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Gearing up for Ethnography, Michigan State, World Usability Day 2019

Prepping for UX research can be intimidating, and there is never enough time or resources. Carol will share her personal experiences in the field, both good and bad. She has learned the hard way, doing observations in moving vehicles, coal mines, hospitals, schools, homes, and offices. She will also share interesting anecdotes from colleagues and review both ethical and behavioral standards for researchers. The key is to prepare well, learn to be flexible and to adapt to the situation.

Presented at World Usability Day 2019 at Michigan State University with Michigan UXPA

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Gearing up for Ethnography, Michigan State, World Usability Day 2019

  1. 1. Gearing Up for Ethnography World Usability Day 2019, Michigan State University | Carol Smith @carologic
  2. 2. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Ethnography • Anthropology • Months+ research • “Deep hanging out” Deep Hanging Out - Clifford Geertz Journal of Anthropological Research
  3. 3. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Ethnography: Go Where They Are • Observing people, learning, in context • Locating patterns in complex human behavior • Being present, limiting interactions • Participant led
  4. 4. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Ethnography in Design/UX Also known as… • Applied ethnography • User research • UX research An Evolving Map of Design Practice and Design Research. Written for Interactions magazine by Liz Sanders. Edited by Hugh Dubberly. Nov 1, 2008 See also book: Convivial Toolbox: Generative Research for the Front End of Design. January 8, 2013 by Liz Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers.
  5. 5. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Ethnography for UX Research • Conducted over hours-days (not days-weeks-months) • Small, cumulative learning • Build on over time
  6. 6. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic AUX3: Making UX Research Track with Agile Smith, C., Rauch, T., Moyers, H. (2019). AUX3: Making UX Research Track with Agile. User Experience Magazine, 19(1). Retrieved from
  7. 7. Smith,C.,Rauch,T.,Moyers,H.(2019).AUX3:MakingUXResearchTrackwithAgile.User ExperienceMagazine,19(1). Retrievedfrom
  8. 8. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Any experience • Physical experiences • Relationships • Multi-person interactions • Large group interactions • Digital experiences • More challenging, but very rewarding
  9. 9. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Occurs across product lifecycle • Early discovery (best timing) • Experimenting/prototyping to learn (not usability studies) • Learning from use – in the field
  10. 10. SomerightsreservedbyRockyVI- License: Preparation
  11. 11. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Planning is Power • Who you are meeting? • Conditions and study design • Logistics • Paper reference docs Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday 8am 9am 10am 11am Lunch 1pm 2pm 3pm 4pm
  12. 12. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Scheduled breaks • Bio Breaks (food, bathroom, etc.) • Recharge batteries, change memory cards, etc. • Location changes • Rest time • Participant may also need break – be their advocate
  13. 13. Someone must have your itinerary and expect to hear from you.
  14. 14. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Don’t go alone • Homes • Non-public places • In vehicles • Leave if it gets weird. Just leave.
  15. 15. Moderating Studies
  16. 16. In their home… don’t make yourself at Home
  17. 17. Get close, without being gross
  18. 18. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Never be alone with children! Photo:U.S.ArmyphotobyPfc.LeeHyokang(IMCOM),July20,2012
  19. 19. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Be above reproach and stay safe • Larger people (men) • Give women and smaller people space • Cultural context • Women and smaller folks • Work in pairs • Don’t go alone Photo:U.S.ArmyphotobyPfc.LeeHyokang(IMCOM),July20,2012
