Observing users

June 6, 2008
  1. Observation in usability testing tends to be objective, from the
    outside. The observer watches and analyzes what happens.
  2. In contrast, in participant observation the evaluator works with
    users to understand their activities, beliefs and feelings within
    the context in which the technology is used.
  3. Ethnography uses a set of techniques that include participant
    observation and interviews. Ethnographers immerse themselves in
    the culture that they study.
  4. The way that observational data is collected and analyzed depends
    on the paradigm in which it is used: quick and dirty, user
    testing, or field studies.
  5. Combinations of video, audio and paper records, data logging, and
    diaries can be used to collect observation data
  6. In participant observation, collections of comments, incidents,
    and artifacts are made during the observation period. Evaluators
    are advised to discuss and summarize their findings as soon after
    the observation session as possible.
  7. Analyzing video and data logs can be difficult because of the
    sheer volume of data. It is important to have clearly specified
    questions to guide the process and also access to appropriate
    tools.
  8. Evaluators often flag events in real time and return to examine
    them in more detail Identifying key. events is an effective
    approach. Fine-grained analyses can be very time-consuming.

From: Preece, J., Rogers, Y., Sharp, H. (2002), Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, New York: Wiley, p.386

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