village heads and family members of patients who helped me understand the problem space from various (important) perspectives (which I would have certainly overlooked). Living the same story through different eyes was a game changer.

#3. Document, document and document!

During my first few days into ethnography, I rarely took notes. I always felt that I would somehow, magically remember each and every idea that came across my mind. As the days passed, the amount of information started to increase exponentially and I started to forget and miss most of the insights I had during the day. To avoid this, I started taking quick notes (sketches/discrete sentences) regularly and never lost out on any observation again. I made a practice of taking 5–10 mins off every hour to pause and note down my observations.

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UX Manager, Digital Imaging @Adobe , Leading design for Photshop Express & Photoshop Elements Suite| Co-leading ixda delhi-ncr | www.himanshuseth.com

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Himanshu Seth

Himanshu Seth

UX Manager, Digital Imaging @Adobe , Leading design for Photshop Express & Photoshop Elements Suite| Co-leading ixda delhi-ncr | www.himanshuseth.com