Observations and Needfinding
In this class, we’ll take a look at the needfinding phase of human-centered design in more detail. In needfinding, we attempt to discover the true needs of our intended users. We can accomplish this via two broad categories of techniques:
- Watch people perform the task and deduce their needs by observation and inference.
- Interview people about a task and ask them specifically what their needs are.
There are trade-offs to the two approaches. Asking a user directly what their needs are gets to the point. However users frequently might not know what they need or are mistaken about where their true needs lie. Observations allow us to get around these difficulties, but we must be careful in our interpretations to avoid bias or presupposition about particular pain points or potential solutions.
These categories can be iterated on and combined in a multitude of ways, for example:
- Contextual inquiry integrates interviews with observation. When performing contextual inquiry, we interview the subject while they are doing the task to help us better understand what we are observing.
- Ethnographic research is traditionally conducted in situ. That is, observers integrate themselves into the group they are observing to better understand their motivations and goals.
For next class, we’ll complete Norman’s survey of HCD by talking about the real-world factors that impact the process:
- TDE, from “What I Just Told You? It Doesn’t Really Work That Way” to the end of chapter 6, pp. 236–257.
In addition, to begin exploring some of these needfinding techniques in more detail, I would like you to read a brief excerpt about contextual inquiry from the larger article about contextual design from the Encyclopedia of Human-Computing Interaction:
- Contextual Design, 8.2.1.