I share this introduction with you here for your interest and, should you find it useful, for you to re-use with a couple of conditions — see the end for what they are. But in the meantime, enjoy.
Ethnography Makes Products
We’re a product design team…so why are we doing research? Design starts with research. It’s how we define the customer brief. In this project we used ethnography…diary studies with customers, visiting their homes, interviewing them to understand their behaviour…what they do…because ethnography makes products.
- At Google designers use all sorts of data but they also talk to users and watch them use YouTube in their home to see if people use their products the way they expect them to. (1)
- IKEA routinely visit people in their homes to understand what they need, particularly in small living spaces. The results are every imaginable shelf but also beautiful rechargeable batteries that can be disguised as books, or wireless charging furniture (2) (3).
- The idea behind Fisher & Paykel’s Dish Drawer (4) came not by looking at dishwashers but by examining the way people used their kitchen. The design team took inspiration from an unrelated kitchen function – the drawer – and created a hybrid between the two.
This process is not about finding answers in quantitative data.
- The Whirlpool duet was designed by watching people in their homes walk through their laundry process (5). One observation, one data point — seeing someone raise their front-load washing machine with a palette, led to the invention of the pedestal and introduced accessories to the washing machine category.
- And at Telstra…a combination of strategy, design thinking and lean startup led to Online Essentials. The original question concerned domain and web hosting. We visited customers at their businesses to understand their DIY approach to web site publishing and marketing and conceived an experience to solve their problems.
For years in concept and usability testing sessions customers have been giving us hints about their concerns around … (here is where I shared the customer anecdotes and proof points that helped us form a hypothesis to make the case for conducting the research in the first place.)
We’re at the beginning of a design process. What will you get out of today…
- An understanding of what customers are experiencing
- How this might translate as new experiences we deliver to our customers
I’ll now hand over to the team now so we can hear what they learned.
- 5 questions for YouTube’s lead UX researcher https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-aunz/advertising-channels/video/youtube-user-behavior-research/
“To answer those questions, I’m constantly doing both qualitative and quantitative research—everything from talking to users and watching them use YouTube in their homes, to carrying out lab studies to see if people use our products the way we expect them to.”
- How Ikea took over the World: http://fortune.com/ikea-world-domination/
“The company frequently does home visits and—in a practice that blends research with reality TV—will even send an anthropologist to live in a volunteer’s abode. Ikea recently put up cameras in people’s homes in Stockholm, Milan, New York, and Shenzhen, China, to better understand how people use their sofas. What did they learn? “They do all kinds of things except sitting and watching TV,” Ydholm says. The Ikea sleuths found that in Shenzhen, most of the subjects sat on the floor using the sofas as a backrest. “I can tell you seriously we for sure have not designed our sofas according to people sitting on the floor and using a sofa like that,” says Ydholm.”
- Ikea presents: Life at Home Report 2017 https://lifeathome.ikea.com/home/en/
- Fisher and Paykel: Designing difference: https://www.betterbydesign.org.nz/about/news/news-and-features/fisher-and-paykel
- A Case for Good Design. Part One: Whirlpool’s Duet Series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghCGffPSRyo
Conditions of Use
Works on this site are published under a creative commons attribution and share alike license. So if you do use this refrain from publishing under your name, and please let me know if you do use it by posting a comment here. Also, if you use alternate examples in an adapted work, let me know what they are. Heck! If you have any favourite examples of ethnographic research contributing to UX, product, or service design, let me know in the comments.
- https://media-publications.bcg.com/HTML5Interactives/strategy_frameworks/History_of_Strategy_2015.html this timeline view of strategy frameworks helps contextualize them as theory, and fads in moments in time no doubt influenced by the time they were created in.
- https://www.provenmodels.com/ don’t overlook this site because of the outdated design. It’s good, covers the basics, and outlines the origins of key strategy frameworks.
- But what IS strategy? There are plenty of books and articles, but I love how Matthew Tutty articulates the “art” here: http://www.mindmatter.com/what-is-strategy/. I keep revisiting this expert and well-articulated piece.
- This twitter thread on design and strategy https://twitter.com/sophiedennis/status/1251107411311710210
- http://toolbox.hyperisland.com/ (minus taking Myers Briggs so seriously)
- http://www.gogamestorm.com/ Buy the book for the great introduction that outlines how to design and run a workshop. Each activity in the book is available on-line here for free.
Reflecting on work
- https://www.manager-tools.com An incredibly rich source of career and management advice vitamins. The podcast series on how to write your resume is both instructive and hilarious.
- https://www.bobsutton.net/articles Bob Sutton is the Professor of Management Science at the Stanford Engineering School and author of The No Asshole Rule and Good Boss Bad Boss. His writing on organisations is evidence-based so the next time some fad comes your way, check-in with Bob’s articles and blog.
- https://www.aqr.org.uk/glossary/ Qualitative research methods. No design research did not invent it all.
