Banana For Scale

Ethnography in User Experience Design

August 05, 2015

  • Ethnography derives customer experiences from real-world needs, behaviors and usage.
  • Ethnography is a functional component of a quality research effort and if integrated into the design process can transform the user experience.
  • Ethnography can reveal new market positions and has the potential to substantially increase the bottom line of any product or service.

Ethnography reveals deep insights

Ethnography captures contextual information about a users experience; This results in a rich understanding of actual user behavior. Ethnography shows the designer what people actually do and this in turn helps product managers understand how their product or service is actually used.

Ethnography enhances design strategy

Ethnography can reveal nuanced behavior and can clearly articulate insight into emotional values that a user associates with a product or service. In turn, these nuances integrated into product iterations, are a superior and powerful lens in which to view design decisions.

Ethnography is similar to UX research

Using ethnography to explore a user’s journey and emotional states, an actual narrative is recorded, similar to how one might expect from an anthropological discovery, but in present form. This approach reveals unexpected opportunity areas that can empower an empathetic design response which, overall, can lead to a more successful and more desirable user experience.

Ethnography captures a users’ actual real-world experience

An ethnographic approach is a sincere and introspective research method. An ethnographic approach builds rapport with the user; Interactions are kept informal and participants are encouraged to share their honest opinions and experiences.

Ethnography increases the quality of design information

Research methods are often built around hypotheses in an environment removed from the real-world. Ethnography is not limited in this way and informs the design in a more powerful way through the power of real-world discovery.

How can ethnography bolster the user experience?

  • By revealing how a product is used in daily life
  • By answering the ‘why’ in user behavior
  • By revealing co-interactivity with other products
  • By providing clarity around abstract questions
  • By identifying where a product is lacking

Mike Hacker

Written by Mike Hacker, a Native Texan, who lives and works in the Austin/San Antonio, Texas area. You should follow him on Twitter