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Getting Started with Contextual Techniques

Karen Holtzblatt, Hugh Beyer

InContext Enterprises, Inc.
249 Ayer Rd. , Suite 301
Harvard, MA 01451
telephone: (508) 772-0001
email: karen@acm.org, beyer@acm.org

(c) COPYRIGHT ON THIS MATERIAL IS HELD BY THE AUTHORS.


Introduction

Contextual techniques, which ensure good system design by taking the designer out into the users' world, are revolutionizing the way organizations approach design. But since the techniques are still new, individuals and teams which want to adopt them must do so with no organizational support. In this SIG, we will use the experience of the organizers and others who have successfully adopted contextual techniques to produce a guide on how to get started. Participants will share their experience and knowledge while producing a guide useful to future practitioners. People wanting to use contextual techniques will have the opportunity to ask questions and raise issues, and will leave with a guide to help them get started. We will use the template below to structure the discussion for the SIG. We will collect participants' ideas and experience for each section, capturing points on-line. Following the session, we will consolidate the discussion into a simple a 2-5 page guide and send it to all participants.

The Step-by-Step Guide to Contextual Techniques
Use the questions to guide your thinking, and for each part, provide the following: key actions a person can take immediately potential pitfalls and how to deal with them relevant literature references

Deciding what to look at: How did you decide what to pay attention to when working with customers? Should you focus on the tool, the work, or a competitor's tool? How did you state the problem so the people who went on customer visits knew what to look for? What are the characteristics of a good project to start on?

Picking customers: How did you decide who to talk to? How did you locate them, contact them, and set up the visit? Did you use intermediaries, and if so who? Did you start with a friend or friendly customer? How many customers have you found to be enough to get started?

Running the interview: How did you run the customer interaction? How did you introduce yourself? How did you interrupt the work so you could talk about it? How did you record the interview? How long did it take?

Interpreting the data: How did you interpret the data? Did you get others to help? Did you use any tools to help with interpretation? What did you look for-design ideas, problems, delighters? How did you capture results?

Deciding how to act on results: Did you have to communicate results to someone else to act on? How did you generate design ideas for the product based on results? How did you use the data to defend your ideas? Were you successful in changing the product based on your data?

Communicating results: Did others need to know about the results? Did you try to communicate the method as well as the results? What got people hooked into using customer data? What got in the way of implementing results?