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Site Visits Interviews and observations
Site visits What we see and do for ourselves is more memorable, more ‘real, ’ more ‘true’ than what someone else tells us. In any situation, there is more to be seen and understood than can be articulated. Only by being there can we absorb the ‘look and feel’ of a place, a person, a group.
Emphasis on presence and embodiment • Practical: what can be most efficiently and effectively learned • Philosophical: phenomenological, e. g. Hubert Dreyfus, On the Internet – “Our body plays a crucial role in our being able to make sense of things so as to see what is relevant, our ability to let things matter to us and so to acquire skills, our sense of the reality of things, our trust in other people, and finally, our capacity for making the unconditional commitments that give meaning to our lives. ” p. 90
Embodiment and Co-presence (and usability) • Action: Activity, skill, and learning – Understanding people’s actions – Recognizing, accommodating skill • Interaction: Understanding, trust – Understanding its role in the work – Between usability expert and participants • Context – Understanding the contexts of use – The context in which the usability professional is learning about the system and users
Dreyfus on embodiment “Like embodied commonsense understanding, cultural style is too embodied to be captured in a theory, and passed on by talking heads. It is simply passed on silently from body to body, yet it is what makes us human beings and provides the background against which all other learning is possible. It is only by being apprenticed to one’s parents and teachers that one gains what Aristotle calls practical wisdom – the general ability to do the appropriate thing, at the appropriate time, in the appropriate way. ” Hubert Dreyfus, On the Internet, p. 48
Uses of site visits for needs and usability assessment • Task and user analysis – Study work regardless of technology – Study use of existing technology • Usability assessment in situ – Of prototypes at varying stages – Of working systems
What does the analyst do on site visits? • Observe – environments and activities • Interview – In their work situation • Engage in interactive observation – observe and interview simultaneously – Think-aloud protocols • 2 -person variant • Experience activities on site for oneself (sometimes)
Benefits of site visits • See complexity of real world • See what people can’t articulate – exceptions • Bring back pictures, stories for design team • Assure users that you understand (better) their world • See informal interaction, chance happenings • See and feel conditions for oneself
Limits of site visits • Limited time – Particular time of year, day, etc. – Limited slice of the work – Limited number, range of people • Can best see what’s visible – Can lead to bias in favor of what’s most visible, what was seen on this visit • Sense that you know more than you do
Setting up site visits • Decide what you need to know, from whom, where based on your goals • Be flexible and ready to change as needed • Getting people to give you time and attention is sometimes difficult – get insiders to make contacts – be flexible about scheduling – make it clear that you are very respectful of their constraints and pressures • But know what you want and what you need to do
Selecting Participants • Select a variety of people and locations based on your objectives • Use people within the group to suggest others • In some cases, pre-qualify people • Seek out articulate and thoughtful users, observers • Key informants – pros and cons
The Interviewer • Interviewer effects • Using “similar” interviewers • The benefits of a two-person team • Neutral or not?
Interacting with Participants • In their own location(s) if that makes sense – E. g. , both private office and shared workspace • Incentives: depends on circumstances; most appropriate with public – cash is nice • Gain their trust and cooperation • Always be accommodating & respectful– they’re doing you a favor. Be ready to: – stop or get out of the way – turn off the tape recorder or camera – stop writing – Pitch in and help out (if appropriate) • Sensitivities – That they will look bad – That others will – Things you may not be able to anticipate • Axes to grind • Confidentiality and releases
Site visit schedule • Ensure that they know ahead of time who you are, why • Introduce yourselves and your purpose • Lay ground rules: confidentiality and willingness to stop recording • Reach an agreement on time; stop or offer to stop on time • Set them at their ease • Ask users about themselves • Ask the questions you need to • Be aware if they try to introduce new subjects or go in a new direction: – sometimes this is a digression – sometimes your view is narrow and they are trying to correct it • Always ask: is there anything else I should have asked? Is there anything else I should know? • Ask how you can contact them if you need to follow up. • Don’t over-schedule yourself; it is hard work.
Data Recording Methods • Taking notes – on paper and laptop – What to record? • Audio-taping - & transcribing – Voice recognition software • Still photography • Videotaping - & indexing • Collecting examples (e. g. , of forms)
Write up your notes immediately • You have to, have to! • More detail than you think you need. – What you saw, heard, did, thought • Audiotape in the car in the way home. • Debrief with other team members on the way home.