Jump to main content

Activity 1: Understand Context

This activity will give you a better understanding of the context surrounding the issue that you are looking at. It will give you a firm basis for moving forward, as well as people-inspired insights and direction.

people on a tram

Before starting any project it is important to understand the market in which you are operating and have an idea of the overall landscape from your users' perspective. This will help you to build a correct vision for your project, see how you can improve existing offers and ensure that your initial ideas have relevance to the real world. Spending time on this and getting it right will give you good grounding for the rest of the process.


  • Literature search: See what information already exists. You could look at trends, web research, books, academic publications and current media.
  • Market research: Find out who is affected by your context. Examine marketing data, statistics, surveys and information gathered from large numbers of people.
  • Competitor audit: Find out which other companies are operating in this field. Look at existing designs to identify gaps in the market and analyse current solutions. Looking at parallel industries can show you how other sectors have responded.
  • Initial user visits or observation: See how people behave within the existing context. Explore their experiences and identify key areas of interest. You can do this through web forums, telephone interviews or natural observation.
  • Go into the context: Explore the issues first hand. Learn about the situation by experiencing it yourself. Use your own products or services and talk to other people who also interface with them such as the sales team, the distributors and end users.


By completing this activity you will define areas for research focus that have captured your attention. You can then set clear project goals and have some idea of how to approach your issue. You will also be able to assess whether you have correctly understood your context and adjust accordingly. You will be able to scope other opportunities that you might not have seen before.