This short insight is from of our Methods series: A discussion of useful working practices and ideas for better ideation and execution. We discuss what each method is, why they are useful, and how to utilize them.
The Inquiry team perform an audit of working practices, by observing participants at work. This is accompanied by questions, either during or after the observation stage.
The purpose is to learn both how and why users do what they do. As an example, this could be how a person interacts with a computer application, and how their needs and attitudes affect such usage of it. Key learnings may transpire that might not otherwise emerge during a simple user interview.
The team can then map out how tools interact during complex activities—both digital and non-digital.
To close, it is worth pondering some key potential variables.
Firstly, aside from potential human error there are many other factors that could drastically change an inquiry session.
There may be different needs at different times. User behaviour can vary, such as focus and fatigue, or perhaps motivation spikes can be evident based on the immediately prior activity.
How you conduct your audit can greatly influence people, especially if there isn't full transparency given to the participant about the reason for the audit. Therefore, your method for taking notes could unwittingly unnerve some users. In certain scenarios it could be more organic to record conversations, whereas for others you may wish to type or write in silence as not to interrupt anyone. Ensuring your note-taking is appropriate for the environment your in is also key—for example asking questions about 'why' a participant is interacting with a customer in a certain way could undermine them in front of the customer.
Finally, ensure you look up from note-taking regularly to be aware of your surroundings. How a user interacts with tools, co-workers, clients, and other variables may greatly differ from a huge range of contextual circumstances. It may help to have visual cues from your session to help your referencing—i.e. photos or videos.