User Research Process Blog

What I did

The print this week was geared toward user research and I had the option to observe either a bus stop or a food market. The task was to take field notes of what I saw, while keeping in mind the P-cubed heuristic to guide my notes. P-cubed stands for people, practice, and place — roughly, who is doing what where. I decided to observe a bus stop because I thought it would be able easier for me to keep my note taking a little more inconspicuous. If I had been in a food market taking notes, it might have been easier for people to realize I was trying to observe the tasks they were preforming and it might hinder my ability to get accurate notes. After taking my field notes I wrote a memo talking about three of the practices I observed and gave them appropriate names. I also included an appendix that included my original field notes. Here is a link to my memo, which was my final submission for this sprint.

A typical bus stop at UW
The first page of my field notes

Surprising Challenges

One thing that was much more challenging then I had anticipated was coming up the names for each practice. It is easy to describe each of these practices in a sentence or two, but the real challenge comes when you try to describe the whole thing in just a couple words. I was surprised that this was so challenging because names that I use for everyday practices are almost second nature for me now. However, trying to name new practices was difficult. This made me think about how practices, like multitasking, were named in the past. I ended up coming up with some names for the practices I observed that I was proud of. In the future when coming up with names for practices I would definitely test them by asking someone what they believe the name is referring to.

Why is User Research important?

User research is a very important practice in society today. Being able to assess a user with as much of an unbiased opinion as possible helps to get some very good data about how people do the things they do. This can lead to some great design ideas. For example, one practice I observed at the bus stop was a person looking up from their phone every time a bus drove by to see if it was the bus they wanted to board. I called this practice bus checking. After observing this I came up with the idea of having speakers by the bus stop to alert everyone which bus was approaching. For people with headphones in, or deaf people, there could be a screen on the ground by the bus stop benches that also gave an alert of which bus was coming. If I hadn’t observed the bus checking practice I would not have come up with the design ideas to aid the user in their practice.

Researcher Reflexivity

I decided to arrange my notes in a specific way which might have limited the type of data I was collecting during my field observations. I had three columns in my sketchbook. These were people, practice, and place. I wanted to make sure that I got data points for each of those columns and follow closely to the P-cubed heuristic. However, in doing this there is a great deal of data points that I possibly missed or didn’t write down because I wasn’t specifically looking for them. My prior experience at bus stops could have also influenced my research. When I was observing certain people I might have inferred things when I shouldn’t have. If they were preforming a practice that looked like a familiar one I had done I might have assumed they were doing the exact same thing I was but in reality they could be doing something completely different. To combat this bias, when taking notes I tried to only write down things I could directly observe and not infer on what the user was trying to do in each practice.

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