# Contextual Inquiry
- Capture the real workflow, ambient conditions and usage context of an application
- Time required
- approx. 2 hours/interview + min. 2 man-days for preparation and follow-up
- Interviewer, interviewee
- Level of experience
Usually, contextual inquiries take place at the location of the interaction of the user with the system (most often the workplace of the user). Its purpose is the gathering of the usage context. Contextual inquiry is a type of interview that uses the master-apprentice principle. This means, that the interviewer takes over the role of a student who wants to learn from his master how he conducts his work.
Contextual inquiries are semi-structured interviews. The aim is not to follow a strict order of questions, but rather to create a comfortable atmosphere where the interviewee talks most of the time. The interviewer has prepared key questions to cover different aspects of the task. After every interview, these key questions should be revised and adapted according to recent aspects that require more insights.
In contextual interviews, holistic information will be asked for. Suitable questions and detailed answers of the interviewees should provide detailed and contextually classifiable information about the real workflow and ambient conditions. The findings are documented in the form of personas, usage scenarios, and usage requirements. They form the basis for future usability tests.
# 1. Preparation
A careful selection of the interview partners is critical for successful contextual inquiries. Ideally, the interview partner is experienced with the application and highly communicative. It is advisable to create an interview guide with mainly open questions. To develop questions, put yourself in the role of the user and think about what concerns him. However, this guide should not be used to steer the interview (contradicts the master-apprentice principle). When making appointments (approx. 1.5 - 2 hours per interview), attention should also be paid to breaks (approx. 15-30 minutes) between individual interviews for the interviewer to complete his or her notes.
# 2. Conduction
At the beginning of the interview, it is important to create a comfortable atmosphere and to clarify that the interviewer aims to learn from the interviewee. It is not an exam and data will be treated confidentially and carefully. For documentation purposes sound, photo or video recordings are helpful. This requires a consent form and should not disturb the interviewee. During the interview, the interviewer should be guided by the interviewee. The interviewer should not interrupt the interviewee but ask selective questions in order to cover all aspects. In addition, the interviewer should listen carefully and also ask for the background to the statements.
# 3. Follow-up
After the context interview, the recordings have to be evaluated and processed for documentation. It is helpful to highlight the most interesting findings and statements.
# Time of use
Interviews are very useful for getting to know users and their needs. You also get to know their context, which opens up a broad view of the user and her environment.
# Tools and Templates
- Interview guide with interview questions and discussion topics
- Notebook or computer
- For documentation: photo/video camera or sound recorder
- Non-disclosure agreement
With contextual inquiries, the real and not the ideal workflow is precisely captured. This uncovers difficulties and workarounds in daily routine as well as aspects the user is not aware of. This method enables a flexible course which can be tailored to the requirements of the interviewee. Unlike a questionnaire, the interviewer can inquire when difficulties in understanding occur.
The quality of the results strongly relies on the experience and expertise of the interviewer. The interviewer has to take care not to influence the interviewee. Das Ergebnis ist abhängig von der Erfahrung und des Geschicks des Interviewers, auch um eine mögliche Beeinflussung auszuschließen. Contextual inquiries take a lot of time.
The quality of the interview depends on the selection of the right interview partners. Select users from the mainstream as well as "extreme" user groups with special features. In addition, it is important to act as a neutral conversation partner and not to evaluate the topics and answers in the interview.
- Beyer, H., Holtzblatt, K. (2016) Contextual Design: Design for Life San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers
- Curedale: Design Thinking: process and methods manual Design Community College Inc. ISBN: 9780988236240
- Nutzungskontextanalyse - Methodenkarte des Mittelstand 4.0-Kompetenzzentrum Usability (German)
- Interview mit Kontextszenario - SimplyUsable Methodenbaukasten (German)
- Uebernickel, Brenner et al: Design Thinking: Das Handbuch (German) Frankfurter Allgemeine Buch. ISBN: 3956010655
- Vianna, Vianna et al: Design Thinking : Innovation im Unternehmen (German) Logos-Verlag. ISBN: 3832534342