Wixon, et al. :“Usability in practice”

Wixon, Dennis R. et al. “Usability in practice: Field Methods Evolution and Revolution” CHI ''02 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems - CHI ''02. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, 2002. 880. Web.



Field research differs from usability tests in that a) do not require design or protoype; b) offer ways to gather and analyze data about user work as it is done (880).


Contextual Design: An Overview


  • contextual inquiry (data gathering for contextual design)
  • small group of users is feasible
  • assumption that "intent behind user work can be discovered only by dialog with users as they work" (881)
  • directed at generating new requirements, designs, product (discovery, not evaluation)


Field Methods for Task Analysis


  • Users, tasks, and working environments must be considered together.
  • Primary, secondary, surrogate users; may differ from buyers
  • work flow analysis, job analysis, task inventories, procedural analysis
  • importance of site visit (observation, interviewing, note-taking)
  • immense amount of data; break down using variety of methods and techniques (881)


Streamlining Field Methods


  • shorter sessions with participants (2 hours)
  • data-analysis with engineering / marketing during informal debriefings after the sessions
  • apply team approach, separate interviewers and note-takers (sharing tasks)


Discount User Observations (DUO)


  • balancing data collection/analysis and development schedule.
  • collect observations in detailed notes while work occurring
  • ask minimal clarifying questions during data collection
  • record detailed info by using digital still cam
  • review data immediately after collection
  • separate data collection into 2 distinct roles-- note-taker and recorder
  • focus on recording user activities and events in sequence
  • mark clearly ambiguous data as it is collected so that data can be clarified during collection




  • Field methods are scalable