  20. 20. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Public Spaces • Everyone compromised • Create/find smaller spaces • Speak quietly aWZKQp-ddmvTP-awqfuc-eyifAV-8M8tpm-7N1DPb-ciG1K9-dsxcY9-9WAQhy-88ENpV-aDQndx-avV5GZ-8jHtix-aAGD5M-as9pmp- ebCh5H-c8K8Wj-89kvjU-7TmgvL/ SomerightsreservedbySlicesofLight: License:
  21. 21. Get Artifacts! (ask nicely) via
  22. 22. Common Issues
  23. 23. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Misunderstandings about purpose • Conversations with managers are enough • Set up a conference room for “meeting” • Respond politely
  24. 24. Case Study: Mining MiningEquipmentatBinghamCanyon,CopperMine,Utah,USA
  25. 25. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic We become “Representative” • Critical situations - angry customers • Help desk vs. research • Respond to situation
  26. 26. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic The Show Must Go On • Weather • Loss of power, or no power • No Wi-Fi connectivity • Physical access issues
  27. 27. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic "The lights seemed dimmer than normal" • Survival Story in The Moderator's Survival Guide: Handling Common, Tricky, and Sticky Situations in User Research By Donna Tedesco and Fiona Tranquada
  28. 28. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Kids, Pets, Chaos • Allergic reactions • Kids • Clutter and cleanliness • Prepare mentally and physically for the unexpected Photo:
  29. 29. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Breath … then respond calmly "Surprise" by Katie Arvidson Follow. Taken on December 27, 2007 27/in/photolist-4hPEmx-9nhjgS-sd2s9V-MiRBB- s73kVU-iRNGQj-63gNpq-7JU38d-X6emHZ- GQAKjM-4vD6x2-CATpB7-fyV3F-83Et52-sD5nM- 8A3c92-46cRK2-8A6ih1-78phcs-mpDWQ-6XXC3j- 8CJ3hC-4cGvDF-8j2dyT-2McBW-396dfJ-73xgPy- 8EPZZy-6rXeTT-a3MY3w-gx8f9L-7TZnj2-4t23jz- 6PsHCu-S7SmT-T5B3ZY-vQo8C-qZ58PW-5zXVMy- p7xQ1X-q1CH3-5DHdY8-4eiFff-5ooscu-fB3WGu- 2LG8WD-TkwKM-tYHXr-dHCMMS-7YLDoj
  30. 30. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Most common – lack of time • 2x sessions for analysis • Prep team expectations • Risk of not doing thoroughly
  31. 31. Interpretation is the assignment of meaning to the observation—what it implies about the behavior and experience of the user or how it reveals the structure of the activity. - Karen Holtzblatt and Hugh Beyer
  32. 32. Getting Started with Ethnography | DCUX 2019 | @carologic Interpretation sessions • Conversations to understand • Ideally within 48 hours • Everyone participates • Everyone questions, probes, helps interpret • Produce notes for affinity diagramming, models, etc.
  33. 33. Getting Started with Ethnography | DCUX 2019 | @carologic Interpretation Note Structure Note ID Note User Profile P1-Insight Paused - unsure of where to start line? P1 Conference attendee P1-1 Looks at signage on food items First time at this conference P1-2 Picks up plate Vegetarian P1-3 Uses tongs to get salad from container Lives in Maryland P1-Quote “This detail about the ingredients is very helpful” P1-Insight Skipped some food (assumption was obviously not vegetarian) P1-Question What was “helpful” [about quote]? Can be used for observations and interviews
  34. 34. Getting Started with Ethnography | DCUX 2019 | @carologic Analysis • Process of deduction • Cut down a bigger concept into smaller ones • Understand what we have and what is known Difference Between Analysis and Synthesis | Difference Between
  35. 35. Getting Started with Ethnography | DCUX 2019 | @carologic Time consuming • Typically 2x actual observation time per participant • Work together with team • White board, post-its, note pages • Ideally reserved room or moveable boards (giant paper, foam core or rolling white boards)
  36. 36. Getting Started with Ethnography | DCUX 2019 | @carologic Consider original plan • What was our hypothesis? • What information do we need? • Approach may differ depending on • Stage of work • Type of information collected • Researchers preferences • Time available
  37. 37. Getting Started with Ethnography | DCUX 2019 | @carologic Interpretation to Affinity Diagramming Note ID Note P1-Insight Paused - unsure of where to start line? P1-1 Looks at signage on food items P1-2 Picks up plate P1-3 Uses tongs to get salad from container P1-Quote “This detail about the ingredients is very helpful” P1-Insight Skipped some food (assumption was obviously not vegetarian) P1-Question What was “helpful” [about quote]?
