In this mini series, we’re exploring transferable skills that can be leveraged in the design strategy process to streamline the research process and strengthen client work.
As an Art Director and Designer, my academic background in anthropology may come as a surprise to some. I get it, what does the scientific study of human societies and cultures have to do with UX Research and Design? More than one might think.
To me, the relationship between design and anthropology is clear. As
In very simple terms, anthropology is the observation of people in their natural habitat with as little intrusion as possible. These observations, collected over months of fieldwork and research are compiled into an ethnography – an in-depth description of the everyday customs and practices of the people you have been observing.
The ethnography has to follow a simple set of rules and ethical considerations in order to achieve the most unbiased, clear results. These rules can be easily applied to user research; in fact, you might already be doing so.
Let’s dive in.
Chapter 1: The Rules of Engagement
Introduce your biases: We each approach a situation with our own set of experiences. An ethnographer (or strategist and designer) should be able to consider and state his or her biases and familiarity with the topic in order to understand how their particular lens might impact the study (or project).
When it comes to user research, your biases are mostly a good thing. Biases provide a familiarity
Define core questions and goals: What are you trying to learn and achieve? What are the probing questions that could help you move towards achieving the larger goal?
For example, if your goal is to build the Best Clock Ever app your questions should not only consist of asking people what kind of clock they like or what other clocks they use. Your research should look at how they set their alarms, how they wake up, and how many times they hit snooze. Do people want to wake up to a certain song and if so how loud should it be? You can keep going deeper with considerations like where people put the said clock, how they reach it, and if there are other people sharing the bed with them.
Examine your assumptions: What are the existing assumptions made about the user group you are studying? What are your client’s assumptions about the project needs and the users? During the
Let’s look at a couple assumptions about the user group for The Best Clock Ever:
- The app needs to be mobile-first
- An average person snoozes 3 times
- Alarms must be loud to be effective
Based on these assumptions, the app might be built to fit a list of needs that have not been validated. What if you learned that people don’t like to use their mobile alarm clock because it drains their battery? Or, that an average person snoozes twice but has multiple alarms set? You might also learn that people who sleep with a partner set their alarms more quietly and put the device under the bed while single people sleep with their phones under their pillow, using the loudest setting possible to make sure they hear it. The learning possibilities are limitless and exhilarating!