This simple interview method puts the user in the driving seat.
When to use
Ideal when you have a broad remit or are just starting to review an existing system.
This method helps you uncover:
- People’s mental models of the system
- How people typically use it, including any workarounds or shortcuts they've come up with to deal with pain points
- If there are any parts they DON'T use (underused features) or aren't even aware of (hidden or unclear features)
- People's feelings about the system and its context: these you can gauge from their actions, how they explain things, facial expressions and so on
- Sit down at a PC with a user
- Tell them "Pretend I’m a new [their role]. Explain [system] to me and show me how you use it."
- Shut up, watch and listen. If necessary, prompt with very basic, non-leading questions, keeping up the roleplay of a clueless newbie: "What do you mean?", "What's that for?", "How does that work?", "Why?"
- Ideally have someone else observing and taking notes.
- Do on their own device for extra insight into shortcuts & workarounds like bookmarks
- Do it remotely using Zoom
- Record it so you can rewatch and analyse further, and make clip compilations
- Have a checklist of things to look out for, but don't let the participant see it. If they don't touch on an area you want to know about, just point at it and say "What's that?"
This method also works in the real world! You can ask for a tour of building or a set of facilities.