|Applicable stages: test, and deployment.|
Personnel needed for the evaluation:
|Can be conducted remotely: No||Can obtain quantitative data: No|
Human factors engineers go to representative users's workplace and observe them work, to understand how the users are using the system to accomplish their tasks and what kind of mental model the users have about the system. This method can be used in the test and deployment stages of the development of the product.Procedure
Arrange for Field VisitsChoose a variety of representative users of the product, from different workplaces, industries, and backgrounds, and arrange field visits with these users. Prepare the list of questions need to be answered and data need to be collected.
Conduct On-site ObservationUse the time at the field site effectively. Try to collect as much data as possible there. Data analysis can be done after getting back to the office.
Part of field observation is inquiry; that is, interviewing users about their jobs and the ways they use your product. Part is observation; watching people use your product in the way they normally would in the course of day-to-day life.
One way to ensure adequate data collection is to identify as many artifacts and outcroppings as possible:
- Artifacts are physical objects in use at a site (notebooks, forms, reports, spaces, walls)
- Outcroppings are noticable physical traits that mark or characterize the site (size of cubicles, size of whiteboards and what's written on them, uniforms written by certain castes of personnel). For example, in one hospital study, people who got to wear scrubs around the hospital had more status and influence than those who couldn't, either by management decree or by peer pressure.
Both of these terms come from anthropology--some mention the term ethnographic observation, which can be interpreted as "watching people."
Post-It notes can be both artifact and outcropping.
The layout of cubicles, and location of personnel (who sits next to the boss, who sits near the loading dock, etc) can be informative as well.
Someone you consult for advice or information is neither artifact nor outcropping, but can be characterized as part of a relationship.
How to Collect Artifacts and Data about Outcroppings
"Collecting artifacts and outcroppings" sounds like you're going on an archeological dig; in actuality, it's quite similar. In the same way an archeologist looks at the pottery of an ancient civilization to determine their nutritional intake, you can find objects during your field observation that will help identify how your users use your product. Perform the following steps:
- Identify the artifacts and outcroppings during interviewing/observation
- Collect and mark them onsite
- Take photos, get files on disk, ask for maps or layouts of physical objects
- You can do remote observation by sending a disposable camera out to a site, and have the people there take pictures of their environment. Once you get the pictures, discuss them over the phone with the people at the remote site.
Representing the Data
When using such data to form decisions or sway opinions about design alternatives, try some of the following representations:
- Show the artifact itself
- Show a photo of the artifact or outcropping
- Show a diagram of the artifact or outcropping
- Show a drawing of the object with the parts labled
- Show a drawing of the object before and after use
- Show repeated instances of the artifact or outcropping
Group relationships can help identify process and information flows. They include organization, hierarchy, informal and formal links/interactions among groups, reporting relationships, etc.
Communication patterns show who talks to whom, and how often. For communication-intensive products, such as telephony, email, or advertising, this information is vital.
When asking people how they do things, or how they're supposed to do things, ask them, "Does that work?" "Do others do things differently?" "Why?"