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Contextual Inquiry

Contextual Inquiry is an interview method for gathering information about the context of use by first asking users a series of standard questions and then observing and interviewing them as they work in their own environment.

The meaning

Because users are interviewed in their own environment, the analysis data in a Contextual Inquiry is more realistic than laboratory data.

This interview method is based on a set of principles that allow it to be adapted to different situations.
This technique is typically used at the beginning of the design process and is well suited to retrieve comprehensive information about working practices, social, technical and physical environments, and user tools. Results can be used to define requirements, improve a process, or learn what is important to users and customers.
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The four principles of Contextual Inquiry

  • Focus – planning the inquiry based on a clear understanding of its purpose
  • Context – observing the user in their familiar environment
  • Partnership – Talking to the user to uncover unarticulated aspects of the work.
  • Interpreting – Developing a shared understanding with the user of the important aspects of the work.
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