I’ve spent the last two weeks listening to users, understanding their requirements, drawing boxes and arrows, swim lanes and all that good stuff to show process flows. But is what they say the whole truth?
When we are doing analysis we are building our own mental model of the work, and potential solutions to problems we are hearing. But unless we can see what is going on, how grounded in reality will our solutions be? Anyone who has sat in on focus groups and observed consumer reality will know that what people say and what they do are often at odds with each other.
Finally this morning I had access to the users in their “real” environment. The user sat at his desk in front of his monitors and I sat slightly behind and aside him, watching over his shoulder what he did. Half an hour’s observation brought the boxes and arrows to life. More importantly, it highlighted how long he spent on each task, and the need for efficiency in the interface we are developing.
In a workshop he can ask for stuff, but when you see him working it is clear that that stuff would just clutter and get in the way of him accomplishing his goals.
Most striking is what is left out of the process discussions. Sometimes we forget about those things that are so obvious, so mundane. We assume that they just happen. Only by observing can you get a real feel for the requirements (and also how they should be prioritised).
So go on, take a half an hour break from your development activities and go and watch the users working “in the field”. You never know, you might just learn something.