  38. 38. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Affinity Diagramming
  39. 39. Getting Started with Ethnography | DCUX 2019 | @carologic Messy process • Cut apart and shuffle interpretation notes together • Place in groups, look for • Patterns • Themes • Structure
  40. 40. Green Set of 6-8 Pink groups Pink Set of up to 8 Blue groups Blue Set of up to 3-6 White notes White Many per session Green - whole area of concern Most noticeable by decision makers Pink - theme or category Still using “I” language. A pink note is a specific idea/concept/issue. Blue - “I” Statements Represent participant experience Data to highlight the single key point NOT a design idea Interpretation note slips Start here
  41. 41. Concerns about… I … I use this... Interpretation Interpretation Interpretation Interpretation I am likely to… Interpretation Interpretation Interpretation Interpretation I get confused… Interpretation Interpretation Interpretation Interpretation I always get this wrong… Interpretation Interpretation Interpretation Interpretation I need… Interpretation
  42. 42. Getting Started with Ethnography | DCUX 2019 | @carologic Goal • Represent participants observed and interviewed • Bring voices to top of conversation with “I” statements
  43. 43. Getting Started with Ethnography | DCUX 2019 | @carologic Results vary Matthew Weprin, Design Thinking Methods: Affinity Diagrams
  44. 44. Getting Started with Ethnography | DCUX 2019 | @carologic Low on time? Prioritize • “Good” sessions • More activity • More detail • More talkative • Persona fit • Outliers – potential new learnings
  45. 45. Getting Started with Ethnography | DCUX 2019 | @carologic By type of finding
  46. 46. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologicCartoon by Luke Barrett © Jeff Patton, all rights reserved, Shared Documents Aren’t Shared Understanding
  47. 47. Ethics in Ethnography
  48. 48. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic UXR is Never for entertainment Never on social media Is access necessary? Responsible Understands sharing externally is prohibited
  49. 49. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Full disclosure - informed consent • Your responsibility to inform participant • Do no harm (physical, emotional) Consent Form (Adult),, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
  50. 50. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Informed consent: audio/video recording • Ethical and legal responsibility • Every time – at least verbal • Reminders if sharing very personal information • Be willing to turn off • Be aware of local customs
  51. 51. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic PII (personally identifiable information) RoundsPhotoby:MalovaGobernador"SINALOAALAVANGUARDIAENATENCIÓNDEENFERMEDADESDELCORAZÓN"Taken onFebruary16,2015. wmTSHf-N5PEbC-AT9UtW-wWJpLP-EZQUvL-EA418S-QmBXDe-EZS6eC-dRo295-fgRZi8-2iCpad-FkbGVC-7dRyLj-KL1h9t-QfTdxY- EzzzCo-G3Z46L-43oVKK-cbUvdd-ERFQ27-P8S8mi-JDSABR-xZL8V1-uJh7n6-LhMLGw-6qWa4-rWGUHe-E5MibP-N8jXki-H29g8X- 5woB8x-NjQQrk-L8hAkY-65Ut11-E5MHLR-LhMMMs-7BQwit-HaHuLq-65yGH6-RKiHin-Bwsxh3-DHyRb5-5J2SQV-ETZ6Bt-euTUcV- u6HzHt
  52. 52. Dress for Context
  53. 53. Case Study: Race Track
  54. 54. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Clothing
  55. 55. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Dress for comfort • Layers of non-cotton clothing • Hot – Sunscreen, hat • Cold - Hat, gloves, layers
  56. 56. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Dress for Safety - High Quality Personal Protection Fiberglass – lightweight & not affected by temp Toe, Ankle and Dirt Protection
  57. 57. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Pockets • Breathable travel vest or many-pocketed clothing • Hands free • Easy access • Protection • Less likely to drop or leave behind Image ScotteVest: lightweight-vest/featherweight-vest-women.shtml
  58. 58. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic What’s in my pockets? • Pens and notepad • Recording equipment • Water, crushable snack • Wallet (with cash) Water bottle:
  59. 59. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Additional Bag • Power cords • Extension cord • Batteries • Snacks • Rest of my purse
  60. 60. Gear!
  61. 61. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Battery Charging Challenges Hotel rooms – limited outlets Extension cord(s) Extra backup batteries and/or equipment Identify local office
  62. 62. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Small, portable equipment • Pack up quickly • Move around • Everything on your body • Avoid bulky bags
  63. 63. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Cell phones • Pros • Already have it with you • Easy to carry • Cons • Hard to hold and attach • Proprietary Information • Risk to your phone
  64. 64. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Video / Audio • Video: GoPro and similar • Very wide view • Weak battery ~1 hour • Waterproof • Audio: Zoom ZH1 H1 Portable Digital Recorder • Light, easy to hold • Regular batteries • SD Cards
  65. 65. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Keep Trying and Pushing for More • Be • prepared for everything • adaptable, portable • safe and cared for • ethical, always • Include your team • Share what you learn
  66. 66. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Recommended Readings
  67. 67. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Get in touch in/CarolJSmith @Carologic
  68. 68. Resources, References, etc.
