Contextual inquiry is a non bad manner of agreement your user, with lasting learnings. Here’s the lowdown on it.
What is contextual research?
Contextual inquiry is going out to a natural user surround in addition to observing demeanour or quest questions to uncovering out to a greater extent than most your audience, their motivations in addition to how they may have a prototype/idea. It’s unique inwards that it puts you inwards the user environment, rather than bringing the user into your environment. This changes the dynamic of the inquiry to acquire to a greater extent than nuanced, natural insights.
You may have got heard of some excogitation techniques that recommend setting upwards portion environments to represent the surround of your user. Whilst these are effective inwards getting us to think inwards the mindset of our users, cypher quite beats going out at that topographic point in addition to seeing things for yourself. The natural user surround is something nosotros ourselves can’t quite recreate, in addition to so nosotros should live doing to a greater extent than contextual inquiry where possible.
Is contextual inquiry the correct inquiry method for you?
As with whatever inquiry method, contextual inquiry is non a silverish bullet. It volition have got to live carried out amongst other inquiry methods if you lot are to utilisation it.
To position if it is the correct inquiry technique for you, consider the next questions:
- What is the finish of this research?
First things start with whatever kind of research — establish your aims. You demand this for clarity, but also to piece of work out if this is the correct kind of inquiry for you. If you lot demand to uncovering out most user motivations, gain a wider sense of perspective on something, uncovering hurting points in addition to moments of joy for user experiences inwards real-time, or encounter how people utilisation something inwards a real-life setting, contextual inquiry could live for you.
2. Who precisely are you lot trying to target?
This interrogation is crucial, because you lot demand clarity to ensure that you’re targeting the correct people inwards the correct places. If for instance you lot desire to uncovering out to a greater extent than most frustrations from an in-store shopping experience, you lot have got a clear vision of the customers you lot would similar to target, in addition to the house to acquire to uncovering them. If your audience is unknown, it may live best to pace dorsum in addition to practice a niggling to a greater extent than thinking earlier going out in addition to aimlessly trying to uncovering them.
3. How accessible is this audience/location?
Is at that topographic point an obvious manner for you lot to ambit your audiences? If you lot are interested inwards an experience that your user has to acquire through, tin flame you lot acquire at that topographic point to witness it? Contextual inquiry volition quite frequently involve you lot having to gain access to areas/experiences that a user is going through. You demand to live clear on whether you lot tin flame practice this earlier you lot begin.
4. Is your inquiry project design appropriate for the context?
Think most it, if you lot desire to assay out a prototype, are you lot inwards the correct surround to practice so? If you’re chatting to people inwards a sensitive situation, it may live best to stick to quest them unscripted questions, rather than pulling out a epitome or rigidly sticking to a script. Equally, at that topographic point may live certainly contexts where observation mightiness look creepy (think if you’re at an exhibition at a retail fayre where people come upwards in addition to chat to you), in addition to and so you’re going to have got to chat to people equally well. Bear inwards hear what kind of approach industrial plant best for your context in addition to whether you lot tin flame deliver it.
How practice you lot ship out contextual research?
Contextual inquiry may involve using interview questions, usability testing a prototype, or just observing users inwards their natural environment. It’s hence ever of import to primarily recollect the telephone substitution tips of facilitation — don’t live leading or interfering in addition to pose the users at ease equally much equally possible.
Here is a checklist of other things to consider prior to conducting user research:
1. Decide on your location, agenda in addition to who you lot desire to target.
Create a construction for what you lot desire to attain on the day, in addition to if necessary, interpret this to the people you lot are researching with. Be realistic most precisely how much fourth dimension you lot tin flame pass observing (a whole twenty-four hours may live also long!). Also consider your location in addition to acquire a clear sense of who is going to live there. It may live worth doing a recce beforehand to suss out the surround you’ll live inwards in addition to how you lot tin flame fit into it (hopefully seamlessly).
2. Think most precisely what you’ll live doing.
You demand to create upwards one’s hear if you lot are going to assay out prototypes/journeys with these people, speak to them, or observe. A lot of this volition depend precisely on your inquiry goals, but equally mentioned above, it should consider your location (in busy environments, consider that the user may live fourth dimension jump in addition to accommodate to this).
Also consider your audience — some users may demand to a greater extent than of an overview of what your plans are inwards the project. If you lot are, for example, going into a schoolhouse or a house of piece of work in addition to conducting inquiry over a catamenia of time, these people demand to know your operate of beingness there. If however, you lot were trying to identifying frustrations of an in-store experience, less context is needed when you lot practice chat to shoppers equally a one-off interaction.
Think also most how this translates to what you demand to live comfortable carrying out the inquiry equally well. Do you lot demand a to a greater extent than guided script for interviews, or is a full general schedule of topics for you lot to comport inwards hear plenty to locomote on you lot on track?
3. Consider how you lot volition document notes.
If you’re observing demeanour this may non live in addition to so much of an issue, but if you’re trying to have got to a greater extent than organic conversations with people, think most how you’ll document these findings. Do you lot demand a colleague to come upwards with you lot for banking concern annotation taking? Will you lot demand to tape notes, or fifty-fifty celluloid a participant? Always consider what is appropriate for the context you’re inwards in addition to acquire permission from the participants of your research.
