Contextual Inquiry

Contextual inquiry is a structured field interviewing method with more emphasis on learning than evaluation.

The three pillars of the contextual inquiry are as follows

  • Context: The environment in which the user uses the product plays silent but important role in the usage of the product. Taking the interviews of the users while they work helps understanding the social and physical environment. The contextual inquiry thus helps gathering ongoing experience as well as the concrete data.

  • User: The user is considered as the partner in the designing process making the design process more user centric process. Contextual inquiry thus requires the partnership between the interviewee and the interviewer. Partnership helps user to understand what you are looking for. It creates a sense of the shared goals. To some extent the interviewer can carry this partnership in the form of master and apprentice type of partnership where the user/interviewee plays the role of the master. Thus following the master-apprentice model interviewer can be the part of the user's world. It helps in understanding complex and unfamiliar work domains.

  • Focus: It gives direction to the inquiry process and helps steering the conversation. It reveals the details, defines the point of view and sets the goals. It is always important to expand the focus during the inquiry process as focus on one thing can loose the other important aspects.

The contextual Interview Structure:

  • Introduction- Introduce The project, scope, take permissions for recording etc.
  • Ice Breaking- Ask questions about demographics, (name, Education etc), take overview of the work.
  • Transition- Let the user do his work
  • Getting into the Context- Observe and validate the interpretation of the work
  • Partnership- Build the partnership, build master-apprentice environment, take notes
  • Summarize- Get feedback on your notes





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