Nov 19, 2020

Ethnography in UX — The 5 Whys

Team Brandhero

It is rightly said that Ethnography and Anthropology have a great deal to teach us when it comes to understanding people and communities.

Humans need conceptual understanding. They need validity. This is the real purpose of Ethnography.
 Sam Ladner

Ethnographic research allows UX professionals to stop thinking solely about how a user will engage with a product and instead also at how this product might fit into a user’s life. They provide insights into the user’s world. In particular it provides the researcher with an understanding of how users see the world and how they interact with everything around them.

The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.
 Ruth Benedict

This topic indeed is widely researched by professionals, but when it comes to implementation are we taking it seriously? Ethnography can help to find and establish a better outcome, combined with other qualitative and quantitative research methods. Designers can create products that fit more organically into a user’s life and lifestyle, by understanding psychological, social and cultural behaviour.

All you have to do is observe!

There are methods to conduct Ethnographic research like direct observation, diary studies, video recordings and artefact analysis such as devices that a person uses throughout the day. A UX designer conducting ethnographic research puts themselves right next to their user, observing their process and seeking to understand the entire ecosystem in which that process takes place. The length of the studies can vary depending on the research that is being conducted.

Implement ‘the 5 Whys’ Methodology!

One of the most effective ways is ‘the 5 Whys’ methodology. Quite literally, asking your users “Why?” whenever they explain their behaviours to you. Each time you ask “Why?”, you will prompt someone to re-evaluate their position in order to dig a little deeper into their own reasoning. This method can be a little odd but has the potential to bring great insights while allowing you to dig deeper into the root causes of one’s behaviour.

How can it help grow a business!

Ethnographic research is most beneficial for businesses that are developing a new product and are in the early stages of the project. We call this the requirements-gathering stage. During this stage some important insights you can gain are:

  1. Understand the context in which your customers will be using your product.

  2. Identify unexpected issues that you may not have otherwise anticipated.

  3. Identifying user needs that aren’t met.

  4. Testing market demand for products that don’t exist.

  5. Providing a holistic view of a problem.

  6. Exposing opportunities for competitive variations.

Wrapping Up!

Having conducted a study, you then need to present your findings back in an informative and meaningful way that will allow teams to use the information to make informed changes, making sure that your own opinions have not come into the findings.

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