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Observation involves watching and listening
to users. Observing users interacting
with software, even casual observing, can tell you an enormous
amount about what
they do, the context in which they do it, how well technology
supports them, and
what other support is needed. In Chapter 9 we discussed the
role of observation and
ethnography in informing design, particularly early in the
process. In this chapter
we describe how to observe and do ethnography and discuss
their role in evaluation.
Users can be observed in controlled laboratorylike conditions,
as in usability testing, or in the natural environments in
which the products are usedi.e. the field. How the observation
is done depends on why it is being done and the approach adopted.
There is a variety of structured, less structured, and descriptive
observation techniques for evaluators to choose from. Which
they select and how their findings are interpreted will depend
upon the evaluation goals, the specific questions being addressed,
and practical constraints. This chapter focuses on how to
select appropriate observation techniques, how to do observation,
and how to analyze the data and present findings from it.
We also discuss the benefits and practicalities associated
with each technique. An interview with interaction design
consultant Sara Bly at the end of the chapter discusses how
she uses observation in her work.
The main aims of this chapter are to:
- Discuss the benefits and challenges of different types
- Describe how to observe as an onlooker, a participant,
and an ethnographer.
- Discuss how to collect, analyze and present data from
- Examine key issues for doing thinkaloud evaluation,
diary studies and interaction logging.
- Give you experience in selecting and doing observational
- In general, observing and talking to users usually go
together, but we leave the details of interview techniques
until Chapter 13.