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Ethnography Research

Observing users in their own environment

Most of the times people use products or services in ways they aren’t even aware of. Ethnography research focuses exactly on identifying and understanding how users interact with a product or a service in their normal work, home or leisure environment. It looks for challenges and barriers they encounter and how this affects different users.

Ethnography supports the designer’s deeper understanding of the design problem and therefore the design of a better solution. 

Carrying out this type of research makes more sense at the beginning of a project in order to support future design decisions and it can vary in terms of how the researcher interacts or not with the users:

Shadowing · Seeing what users see

These studies are based on passive observation, as if the researcher is “a fly on the wall”, and acts like a user or users’ shadow while they go about their service-related tasks. They are not supposed to interfere with the user as that might change the way they behave in a given circumstance. However the researcher can ask questions for clarification and prompt the participant to give a running commentary on their actions and choices. This allows us to understand existing behaviours so that the designer can adapt the design to those behaviours.

It can take place over any period of time, from a short period to several days or weeks, depending on what the observer wishes to learn.

Contextual interviews · Seeing what users see (and asking them)

The researcher interacts with users while observing them as they work in their own environments, and asks questions to gain more insight about the context of use. 

This method is generally more useful at the beginning of the design process to obtain information about the user’s work practices, their social, technical and physical environment and the tools they use. 

It can help to define requirements, improve a process, learn what is important to users, and ultimately optimise the overall design of a service.

Want to understand how users interact with your product?

Xperienz will run ethnography research studies to find out how people use your product or service in their own environment, identify challenges and needs to support the (re)design of a better user experience. We can conduct research anywhere in Portugal or in the world.

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