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Ethnography Makes Products

That my team — a design team — does research, has at times confused colleagues unfamiliar with design methods. Some expect that customer research is produced solely from the market research team and that any design findings only come out of the usability lab. So, to set the scene on our latest field study I presented an introduction about how ethnography has played a part in the product design and innovation of many brands we are familiar with.

Design research #3: Don’t ask why

While I was a student  I worked in retail. At one store we were encouraged (forgive me if you hate sales assistants) to ask open questions to invite conversation. It’s harder that it sounds. Years later while being trained in user research we were encouraged to ask why. Not only why, but as many whys as we could … and you know why … to get to the root cause, that deep fundamental driver of behaviour. Of course this too is not as easy as it sounds. Unless you’re a charming 5 year old asking why can sound pretty obnoxious and being asked why can make anyone feel quite defensive. I’m guessing advice like this has its roots in the famous 5 Whys, which I take to be a tool of analysis, not a script. If you disagree with anything here, or have more to add please say so in the comments.

Design research #2: 10 questions to debrief after an inquiry

I recently read IDEO’s HCD toolkit and it reminded me of the instruction offered in Ethnography for Marketers: A Guide to Consumer Immersion, which I have written about before. If you do any type of UX research, particularly observational research, but have not had formal research training I think you will find them both worthwhile reads. This is my summary of advice from both these texts on debriefing after a contextual inquiry.