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.


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