User Observation Assignment

Due: Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 before Class

Objective: In this assignment, you will be conducting a contextual interview with a prospective set of users, and deriving a set of work models and notes based on that experience.

What to Do:

  1. Identify 6-8 different individual users, covering each of your user / stakeholder categories, and ask each for their permission to interview them. If they agree, set an appointment to interview them in a location where they currently perform the task that you wish to study. Before starting the interview, you may want to have them complete the informed consent form (example here). If you also intend to capture video/audio/photos, have them complete a record release form (example here).
  2. Conduct the contextual interview, following the master and apprentice relationship model. For each interview, one group member should be the apprentice, while the others take notes (larger groups should split up into groups of 2-3). You can also use a voice recorder (with the subject’s permission). Alternate roles for each subject. Each interview should last between 30-90 minutes.
  3. During a group interpretation session, generate an affinity diagram and at least 4-5 distinct work models drawing from your users. These should be at a level of detail appropriate to the task you are studying and the data that you have collected. Do this as soon after the interview as possible (up to a maximum of 48 hours), to make sure that the observations are fresh in your mind.  Choose the most useful and appropriate models for your project.
  4. Create 3-6 personas, representing each kind of potential user. Typically, each persona will consist of a textual description, supplemented by graphics if necessary. The persona should include details like their age, education, professional history, access to technology, idealized goals and current difficulties with regard to the task in question.
  5. Describe in paragraph, video or storyboard form a set of current task scenarios and a set of hypothetical usage scenarios that you would like to support in your system.
  6. Prepare a presentation to introduce your project to the rest of the class. Start with your focus, personas, and any supporting observations from the contextual inquiry that motivate your problem. Then walk the audience through some or all of the tasks described in your scenarios. Aim for a 5-minute presentation (with an additional five minutes for questions), to be made in class on September 29th or October 1st.
  7. Extra Credit: Design a probe that you can give to one or two of your subjects so that they can collect data and send it to you on their own. Your probe can be a kit containing several items – including a diary, a disposable camera, and/or might leverage technology that your subjects already have, like a smartphone. Be creative!

What To Turn In:

The preferred method of turn-in is a PDF document, including each of the following components. To avoid a late penalty, e-mail a link to your group’s submission to the professor and TA before class on Tuesday, September 29th:

  1. Cover sheet including your names, and your chosen focus. Also include 1-2 sentences about what each person contributed to the assignment. [1/2 page]`
  2. Summary of each contextual interview, including the person’s gender, approximate age (20s, 30s, etc.), job title, the location of the interview, who conducted and who took notes, how long it took to complete, etc. For privacy, don’t use people’s real names or any other uniquely identifying information. Also, include any difficulties you had or surprises you encountered in conducting the contextual interview.  If you used another method discussed in class, describe the results of that as well. [4-8 pages]
  3. A picture of your final affinity diagram.
  4. A copy of each work model that you generated. Use one page for each model, aiming for the level of detail shown in the examples in the book. These can be done either using pen and paper, or a drawing program on a computer. On a separate page, include a 1-2 paragraph description of each model, including key points, surprises, potential ambiguities, and any difficulties you encountered in constructing the model.
  5. The list of current scenarios, and those that you would eventually like to support in your future design. One paragraph, video or storyboard for each scenario should be enough. Aim to document between 4-8 current and future scenarios.
  6. The list of personas that you will motivate your eventual design. For now, about a half-page plus a picture should be enough for each persona. Aim to document between 3-6 personas.
  7. A description of the probe that you have designed, how subjects will send data to you, how often, etc.
  8. Reflect on the experience of doing a Contextual Inquiry. What was easy? What was hard? What did you expect? What was surprising? Did you ask too many questions? Did you ask too few? What types of questions worked best? Which lead to poor answers? Which lead to in-depth answers? Which work models were difficult to produce? Which were easy? Which helped most in developing your understanding? Which helped least? [1 page]
  9. A copy of the presentation that you will make to the class. Come ready to present on September 29th.

The total length of your submitted report should be less than 15 pages. Brevity, clarity and focus on the goals of the assignment will be rewarded. Illustrative graphics are welcome and encouraged!

Please contact the professor or the class TA if you have any questions with this assignment.