UXPA – Contextual Inquiries: Planning, Conducting, and Analyzing Data

inquiryThe event gave very insightful overview of contextual inquiries process – and a few interesting examples.  We also went through a contextual inquiry process of laundromats – what was not only useful, but very entertaining.

Contextual inquiry itself seem to have a sizable field of expertise and significant interest in the UX community.

4 main principles of contextual inquiry:

  • Contact (the researcher need to be close to the subject – to be able to observe the task)
  • Partnership (considering the researcher as an “apprentice” learning what subject is doing)
  • Interpretation
  • Focus

In many cases, people expect to “explain” what they do rather than show it.  Explanation can “hide” important details.  If you want to learn about software it is important to watch people .  For example, screen sharing session can hide the reliance on notes for passwords, etc.

If a certain task is the focus of the research it is good to say: “can you set aside this type of work for us to see?”

It is a good idea to ask “show me what you have to do today.”

After the observation which takes about 2 hours, a 2 hour interpretation session takes place.  This session should include at least one designer, one developer, and definitely the product manager to assure buy-in into the resulting recommendations and insights.  Developers are usually excited to be involved.

Interesting: persona example with variety of characteristics specific for the group studied for the specific task.  Characteristics of the group prevalent or not prevalent in this persona marked in a distinct color.


A “workflow” diagram can be also one of the deliverables of contextual inquiry.


Book – Brandscaping

brandscapingBrandscaping appeared to be a more insightful book than I expected.  The main premise of the book is the advantage of partnership between brands and content producers that use the products to achieve popular objective.  A movies about dogs can increase preference of pets of certain breed, a health-related documentary can increase demand for juicers, and promotion of the idea that chickens can be excellent pets can increase sales of pet supplies.

Brandscaping suggests that brands can gravitate to other brands targeting the same audience similar to mall structure.  Whole Food store at the mall would attract different type of businesses compared to Target.  The book has been created to be not “how to” book, but “how to think” book – what makes sense after finishing it.

101 dalmatians and Finding Nemo  increased total demand for dogs and fish  – what kind of advertising budget you need to do the same?

Instead of advertising (branding), Bank of America partnered with History channel to produce America’s story – where branded content was interwoven into the content and most “commercials” were watched by the viewers of the episodes.



Another brandscape example – a documentary producer (and a star) asked a company for a free juicer to use in his documentary devoted to the topic of health and weight loss (nothing specific about the juicer).  The general interest to the “juicing” as a concept increased.  Juicers used to be sold around new year when people were hoping to start new healthy habits. With the release of the documentary, interest to juicers was related to the popularity of the film.  The company started to buy advertisement for the documentary rather than advertising its own products.


Interesting: searching for “fat sick and nearly dead juicer” produces a lovely option to buy it 🙂


Stop putting your product first – the movie is about changing life..

Companies that found themselves in crowded markets can promote its brands better targeting niche audiences.  The book suggests “fractal marketing” – infinitely devise-able audience.  How to find a niche?  Look for content void in your industry (trade publication) and test if this niche appeal to your target audience.