Continuing the discussion from Looking for advice for conducting contextual inquiries as a beginner:
Hey UX Masters!
This is going to be a lengthy post, so TLDR: I’m stuck in the planning stages of a practice portfolio piece – specifically when it comes to focus, questions to ask and behaviors to observe, who to conduct contextual inquiries with, and how to get those participants in the first place.
I am taking David Travis’s Udemy course. It’s been very informative so far, but IMO a little sparse on advice and seems to be geared towards people already in an organization.
I’ll try to quickly summarize the project as best I can. A hypothetical company wants to create a product that helps finding lost pets. They have already created a device that goes on the collar of dogs/cats that sends out a GPS signal up to 8 meters (~26 feet). They have brought me on to “identify the key user groups, identify the key tasks, set usability goals, develop a prototype and run a usability test before iterating on the design.”
To start with, I need to
1. See if there is a need for the system.
2. If there isn’t a need, identify how to change the system to meet a need.
3. Identify the main user groups.
4. Identify day-to-day activities that they engage in that’s related to the product.
5. Identify their workflow (sequence of activities).
I need to do this via a series of contextual inquiries.
Oh man, this is already getting to be too long! Here comes the question(s) part!
My goal is work on a product that makes finding lost pets easier. There are three groups that I've thought about focusing on.
People who are worried that they may lose their pet.
People who have lost their pet (whether they got them back or not)
People who are currently looking for their lost pet.
I feel that the best group to study would be group 3. In theory, I could follow these participants around and observe and ask questions about how they are going about looking for their pet. But immediately, two things come to mind:
I feel that the number of people who I could randomly encounter who fall into this group is very small.
And even if I did encounter someone in this group and walk up to them to explain that I want to passively observe them, I’m not sure it would go over well. They are likely bereft and panicked. I don’t see them being keen on some stranger following them around in this moment.
The next best group to study would be group 2. Unfortunately, this is where conducting a contextual inquiry on these people would be difficult:
- Looking for their pet happened in the past and thus their behaviors and the process they followed is unobservable to me. All I could do is ask questions. But sometimes people don't tell the whole truth– sometimes purposely but also accidentally. Memory is very fallible and not an accurate snapshot of the past.
And so there is group 1. My hunch is that they are the majority, and the people who would make up the biggest segment who use this product. Essentially, this product would be peace of mind for them. However, here’s the problem with them:
- They haven’t lost a pet. They don’t objectively know what they would do if they did. All they can do is conjecture. This likely wouldn’t take in to account the charged emotions and change of brain chemistry (fight or flight) that could possibly change what they think they would do in such a hypothetical situation.
- Again, there is no process to observe. Only questions.
Right now, at this point, I'm trying to figure out:
1. Who to recruit (more specifically, how to figure out who to recruit).
2. HOW to recruit them (do I just go up and say, “hey, I see you are walking your dog. Have you ever lost them before? Yes? Okay friendly stranger who I just met 5 minutes ago, can you take 90 minutes out of your day to tell me in extreme detail your experience?”) that's a little bit of sarcasm, but a 60-90 minute session does seem to be necessary goal.
3. How to plan out which behaviors to observe and which questions to ask to see if there is a need for the system (or if the system needs to be tweaked to address a new need).
As I said before, I’m a bit overwhelmed. But I view this as a litmus test to see if I’m strong enough to be in this field, so I can’t back down. Does anyone have any advice on how I could begin?