Whenever possible, we want to “walk in the shoes” of users and gain experience of specific situations for ourselves. So we go out into the field, or into other businesses.
To experience the motivations, pain points, high points and emotions of end users, we design and execute a wide range of scenarios. We are looking for extremes: we want to experience the best and worst context in which a solution might be used.
Sometimes immersion isn’t possible because directly experiencing a scenario can require specialised job knowledge or qualifications. In these situations, we shadow potential users and document their current processes and workflows using the “What? How? Why?” framework.
We document what someone is doing in a particular situation, noting the obvious as well as the surprising. We observe how someone is performing in a given situation, including the emotional state at each step. And we make informed judgements about why someone is doing what they’re doing, in terms of motivations and emotions.
This reveals assumptions and hypotheses. We test these hypotheses with our target group through interviews.
It isn’t always possible to immerse ourselves in experiences or observe others in their place of work. And in most cases, we are aware that our observation and immersion techniques have only exposed a limited subset of scenarios and insights. So we talk to people who live and breathe the industry or business we’re working to understand.
When we interview users, we use techniques to establish insights quickly. We encourage concrete stories about situations. We aren’t interested in how things “usually” are: we want descriptions of specific events.
We want our interviewees to be honest, so we don’t ask leading questions. We ask about emotions: emotional responses give us insights to high and low points. And we look for inconsistencies: discrepancies between what people say and how they behave can lead to powerful insights.
Read more about our qualitative research methods in this article.