HCDE 210 — User Research

Observation location: On the bus

What I Did

For this week, I did a user research individually through observing passengers on a bus which started from the Northgate area to the UW campus. The reason why I made up my mind to choose this commuting tool for my user research is that since the bus is one of the most typical and common forms of transpotation, there would be many users with different races, professions, and ages. In this way, my final outcome of this research could be more convincing as well as meaningful due to its diverse samples.

Some jottings I took during the observation

After getting on the bus and taking a seat, I took my notebook from my backpack and then started taking notes of activities performed by the people near me. With a few drawings, I captured three kinds of practices including phone-using, staring with thoughts, and rope-dragging in total. During the whole process, I found that there were lots of people using their phones, for checking the time or map, and for playing games or listening to the music. Besides, there's a guy who was staring outside the window, and it seemed he's thinking about something. In addition, almost seventy percent of passengers would drag the rope in order to request a stop.

Basically, the way I completed the user research is mainly by observation plus taking notes in case I forget. Because there are a lot of information I can obtain from my sight, gathering the information in a short time is quite important. Therefore, writing notes is the easiest way to check what I saw after getting off the bus.

Reflection from the process

When I was writing the memo for this research, I found a serious problem: The third practice, rope-dragging did not work out well for every user due to the fact that if there's another passenger sitting between the rope and the user, it will take him extra strength to reach that rope. Therefore, the user's experience is not as good as others with different sitting positions. As for me, there weren't too many difficulties finishing this user research except that it wasn't quite comfortable writing notes on a moving bus.

Another thing I want to explore in the future is that something above observation. The process of user research is about collecting useful data, but how to effectively use these data is the key for the next step in the design field. What are the underlying problems of the rope? What if we designers could improve products by using these feedbacks from the user research? How to comp up with a better version of the rope to provide a better rope-dragging experience? All these questions need designers' further considerations.

Future Application

The techniques I have used in the user research involve observation, note-taking, summarizing the information to several typical practices. There is no doubt that observation is quite essential in the whole process since that is the only source of my data. By purely seeing what's happening around you, we can get more than we think. What are those people doing, where do they perform these activities, and how did they do it. For example, when I was on the bus, I not only saw a woman using her cellphone but also thinking about the interactions between the environment and the practice she was involving. In this way, a wider scope of observation was done. And this is an important skill which could be used in the future user research projects.

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