Contextual Inquiry

What it is

Observe participants at work, then ask follow-up questions.

Why this method

Gives a good overall view of complex activities and interactions to learn how and why users do what they do. Discover needs and attitudes that may be missed in an interview and the interaction is casual and more conversational.

How to use

  1. With permission from the participant, schedule a time to watch a typical activity and record your observations.
  2. Ask the participant to act normally and pretend you are learning to do the job. Ask questions to understand what the person is doing and why.
  3. At the end of the activity, restate what steps were taken and what you learned. Check for errors with the participant.
  4. Now review the process and write up additional notes.