Contextual enquiry


Observing users at work and asking questions to understand what they do, why they do it that way and ways in which the way they are currently working might be improved.


To understand users’ goals how they achieve those goals, to ask informed questions within the context of the user working and to develop a good understanding of the workflow being investigated.


  1. Arrange to observe a user at work, making sure any supervisory permissions are secured in advance if required.
  2. Ask the user to carry out tasks of interest and to explain out loud what they are doing and also what they are thinking and feeling.  Make notes as you go along.  You could also take pictures if useful and not disruptive to the process of observation.
  3. Ask questions whenever you feel you need to understand a point better or are not entirely sure what the user is doing or why they are doing it.
  4. Specifically ask the user to explain pain-points (things they find particularly problematic) and things they feel could be improved.
  5. Replay you understanding back to the user to make sure you have a good understanding of the domain.
  6. Complete notes as soon afterwards as possible.