Contextual Inquiry - CI
Contextual inquiry (CI) is a user-centered design (UCD) research method.
The Usability Professionals’ Association’s Usability Body of Knowledge, defines a contextual inquiry as follows: “A semi-structured interview method to obtain information about the context of use, where users are first asked a set of standard questions and then observed and questioned while they work in their own environments.”
When and why it is used?
Beginning of the design process or Early in research phase in UCD process.
Tips for conducting CI
Introduce yourself and objective of study
The researcher introduces him or herself and shares their design focus. They may request permission to record and start recording. They promise confidentiality to the user. Along with these, researcher also briefs about this activity and expectations from participants.
Try to focus on open ended question, Frame your questions in such a way that participants will answer in story telling manner. It is observed that when participants narrate their experience they tend to give more valuable and qualitative information.
Ask about their latest experience
Last experience of using any product or service etc. in context to CI is the source of providing amazing insights. Probability of remembering latest experience and recall information for answer is always high. Participants can tell you their real and immediate pain.
Observe observe and observe
The most important work while CI is observing each and every activity participant is doing, he is saying, he is referring, because all these observations actually leads to qualitative insights.
Work as team
It becomes difficult while interview to take notes, so always try to perform this activity in a group.
After completing CI don’t forget to take notes immediately because after activity memories are fresh and you will be able to note granular information.
It would be really better if Audio or video recording is available, by which you can record word to word interview along with emotions. But don't forget to take consent from participants before recording.
Don't forget to gather their demographic details like, their experience, age, gender, education level, usage of smart phone, usage of internet, frequency of use etc.
Ask about their preferences also like their favorite similar app or platform etc. it gives you some insights to understand participant’s usage behavior.