Contextual Inquiry


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Lecture slides from the Interaction Design Methods course, 26 January 2013, Tallinn University.

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Contextual Inquiry

  1. 1. Contextual InquiryIFI7156 Interaction Design Methods
  2. 2. What is contextual inquiry?• Traditional narrow meaning: etnographic interviewing technique (Beyer, & Holtzblatt, 1997)• Wider meaning: first phase in the research-based design process (Leinonen, Toikkanen, & Silvfast, 2008)
  3. 3. Research-based design process (Leinonen et al, 2008)
  4. 4. Qualitative user research in Contextual Inquiry phase • Stakeholder interviews • Subject matter expert (SME) interviews • User and customer interviews • User observation/ethnographic field studies • Literature review • Competitive reviews (Cooper, Reimann, & Cronin, 2007)
  5. 5. The value of qualitative research Qualitative research helps to understand: • Behaviors and attitudes of potential product users • Technical, business, and environmental contexts — the domain — of the product to be designed • Vocabulary and other social aspects of the domain in question • How existing products are used (Cooper et al, 2007)
  6. 6. Interviews
  7. 7. Stakeholder interviews• Preliminary product vision• Budget and schedule• Technical constraints and opportunities• Business drivers• Stakeholders’ perceptions of the user (Cooper et al, 2007)
  8. 8. Subject matter expert (SME) interviews• SMEs are often expert users• SMEs are knowledgeable, but they aren’t designers• SMEs are necessary in complex or specialized domains• You will want access to SMEs throughout the design process (Cooper et al, 2007)
  9. 9. Customer interviewsWhen interviewing customers, you will want tounderstand: • Their goals in purchasing the product • Their frustrations with current solutions • Their decision process for purchasing a product of the type you’re designing • Their role in installation, maintenance, and management of the product • Domain-related issues and vocabulary (Cooper et al, 2007)
  10. 10. User interviews• The context of how the product fits into their lives or workflow: when, why, and how the product is or will be used• Domain knowledge from a user perspective: What do users need to know to do their jobs?• Current tasks and activities: both those the current product is required to accomplish and those it doesn’t support• Goals and motivations for using the product• Mental model: how users think about their jobs and activities, as well as what expectations users have about the product• Problems and frustrations with current products (Cooper et al, 2007)
  11. 11. Guidelines for user interviews• Interview where the interaction happens• Avoid a fixed set of questions• Focus on the goal first, tasks second• Avoid making the user a designer• Avoid discussion of technology• Avoid leading questions• Ask for stories, demonstrations and a tour• Direct the interview as new issues arise• Interpretation: read between the lines (Cooper et al, 2007)
  12. 12. Goal-oriented questions• Goals — What makes a good day? A bad day?• Opportunity — What activities currently waste your time?• Priorities — What is most important to you?• Information — What helps you make decisions? (Cooper et al, 2007)
  13. 13. System-oriented questions• Function — What are the most common things you do with the product?• Frequency — What parts of the product do you use most?• Preference — What are your favorite aspects of the product? What drives you crazy?• Failure — How do you work around problems?• Expertise — What shortcuts do you employ? (Cooper et al, 2007)
  14. 14. Workflow-oriented questions• Process — What did you do when you first came in today? And after that?• Occurrence and recurrence — How often do you do this? What things do you do weekly or monthly, but not every day?• Exception — What constitutes a typical day? What would be an unusual event? (Cooper et al, 2007)
  15. 15. Attitude-oriented questions• Aspiration — What do you see yourself doing five years from now?• Avoidance — What would you prefer not to do? What do you procrastinate on?• Motivation — What do you enjoy most about your job (or lifestyle)? What do you always tackle first? (Cooper et al, 2007)
  16. 16. User observations
  17. 17. Planning• Establish objectives and information requirements• Establish the times, places, and people who will be observed• Decide on the recording technique that you will use
  18. 18. Running• Make sure that those being observed are aware of the study• Run a pilot observation• Try to be unobtrusive• Take notes and clarify later, if needed• If possible, take a photo of the observation area• Write down first impressions immediately after the observation
  19. 19. Literature review
  20. 20. Literature review• Business documents: marketing plans, brand strategy, market research, user surveys, customer support data• Technology specifications• Research articles• Related news in media, reviews• Related posts and discussions in social media
  21. 21. Competitive review
  22. 22. Reasons for competitive review • Find out how other people solved the same design problems • Validate desired features and priorities against a similar site • Explore approaches to solving similar problems (Brown, 2010)
  23. 23. Guidelines• Focus: you can’t compare too many systems/ features/problems• Create a set of criteria for comparison• Choose meaningful systems for comparison
  24. 24. Competitive review structure• Summary: objectives, study questions, and criteria• Conclusions: one sheet/slide per conclusion, with screenshot fragments• Competitor profiles
  25. 25. Competitor Release Page Beatport release page displays additional information that is important for dj’s. What works: • Track length and BPM are displayed on release page • Waveform and key are displayed on track details page • Release description • More releases from the same label What doesn’t work: • Release title is displayed in capital letters • Price is displayed without taxes Take-aways: • Display detailed metadata • Make metadata easy to copy • The system could recommend tracks with compatible key, tempo and style
  26. 26. References• Beyer, H., & Holtzblatt, K. (1997). Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.• Brown, D. M. (2010). Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning (2nd ed.). Berkley, CA: New Riders.• Cooper, A., Reimann, R., & Cronin, D. (2007). About Face 3:The Essentials of Interaction Design. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley Publishing, Inc.• Leinonen, T., Toikkanen, T., & Silvfast, K. (2008). Software as Hypothesis: Research- Based Design Methodology. In: Proceedings of the Tenth Anniversary Conference on Participatory Design 2008 (pp. 61–70). Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University.
  27. 27. Photos• Brad Flickinger,
  28. 28. Hans Põldojahans.poldoja@tlu.eeInteraction Design Methodshttp://ifi7156.wordpress.comTallinn UniversityInstitute of InformaticsThis work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit