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.

The Dos and Don’ts of Diary Studies

What are diary studies?

Diary studies, otherwise known as User Research Diaries or “Cultural probes” were pioneered for use in design research by William “Bill” Gaver, Professor at Goldsmiths London. Interestingly he doesn’t analyse diary content, nor does he create scenarios or personas from them instead using them as a base from which to validate other data. He does not create personas, preferring instead to revisit the raw data.