Observing People in their Natural Habitat

By Zoe Nelson

Sprint #5 User Research

Getting Out into the Game

In class we learned about what user research was and the process for doing it. We saw examples of fields notes and how they were turned into legible notes. Then we got to come up with examples of user research. Next was the fun part. We were given the challenge of completing user research in 15 minutes, 5 to get to the location, 5 to do the research, and 5 to get back. My group quickly left the class room and went to Mary Gates. The five minutes given to do the research were up quickly and we were left with a page and a half of notes. From what simply seemed like people studying, we were able to see that there was much more then what initially met the eye. After we got back from our mini research project we went over notes briefly and then class was dismissed.

Mary Gate Hall where quick information was gathered. (Photo curtesy of http://depts.washington.edu/aspuw/clue/frequently-asked-questions/)

Take it into Our Own Hands

After class we were challenged with finding a spot on campus where many people where coming and going and preform a 3o minute user research experiment. The location I observed was the bus stop on the south side of NE Campus Parkway in front of Alder. Going into it, I was unsure how I was supposed to generate five pages of notes. Surprisingly it wasn’t the challenge I was expecting. I was ten minutes into the research with two and a half pages already filled. Some of the data I observed was the time busses arrived and the number of people at the stop as well as what the people coming and going had with them. After the 30 minutes were up, I had a lot of raw data that initially was challenging to group together. However after reading through everything I was able to come up with three main practices. The first being that almost everyone traveling had some sort of bag with them, the second was that even with the accessibility of individuals listening to music very few did, and finally that the buses going through and around campus were much more populated. This point raised many questions. Was it because of the final location? Was it because this particular stop was by the dorms and students have easier access to it?

Field notes form observing pedestrians at the bus stop.


This project was very interesting. I learned a lot about the busses which seem so simple. The came, people got off, people got on, and they left. That being said, this project was not my favorite on that I did. Even though I learned a lot, it was stuff that I am not the interested in. If I where to preform research on a different group of users in a different situation I think my views would change. On this particular subject I think it would be interesting to see how the numbers of students taking the bus through campus changes at different times of the day and how it changes with different wether. I would assume that more people would take the bus when it is cold or raining, but how bad does the weather need to be to get people to change their method of transportation.

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