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Ethnographic Data in Design


"The 3 Tenets of Applied Ethnography"


It is interesting to read articles that confess the major subjectivity of the topic at hand. UX is notoriously subjective, something it very much has in common with psychology. "UX is essentially an extension of psychology. Indeed, UX is an application of psychological principles in a context that traditionally has little to do with psychology.” This article notes how design logic varies from designer to designer, and yet that logic is the foundation of the field — and the reason for innovation. Because of this subjectivity, ethnographic research is imperative to understanding the people we are designing for and allows us to develop ideas that perhaps begin and end outside of ourselves. Even taking a single step in another person’s shoes can have vast implications over how we think about a problem. Today, more than ever, this is the way to solve problems. The article then points out that having raw qualitative data is great, but fairly meaningless when it comes to moving forward. Analyzing information and attaching confidence to it (the confidence interval) tempers subjectivity and provides support for design decisions. “Ethnographic data helps you generate, challenge, and validate your design assumptions.” Understanding user roadblocks and what informs user choices is critical to design, and something that ethnographic research is poised to deliver. To have this technique in today’s world is invaluable to gain real insight in getting to the root of problems, where we can then begin to develop solutions. 

Megan Burke

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55413