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 […]

A Different Approach to Focus Groups

When something becomes a running joke on every sitcom since the 80s, you know it’s been overdone. The traditional focus groups is overdone. But I don’t think the focus group, or something akin to it more precisely, is dead. It’s an imperfect methodology but it has its place and it can be done well – if […]

Does Size Really Matter?

Sample size is a fixation in research. We fret about it, argue over it, and generally have very little to back up the relevance we ascribe to it. Rather than thinking about the outcomes and goals, we get hung up on the n, sometimesusing it as a weapon to bolster a preconceived belief rather than […]

Where The Data Beasts Lie

Since the mid-nineties, the story about IT has been that the “New Information Economy” would give way to vast gains in productivity and creativity. We’ve been told that if we simply implement ERP, CRM, etc., our marketing efforts would be smarter and more efficient. But after 20+ years that is not exactly the case. The […]

Planning Basic Field Observation

When I’m sent to a setting, be it a country I’ve never visited before, be it digging through someone’s cupboard, watching them plan their next vacation, or cooking dinner with a family I’ve never met, one of the first things I do is think through how I will make sense of the environment and how […]

What Makes for a Good Journey

A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customers go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination. It’s nothing new, we’ve all done them or been involved in their development. But what […]

Defining Context

Planners, researchers and marketers increasingly think about consumer in complex ways. We understand that in a changing digital landscape, where people are dialed in 27/7, the context in which they learn and shop is incredibly important and influences what messages we deliver and how we deliver them.  So increasingly, we are thinking about what situations […]

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 […]

From Personas to Stories: Creating Better Tools for Design and Marketing

Design ethnography takes the position than human behavior and the ways in which people construct meaning of their lives are contextually mitigated, highly variable and culturally specific. on the central premise of ethnography is that it assumes that we must first discover what people actually do and why they do it before we can assign […]

Doing Microethnography

Microethnography is a powerful method of research for studying practices in dynamic social systems where interactions reproduce unexplored or poorly understood conditions. It is a powerful intervention for discovering, making visible, or getting at what is happening as it happens in the interactions. Analyzing moment-to-moment interactions enables a better understanding of practices and expectations in […]