  69. 69. Activity ______________________________________ Who are you observing? (e.g. SME in soft-goods manufacturing, application admin) What is the situation? _________________________ (e.g. phone interview, their work at their desk in person, remote usability study, etc.) Date: __________________ Time: __________________ Location: ________________ Note-Taker: ______________ People (P) Who are you observing? Who else is involved in the experience? Objects (O) What objects do they interact with? What apps? Phone, etc.? Environment (E) Characteristics of the setting, number/types of interruptions Messages (M) What is communicated? How is it transmitted? Services (S) What services are available to them? Watch for these types of observations and put additional Questions/Ideas on the back. Content in this document described by Vijay Kumar in his book: 101 Design Methods Physical What do they interact with? Cognitive How associate meanings? How learn? Social Interactions, decision making, scheduling, work? Cultural What are shared norms, habits, values? Emotional What emotions are expressed and how? What are your biggest takeaways? What did you learn? What surprised you? What is the participants need? Interview & Observation Notetaking Form
  70. 70. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Observer Rules Everyone who observes a design session is asked to abide by a set of rules. The purpose of these rules is to minimize stress for the participants and to maximize the amount of information we get from the study. •Stay for the entire study • Distractions are unhelpful and participants may get impression that you’re leaving because they’ve done something wrong (e.g. walking out in middle of a movie). If you can attend only part of a study, discuss with facilitator beforehand to determine how to accommodate this. •Don’t reveal information about the study to the participant • It is often more useful to explore an area of difficulty in detail rather than try to “get through” all the topics. The facilitator will track time to cover as many of the important areas as possible. •Respect participants and the confidentiality of their data • We have promised the participants that their participation is confidential. This means that we should not include their names in any reports or other communication such as email, and we should refrain from discussing them by name outside the test setting. • Do not make negative comments about people—there is always a risk that a derogatory comment could be overheard or otherwise make its way back to the user. Adapted from the book Paper Prototyping by Carolyn Snyder, published by Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. Copyright (c) 2003 Elsevier. All rights reserved.
  71. 71. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Observer Rules (continued) • Remain silent and silence phones • You may notice something so surprising that you are tempted to laugh or exclaim out loud. This is not unusual. Unfortunately, participants might think you are laughing at them. Keep as quiet as possible. You will have opportunities to ask questions at the end. You may pass a note to facilitator. • Observe only - no questions or support • If reviewing an interface, it’s likely participants will have problems, and it is normal to feel a temptation to help. Please don’t. Instead, try to understand why it was that the user got stuck or went down the wrong path. It’s the facilitator’s role to get users back on track if they get really stuck. And if the facilitator poses a question during the test, he or she is asking the users, not you—please don’t answer unless the facilitator specifically directs a question to you. • Avoid “Design Questions” - Questions that ask the user their opinions about how to design aspects of the application (such as, “Where would you like to see these navigation buttons?”) can take a lot of time to answer and produce only limited results. Instead, focus on trying to understand the problem—we’ll come up with solutions later, outside the test. • In person, be conscious of your body language • Most studies are interesting, not every moment will be fascinating. If something is happening that isn’t of interest to you but may be to others, sit quietly without fidgeting. Take notes to stay alert. Adapted from the book Paper Prototyping by Carolyn Snyder, published by Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. Copyright (c) 2003 Elsevier. All rights reserved.
  72. 72. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Ethics Resources • Treatment of human subjects • Web-based course • Gives certificate of completion ant-protections.asp • Guidelines for writing informed consent • • UXPA Code of Conduct • conduct
  73. 73. Gearing Up for Ethnography / @carologic Resources • Bolt, Nate and Tony Tulathimutte. Remote Research. Rosenfeld. • Courage, Catherine and Kathy Baxter. Understanding Your Users: A Practical Guide to User Requirements Methods, Tools, and Techniques. 2005. • Holtzblatt, Karen, and Hugh Beyer. Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems, Elsevier Science & Technology, 2016. • Journal of Anthropological Research • Kumar, Vijay. 101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization. October 9, 2012. Wiley. • Kuniavsky, Mike. Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner's Guide to User Research • Ladner, Sam. Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector. Routledge. 2014. • Tedesco, Donna and Fiona Tranquada. The Moderator's Survival Guide: Handling Common, Tricky, and Sticky Situations in User Research.