4. Ask for to a greater extent than back upwards if you lot demand it.
With contextual research, it is easier to piece of work inwards small-scale groups or pairs. Even logistically, things similar going to catch lunch, or have got a lav break, are easier if you lot have got a colleague to concur the fort whilst you’re gone. Where possible, everyone on your projection grouping should attend contextual inquiry (as long equally the surround that you’re inwards is big plenty for you lot all to troop inwards without causing chaos). It helps to have got a shared agreement with everyone on the projection of the type of audience you’re dealing with in addition to what they need, in addition to so it’s hence extremely useful for equally many of you lot equally possible to witness users inwards their context.
What are the benefits of contextual research?
When nosotros sentry people inwards their natural environment, it brings to life the joys in addition to lows of a user experience. You experience the emotions that people feel. You encounter firsthand what else is happening roughly users when they’re making a certainly interaction. In the uniqueness of that surround the inquiry procedure is natural, insightful in addition to oftentimes, surprising.
Some of the top dog benefits to this type of inquiry include:
1. You’ll encounter how your product/concept fits into everyday life.
People are non isolated. What they are doing with your product/idea is portion of a journeying in addition to portion of a spider web of complex interactions. Contextual inquiry allows us to encounter how our production fits into a wider context in addition to the wider work that you lot are trying to solve. Realistically, how much fourth dimension are your users giving to that email, or that app experience you’e created? What other things have got they got going on to influence or distract them? Contextual inquiry volition assist you lot to uncovering out.
2. You’ll uncovering novel personas.
One of my delights when I start started conducting contextual inquiry was just how much it brings your inquiry to life. So much so, that you lot may fifty-fifty uncovering novel personas that you lot hadn’t fifty-fifty considered from things similar survey results or spider web analytics.
Often our personal assumptions are in addition to so strong. Going out at that topographic point in addition to seeing for ourselves the many people in addition to factors that nosotros haven’t considered inwards the experiences we’re creating provides a non bad challenge to these assumptions. Hence why I’m such a stiff advocate for contextual research. It brings novel insights in addition to discoveries inwards abundance that may challenge the condition quo.
3. It’s a natural setting.
Usability testing in addition to inquiry methods are constantly evolving to cater to the needs of the user in addition to pose them at ease. However, a user is going to experience much to a greater extent than at domicile inwards an surround that is familiar to them, equally opposed to entering a novel surround (which is frequently the instance with other types of research). This familiarity adds a layer of nuance to our inquiry findings in addition to gives us to a greater extent than of a snippet into the real-life of that user.
4. It’s non bad to contact hard-to-reach users.
You may non have got a huge database of contacts that you lot tin flame telephone shout out upwards upon for inquiry with a item focus. But if you lot know where these users are going to be, contextual inquiry is a non bad manner to acquire fourth dimension with them. For example, if you lot desire to chat to lawsuit volunteers, but don’t have got a listing of contacts, organise some inquiry at an lawsuit in addition to acquire chatting to them inwards their actual environment. They’ll also live to a greater extent than receptive equally they’re inwards that specific frame of mind, in addition to so it’s a win-win situation!
5. Actions speak louder than words
In inquiry actions speak in addition to so much to a greater extent than loudly than words. What someone may tell they do, inwards a survey for example, may interpret to them doing something rattling dissimilar when they’re relaxed, inwards a familiar surround in addition to non quite equally witting most what they’re doing.
What practice I practice with my findings from contextual research?
The beauty of contextual inquiry lies inwards its longevity. By this I hateful I’ve found that my experiences with contextual inquiry have got stayed with me far longer than whatever insights I could have got gotten from a survey or full general analytics. There is something most that aspect upwards to aspect upwards interaction inwards a unique setting that makes it in addition to so poignant. When working on a long projection its essential to have got these insights front end of hear to ensure that nosotros are beingness user-centric.
It’s hence all the to a greater extent than of import for equally many stakeholders on the projection to live involved inwards contextual inquiry equally much equally possible, in addition to so that the user is front end of hear for everyone. Use these insights from the inquiry to inform assumptions in addition to decisions for what is best for your user going forwards equally a team.
Contextual inquiry is also a fantastic inquiry method for visualisation in addition to storytelling. Take equally many photographs in addition to videos equally you lot maybe tin flame to relate your inquiry dorsum to your stakeholders. Present on your findings when you lot render to your house of piece of work to create a buzz for the projection equally much equally possible. Use the inquiry arc to enjoin your storey in addition to enjoin it compellingly.
Contextual inquiry is bright at ensuring that nosotros have got a stiff qualitative (and sometimes quantitative) footing to inform the residuum of our inquiry going forward. It tin flame assist us to ascertain real-life motivations in addition to insights into demeanour from users themselves. This adds a farther dimension to the analytics in addition to insights nosotros tin flame acquire from our offices. Going out of the portion from fourth dimension to fourth dimension to inquiry ensures that our outputs are applicable to the real-life situations we’re working to improve.
So at that topographic point you lot have got it — a total guide to contextual research. I am a huge advocate of the powerfulness of contextual inquiry in addition to encourage using it where possible. I would beloved to hear most your experiences using contextual research. Any challenges, locomote past times tips or anecdotes you lot have, delight percentage them below in addition to let’s acquire discussing!