- http://sec.cs.ucl.ac.uk/publications/ published research from the Computer Science faculty out of the University College London
- http://apo.org.au/ Analysis and Policy Observatory. Worth checking in to see if there is something on your topic. Created by Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.
- http://designresearchtechniques.com/#/ I just love this so much
- https://measuringu.com/blogs/ consistently insightful and thoughtful information on quantifying and benchmarking the user experience.
- https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ well known for a reason. Often quoted and misquoted so well worth going directly to the source.
- Doing fieldwork in a pandemic – crowdsourced resource initiated by Deborah Lupton Ph.D. Professor at Centre for Social Research in Health and Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, 17 March 2020
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/gel/articles/what-is-gel The Global Expression Language that started it all.
- https://www.dta.gov.au/standard/design-guides/ to see how human-centred design and agile are being delivered at scale thoughtfully from the outset.
- http://design-transitions.com/ who doesn’t love a good case study from those who are pushing methods into new terrain?
- Tookits! I appreciate the overview and convenience that a toolkit provides and don’t mind browsing through one every now and then. But toolkits oversimplify the design process. Know that for many one page summaries, whole textbooks exist. Use with caution.
- Like it says on the box https://www.learn-accessibility.org/
- https://dschool.stanford.edu/resources OK OK you’ve probably been here either right before or straight after checking out Ideo.
- An unsung favourite of mine is Columbia’s http://www.designingforgrowthbooks.com/ too, but that’s an actual book you have to buy.
- Also is Deutsche Telekom’s generously published “From Design Thinking to Design Doing” is https://telekom.design/cstudy-redesign.html
- http://www.servicedesigntoolkit.org/ makes it look easier than it is but who can resist checking out a template and a step-by-step guide.
- http://servicedesigntools.org/ Before the book This is Service Design Thinking was this excellent collection of resources, although it may only make sense to the already initiated.
- https://uxdesign.cc/ux-design-methods-deliverables-657f54ce3c7d Includes user experience design, customer experience and service design tools.
- https://uxmastery.com/resources/ when people ask you what UX book they should read, what course should they go to? Send them here if telling them to Google it seems too callous.
- https://flipboard.com/@lafranec/%23jtbd—methods-%26-tools-cf4g635gy Some prominent voices in UX think Jobs to be done is the Emperor’s new clothes but I think it can bring great clarity to product research. Also how I keep up with my old work supervisor, the marvellous Christian LaFrance.
- https://baymard.com/ Usability research on e-commerce. That’s it. Some reports require $ but there is plenty for free. Love how specific this is.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_effects for when you work with people who’ve studied psychology. Doesn’t list Gestalt theory but hey, that does deserve its own thing.
- Remote Research Methods for Mobile Applications
- Unmoderated Remote Usability Testing (URUT) – Every Step You Take, We Won’t Be Watching You
- This twitter thread – Hivemind: can you recommend any good tools for remote user testing (ideally ones you’ve used yourselves)?
- An introductory overview from the Nielsen Group with some useful links: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/moderated-remote-usability-test-why/
- https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/ the best writing on technology because it takes a human and sociological view. Look out for Ian Bogost.
- https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us worth a look for irrelevant and critical discussion on technology.
- https://alltop.com/ Directories crafted and curated by actual humans used to be a big thing, and was a reason why Yahoo! was a thing before Google. While they may seem anachronistic compared to search they can uncover gold hard to find in your personalised search echo chamber.
For design and product inspiration and curiosities
- https://niice.co/ when Pinterest gets too repetitive
- https://thegadgetflow.com/ when Product Hunt is too repetitive.
- https://www.siteinspire.com/ I still miss those days when CSS Zen Garden was THE thing but hey, what are designers up to THESE days?
- http://creativeworktools.com/ for when your friend asks if you know of the best software tool to do something. I hope to see this list grow.
Do you have a trusty go-to resource? Let me know what it is in the comments.
Earlier in the year I had the good fortune of presenting to a class from the University of Technology, Sydney’s Interaction Design course. As someone who occasionally hires designers, experience in user testing and a sincere integration of users in the design process is what makes candidates stand out. Why? Because this is what reduces errors, minimizes IT and build change requests and helps ensure users can understand and use our products. It’s a mistake to think something has to be detailed and almost production-ready to be tested. Test ideas, test sketches, test digital, test services. Test early, iteratively and often.
“UX proponents tell tall tales about how good design really takes place. Bottom-up, evidentiary design implies that the designer is ultimately unnecessary, a mere facilitator who draws out a solution from the collective… And top-down, genius design becomes indistinguishable from salesmanship. As a result, design dissolves into other, more established disciplines like business intelligence, product marketing, and corporate evangelism. It’s an error that makes good design look far easier and more replicable than it really is. And worse, it allows people to conclude that their own expertise from data analytics to advertising to illustration is a sufficient stand-in for design.”