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CN11: Understanding Users in Context: An In-depth Introduction to Field Research

Quick Facts

Time: Tuesday, 13 April 2010, 9:00 to 18:00
Units: 4
Organizers: Susan M. Dray, David A. Siegel


In this tutorial, you will learn how to plan for and carry out studies of users in the field. Rather than teaching a single way to do field research, we provide you with the tools to think critically about the planning and methodological choices you will have to make. You will also have the chance to practice two types of observations (Naturalistic Observation and Contextual Inquiry) and will see video examples from actual field research projects in a variety of settings and countries.


This hands-on session is aimed at practitioners doing, planning, and leading field research, including developers, designers, and managers who are responsible for user experience or user requirements identification. This is an introductory to intermediate level tutorial. It will be useful for beginners in field research, as well as those with some experience who want to broaden their knowledge of approaches.


This is a significantly updated version of a highly rated course based on tutorials presented at past CHI conferences and other venues.


  • Learn how field research complements other User-Centered Design (UCD) techniques
  • Learn what it takes to make field research more than just "anecdote collecting."
  • Learn fine points of four data-gathering techniques
    - Naturalistic Observation
    - Contextual Inquiry
    - Artifact Walkthroughs
    - Naturalistic Usability Evaluation
  • Identify next steps for data analysis
  • Learn when and how to apply these tools to user-centered design


Through their consulting firm, Dray & Associates, Inc., Susan and David have helped many clients plan and design products that meet user needs, using field research and other UCD approaches, and have worked in 25 countries between them. They are well-known consultants, speakers, trainers, and authors on this and other UCD topics. Susan has been active in CHI since the Gaithersburg Conference in 1987, and is a Fellow of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Susan and David are former co-editors of the Business column of interactions magazine. Susan is currently the Director of Publications of the Usability Professionals Association, and one of the UX Community Chairs for CHI2010.