Week Five: User Research

This week we discussed the importance of user research and how we should approach this part of the design process. During the studio session, we conducted a mini user research experiment. We formed groups and chose a place on campus to jot down our observations of people that were there. After five minutes, we headed back to the studio and compared notes while trying to find common practices amongst our observations. For our assignment, we had to observe and jot down notes on people commuting and using public transportation.

This picture shows my group coming up with practices that we each found in our field notes.
After each group came up with their own practices, we all posted them onto the board to share and group into larger and more broad practices.

Observation Process

I chose to observe people at Café Solstice on University Way. The outside seating patio at this café is right next to a bus stop so it was easy for me to conduct my field research while being discrete. I was able to observe people who were waiting for their bus as well as those who were getting off at this stop. I conducted my research on a sunny Sunday afternoon because I figured since the weather was nice there would be more people out doing things on the Ave and/or traveling.

This is a picture of the bus stop from where I was sitting at Café Solstice.


While conducting my observations, I noticed how many different types of travelers there were. Some people were on their own while others were in fairly large groups of five or six people. I also noticed how the practices intertwined with the riders. A prominent example of this is cell phone and headphone usage. Almost every single person I observed had their headphones/earbuds in their ears or were using their phone in some sort of way. Upon observing this, I also noticed that this was more common in single riders, opposed to those riding with another person or group of people.

Application in the Future

I could see myself applying this user research technique when I am faced with a design problem that I do not necessarily know how to approach. By observing the users of the product I am working on, I can get a better feel of what needs to be incorporated in the design. For example, if I were asked to create a new design or improve an already existing design for street parking meters, I would observe people using them and jot down quick notes/difficulties they faced. Later on, I could use these observations as guides while coming up with a new design. This observation process would not be appropriate for a project involving user feedback. For example, if I were asked to find the difficulty level of parking meters, observing people using them would not be a good idea because I would be making assumptions about their abilities based on things such as their body language or facial expressions. These factors could be affected by other unknown variables and could potentially skew my data.

This PowerPoint presentation highlights some of the common practices I observed in the commuters as well as pictures of my field notes.

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