What is field research?
Drawing on methods from the fields of anthropology, psychology and sociology, we carry out field studies in people's homes or places of work to reveal their underlying goals and behaviours.
“You did a thorough job capturing a whole bunch of issues.”
– Kari Compton Rishel, Hewlett-Packard Company.
Why do field research?
Field studies are indispensable when you want to understand your customers better: for example, to learn the different ways they're using your product, or what features would be useful to them in future product versions.
When should I do field research?
Field research can be carried out at any time in the development of a product. In the early phases of design it provides invaluable insights for product design; in the later phases of design it provides ideas on functions that later iterations of the product should focus upon.
Our approach to field research
We use a technique called contextual inquiry.
- We decide on the sites to visit, train observers on how to gather data during a site visit and then visit participants at work or home, observing how they use the tools they use every day.
- We are interested in their daily work and the problems they encounter — not a presentation of the things they like or do best. So we listen to their gripes about their current way of working: their wants and needs. We note what users do and the terminology they use; we record similarities and differences across environments.
- We create a focus — a list of questions we want to research. We revise our focus questions in response to what we learn. Then we categorise and prioritise the data we collect.
Our field research for clients has involved contextual interviews at people's places of work, web and paper surveys and telephone interviews. We will be able to carry over this expertise in our work with you.