HCDE User Research Process Blog

Melody Xu


Overview of User Research using Observation: What I did

This week, we learned about user research and performed this process through observation. For this project, I choose to observe people inside the Link light rail and see their behaviors and interactions with other people and the environment. I did field jottings by writing down what I observed concerning people, places and practices for user research. For example, I observed that many people had earphones on while waiting, which I included in my field jottings. I also practiced the concept of reflexivity by not getting personally involved in the research process or have biases in the notes I put down. The notes can not be biased because they are data to help researchers understand human activity and see possibilities in improving future designs for commuting.

Figure 1: This is what the inside of the link looks like

Figure 2: The man stood in the bike storage area even when empty seats were present, which I thought was an interesting practice.

SO WHAT: What I liked about this project

This project enabled me to look and observe commuting from a fresh perspective. I was surprised to find many interesting practices that people do that I never realized before. I liked having the opportunity to learn about and practice reflexivity by recording only what I observed and not prescribing or interpreting things. Reflexivity is an important skill to have in the future, such as when doing research, to ensure the credibility of the data collected.

NOW WHAT: Real World Applications

In my opinion, user research is a practice required in all projects that concern human centered design. I could see this process being applied to all projects that improve the user experience. However, for this project, I did not cover all methodologies associated with user research (which are learn, look, ask, and try according to ideo.com). The specific technique I practiced is observing/looking in this case from this project. The observation technique could be very helpful in projects that require qualitative data on human behaviors. On the other hand, the observation technique may not be helpful for a project that investigates people’s thinking and thought process, since just by observing people, we cannot gain that information. This is where the researcher may need to practice the method of asking and interviewing the users to get a better perspective on the issue. In the future, I hope to investigate all four methodologies of user research in a longer period of time to better understand user behaviors, needs, and motivations. This would help me to have a broader understanding on user research and its impact on society.