20 May Ethnographic Research
Ethnographic research (user research) is a qualitative form of research where the interviewer engages the interviewee in a topic of interest. The goal is to verify your assumptions with your end user and ensure you’re meeting real human needs. Otherwise, your product may not be adapted because it will not fit with your end users lives. During the interview, the interviewer often follows the thought process of the interviewee to understand better how the person works or approaches specific problems. Ideally, he observes how the user in his/her own environment approaches tasks or solves problems.
The surprising aspect of this method is that the interviewer can draw some assumptions and at the end of the conversation realize the user will approach a problem from a completely different angel. There are different methods that can be utilized when conducting the research in which you’ll receive valuable findings. Consider utilizing user diaries, card sorting exercises, questionnaires, group workshops, and individual interviews.
Ethnographic research is not costly to conduct. If you talk to 10 users in regard to one specific issue, you will see patterns emerge after speaking to 4 or 5. At that point you can adjust your research and focus more specifically on the direction which has emerged.
Individual interviews are called, “Follow me Homes” and generally conducted in teams of two – the facilitator and a helper who assists with equipment, tools and note taking. There are times where you may take a visitor with you but it’s important to remember the goal is to not overwhelm the interviewee or alter their normal behavior.
Based on the goals, you then identify the right community or target audience you need to speak with and verify your assumptions. To get a good spectrum of experiences, you should pick roughly 5-10 different people to interview ranging from the average user to an extreme user to a refuser.
In the example of the communication app for teens, the goal for the interview is to understand how teens communicate. Consider the following questions:
- What is important to teens when they communicate?
- What difficulties do they encounter when they communicate?
- Who do they communicate with and for what purpose and how long?
- What tools do they need for what types of people?
One advantage of in-person interviews is to observe the environment of the interviewee and detect workarounds the user uses to accomplish their goals. The workarounds are your opportunities for meaningful product innovations, and it is here you can innovate.