Context Isn’t Easy or: if you wouldn’t complain to your surgeon about taking her time, don’t complain to your design team

Products are more than they seem. This is true for both marketing and design. Many of us have largely been taught to focus on functional goals and actions, and to be fair there are many good reasons to understand functional needs. Unfortunately, the approach, which is rekindled every few years under a different guise (e.g. […]

Ethnography vs. Contextual Interviews: Methods Matter

Methods matter. It’s often assumed that an open-ended interview is ethnography and the reasons for the confusion are understandable, but an ethnographically-informed approach, which a contextual interview can certainly be, is not the same thing as a true ethnographic project.  Contextual interviews, which rely on self-report data, and ethnography, which focuses on observed data through […]

Anthropology and Usability: Getting Dirty

There are significant methodological and philosophical differences between ethnographic processes and laboratory-based processes in the product development cycle.  All too frequently, proponents of these data collection methods are set at odds, with members on both sides pointing fingers and declaring the shortcomings of  the methods in question.  Methodological purity, ownership and expertise are debated, with […]

“No Need to Worry About Usability, Cut the Budget.”

Yes, the title is sarcastic.  In an economy where the lines between the brick-and-mortar and digital experience are increasingly blurred, usability has become a differentiating factor that shoppers consider, consciously and subconsciously, when making purchase decisions. Now, I will be the first to say that I am not always a fan of usability because it […]

Beyond Use: Back to Thinking.

Product development has traditionally had an “if you build it, they will come” attitude. Usability has often followed suit, producing products and user interfaces that worked beautifully when tested in a lab.  Unfortunately for designers, product developers, engineers, etc., people do not use products in a lab.  No do they use them as we might […]

Ethnography, Usability and Field Testing

There are significant methodological and philosophical differences between ethnography and laboratory-based processes in the product development cycle.  These differences set users of these data collection methods at odds with one another. Frequently, these debates occur less within the user research community and more among the people using or responding to the findings and solutions presented. […]

Get Beyond 20th Century Usability.

In an economy where the lines between the brick-and-mortar and digital experience are increasingly blurred, usability has become a differentiating factor that shoppers consider, consciously and subconsciously, when making purchase decisions. A web search about a potential new purchase, be it a digital camera, a box of cereal, or fishing rod will uncover myriad reviews […]