User research process blog

This sprint challenges us with observational research. In the studio, we first tried to observe people in certain area. As an exercise, we summarized common observations into practice and named the practice in ten possible and specific categories.

Group practice in class

My user research

I experienced the process of proper user research. I was writing down jottings while observing people’s actions. With interesting findings, I concluded a memo for practices.

Here is the link to my memo:

For the goal of studying commuting, I chose the link light rail as the place of observation. The higher seats on the link are ideal position for me to look into all the passengers in the car. In the forty minutes trips, I wrote five pages of jottings describing what I saw with P-cubed principle — people, practice, and place. For the interesting or unexpected observations, I highlighted them with the sign “OC” in order to summarize them in memo more easily. For instance, I marked with “OC” before the words “silence breaking” which followed by the sentences talking about three girl played video with phone speaker.

An example of my jottings

In my memo, I specified three practice of people: the different way of killing time, the choice of sitting or standing position, and the inconvenience with large personal belongings. I found the last one most interesting and related it to design questions. I also encoutered this problem before when I carried a huge suitcase to the airport, so I was willing to reflect on it. The spatial planning was required to help people solve the problem about how to deal with big carrying things in public transportation, especially how to store them and how to make sure their security.

The problem

The problem is my confusion in jottings about observation and interpretation. I believed that I understood the definition of both words. Nevertheless, when I actually sat down and started my jottings, the time was not enough for me to think over that it was an observation or an interpretation. I just wrote down things as soon as they entered my brain. For example, I saw that a man swiped his phone screen slowly. I considered that he was reading something. Therefore, I added my interpretation within a closing bracket. After the trip, I read my jotting again and found this information unnecessary. As a result, if I need to do a user research next time, I would omit this kind of information with a better comprehension between observation and interpretation.

In the future

The user research can help researchers to find the disadvantages of design in certain site. The practice, as routine in people’s life, is convincing evidence that contributes to the further improvement of the designs. The user research should be the number one thing to do before ideation. The problems found in user research can expand designers’ imagination in solutions. While the usability test reflects user’s requirements directly from them, the user research is a great and effective way for designers to realize the user’s potential demands before the idea and product come out. It is suitable to conduct in some places that people visit frequently. The large population will help summarize the routine of people and find the problem. For example, researchers could do the user research in Starbucks and see how people move when they line up in order to improve the service of Starbucks.

The project that is not appropriate might be some high-tech military products like unmanned plane. People will not contact with these products normally and the user research in daily situation may not conclude with some practices for them. What’s more, they have very high confidentiality. Designers could not find large population of people to record the jottings.

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