1. Controlled observation
Observing people going about their normal activities with their consent. Presenting them with a task or design and observing how they complete or interact with it.
Used during the exploratory phases and evaluative stages.
- Choose the level of control. Are you observing the people performing everyday activities in their natural settings, or are you introducing them to a new environment and asking them to complete specific tasks?
- Decide on whether the observation space is controlled or no: for example indoors or outdoors, public or private
- Choose level of interaction between observer and user. Decide how much the investigator may be involved or whether the user will be left on their own
- Can understand user intentions and opinions by asking them questions during the observation
- Can recreate or simulate specific events of interest
- The user can be asked to repeat specific actions
- Good for understanding and capturing the natural context and external influences on the user
- Can uncover insights that the user is not aware of themselves and then probe them further
- A good way of seeing and documenting procedures or observing how people respond to different situations
- People tend to behave differently when they know they are being observed. You might not see their natural behaviour
- People can become self-conscious and skew responses
- Difficult to recreate complex or group interactions
- The way that a task or scenario is presented by the investigator can influence the response
- Time-consuming to conduct observation and gather information
- Time-consuming to analyse all the information gathered
- Can be difficult to record the observation using a still camera or video camera in certain locations or situations
- Plan your strategy for conducting the observation. Will you observe people going about their everyday business or will you recreate or simulate a particular event and set them tasks to complete?
- When shadowing, only participate if it does not distract or unduly influence the user.
- When simulating an event or activity, try to recreate natural conditions wherever possible. Choose your context and locations carefully.
- Do not demonstrate when presenting tasks or scenarios for an individual to complete. They will then just do it in the way you have shown them.
- Ask users to verbalise their thoughts during a task or process. This can help to understand their perceptions and decision-making.
- When a user needs direction, try to assist without prompting them.
- Take a camera, or preferably a video camera, as it allows you to capture complex situations easily. Recordings can then be examined in greater detail at a later stage.
- When filming, try to set up the camera in a location where it is obvious and will soon be forgotten by the user.
GOES WELL WITH
- Interview: finding out about the user’s will help to contextualise the observed responses and encourage the user to give explanations
BEST SUITED TO
- Experiencing the user's daily life and capturing the broader context
- Detailed understanding of a specific task, context, or action from a user perspective
- Giving feedback on existing designs and activities