Dae Kim

Jan 28, 2021

2 min read

Discovery and Synthesis: 01

Responses on “Cultural Probes” and “When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods.”

On William Gaver’s “Cultural Probes”

The case study of the experimental “probes” documents the set of research tools that gave cohesive and translucent understanding of the elderly throughout multiple cities in Europe. The design of the research tool gave me an opportunity to reflect back on the user research methods and practices I have used.

We are often told that in any design process, empathy must be one of the leading element. Nowadays, with the hype of user oriented design, empathizing with the audience by understanding the users has become any designer’s primary virtues, leading them to search for the pain points and needs of their audience, often through scientific methods such as observations, surveys, and interviews. However, I often felt skeptical towards the validity of these scientific research methods and thought, “would this empathy true, when the subjects are studied and dissected while removed from humane contexts? Wouldn’t the context of “research” and the notion that they are being observed affect the result?” There, I thought maybe the social, cultural contexts of our audience are often not focused as much as it should be and obscured by big, shiny user needs and pain points driven by functional practicality of the sterile research processes. I was inspired by the level of free engagement these cultural probes gave to their users. The outcome of the research were not the most consolidated and easy to put in an excel sheet, but it gave the snippets of the elderly’s actual life documented in their own ways of engagement. There, a collage of their life and culture was made, bringing the outside designers and them together as the collaborative design group.

On Nielsen Normal Group’s “When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods”

One of the biggest fear I have in researching is whether or not if I am asking the right question in a right way. The comprehensive, brief explanation on each research method was very helpful in understanding what could be possible in each stage the user research process depending on what kind of result what I am looking for. Reading the article after the “Cultural Probes,” leads me to an idea that the method builds an infrastructure which allows designers to utilize the user research to its fullest. One interesting point that I found within ‘A Landscape of User Research Methods’ chart is that I have a tendency of seeing the methods in the middle ground (Attitudinal & Qualitative to Behavioral & Quantitative) more balanced, and those methods are plotted in a linear, diagonal line on the chart. In my opinion, a psychological understandings of attitudinal to behavioral responses of the users might help designers in making decisions over getting qualitative or quantitative responses.