If you’re designing something that’s going to be used, as opposed to something decorative, then it’s a really good idea to make it fit for its purpose.
How can you do that? Observing the users is a good start.
“Observing” is a broad term that includes various specialised forms of observation and analysis. In this article, I’ll describe a simple way of doing basic observation of users, which involves watching out for four key alliteratively-named actions:
It’s simple, but it’s powerful, and it usually catches most of the main problems, and it gives you a good start towards designing something that the users will like.
Not great art, but useful: Four things to watch for in task analysis
Sources of original images are given at the end of this article
I’ve re-blogged it to form a free-standing article, for anyone interested in systematic approaches to recording and analysing people’s activities. I’ve lightly edited it for clarity.
The examples I’ve used below relate to product evaluation, but the same principles can be applied to other human activities, such as how people make decisions when shopping, or how people find their way around in an unfamiliar place.
Sometimes you can get the information you want via interviews and questionnaires. Often, though, you can’t.
For instance, if you want to know how long the average visitor spends on your website before leaving it, or what percentage of the population don’t have current car tax displayed in their car, or just how a skilled tennis player holds the racquet for a forehand, then interviews and questionnaires won’t get you very far.
In cases like the ones above, you’re trying to find out what people actually do, as opposed to what they say that they do.
There are various techniques that can be used for this. I’ve grouped them together under the label of “observational techniques”.