HCDE 210: Sprint 06— User Research
2/14 The process of observing and reflecting
By Qianlin Luo
Learning new practices from Bus Stop User Research
This week, I have gone through a complete User Research process from observing different practices to reflecting. For this User Research of commuting, I chose my location for observations to be over a bus stop in front of University Kitchen Restaurant on University Ave. I chose bus instead of link-in since this is the most prevalent and reachable transportation for me as a UW Student. Moreover, I am also very interested and willing to explore the potential challenges in practices within bus commuting. This crowded bus stop enables me to observe how different people interact with this place fully and their various practices.
In this 30 minutes, I tried to capture every practice and put it in my jottings along with words and explanatory drawings in my yellow studio sketch book. First, I put down the date, time and location of my observation. Then, I tried to write down the sensory impressions of what I have found and my personal reactions to these practices. If I found a potential problematic practice, I would highlight its notes with a star. I also tried to capture everything I had observed and record the practices in the order of time. I would mark the current time on the very left side, the words in the middle and drawings on the right side. In this way, I have a clear understanding of what happened first and how the messy notes are related to the sketches.
In this whole process, I followed the P-cubed heuristic idea. In other word, I carefully paid attention to how people interact with the bus stop and their different practices. In this research, I had found three important and surprising practices over the bus stop. First, everyone was constantly checking and attempting to find out when the bus would come exactly and few even had trouble doing so. Second, I realized that people rarely sat over the seat against the direction where the bus will be coming. Third, I found that while waiting many people did stuff that did not need much attention such as chatting and listening to music. Here is a link of the memo I have written based on this project:
Reflection & my Reflexivity
This week, I learned the concept of Reflexivity from Professor Davison’s lecture. As he mentioned in class, reflexivity is the “attitude of attending” especially from influence of us as researchers.
After the lecture, in my own research, although I tried to minimize the effect from presence of myself in the bus stop, there was still some part that I failed to consider. In the first 10 minutes, I tried to stand far away from the bus stop and quietly observed people’s behaviors. In this way, I would not take the seat from people and influence this tiny environment. However, after 10 minutes of standing, my hands were too sore to hold the notebook in the air or allow me to take more notes. I had to sit down over the seat on the left side and rested for 10 minutes.
Because I did occupy the seat on the left during one third of my research, I felt that the accuracy of the practice “people rarely sat over the seat on the left against the direction where the bus will be coming” has been affected.
Due to my presence, there was a period of time where people did not have the chance to choose between both seats. In future, I will try to be even more aware of the possible effect from me in a User Research. Moreover, I will be more cautious on the possible subjective judgement I am making from observations. I believe through more and more experiences from User Researches I will be alert and make more accurate judgements based on how people interact with places.
In UX design, User Research is an effective way to identify the challenges the users encounter in real practice. After discovering the problematic practices, us as UX designers could create a useful design that directly responds to people’s actual problems. Therefore, this approach can be applied to improve the current design of a product in a specific context.
For instance, I need to design a better version of the automatic check-out machine in Safeway. Before designing, I have to know what problems people have when they interact with the check-out machine. However, interviews and surveys will not work so well since most users are not completely aware of all the problems they have encountered. The most helpful way is to conduct a user research and observe their actual practices over a Safeway store. In this way, I could design a better solution of the check-out machine that addresses the problems that my users have had.
Nonetheless, this technique is not very applicable for those products that users do not directly interact with. For instance, when people are designing a car engine or structure of a bridge, in this context, user research is not quite useful.