Tips to conduct Contextual inquiry better

Tips to conduct Contextual inquiry better

What is Contextual Inquiry - CI

Contextual inquiry (CI) is a user-centered design (UCD) research method. Contextual inquiry is a research method used in user experience (UX) design and usability testing. It involves observing and interviewing users while they are performing tasks in their natural environment, such as their home or workplace, to gain insights into their needs, goals, and behavior. During a contextual inquiry, the researcher typically spends time with the user to understand their work process and gather feedback on how the product or service being tested fits into their workflow. 

This approach provides designers and developers with a deep understanding of the user's perspective, which can inform the design of products and services that better meet their needs. Contextual inquiry is often used in combination with other research methods, such as surveys, focus groups, and usability testing, to provide a comprehensive understanding of the user experience.

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.” 

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When and why it is used?

Contextual inquiry is typically used in the early stages of the design process, when designers and developers are seeking to understand the needs, goals, and behavior of their target users. It is particularly useful for gathering insights into the user's natural environment and the context in which they use a product or service.

Tips for conducting CI

- Create questionnaire - 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.

- Introduce yourself and objective of study - The researcher introduces him or her and shares their study 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.

- 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.

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- Capturing enviornmental factors – Always play attention to the environmental factors such as workplace setup, other hardware or digital devices getting used in the workflow, application or screen switching, physical artefacts being referenced etc.

- Observe, observe and observe – The most important work while CI is observing each and every activity participant is doing, she/he is saying, she/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.

- Take notes - 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.

- Record - 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.

- Demographic details - 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.

- Preferences - Ask about their preferences also like their favorite similar app or platform etc. it gives you some insights to understand participant’s usage behavior.

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