Field Study / Work Shadow

A Field Study is a method used when you aim to conduct interviews and research in order to find a problem.

By immersing yourself in your customers (or end users) natural environment and view them doing everyday tasks you’ll observe behaviour that can’t be captured in a form or when your users are asked to act out a process. You want to capture the subconscious acts rather than the logical processes – aka the real behaviours vs the behaviours I’m meant to have. 

The only real specific tools that are required are just any method of capturing what you see and hear. This material captured then needs to be synthesised and presented into something like a ‘How might we’ which is your first hypothesis.

The below are some well-spoken words about what Field Study is from different perspectives.


Design is problem solving, Design research is problem seeking

Through design research you will learn how to:
– Inspire appropriate and holistic design solutions
– Build a compelling foundation for design decisions
– Include practical empathy as part of your design process

Lauren Serota – http://library.ac4d.com/ – AC4D_designlibrary_DRTools.pdf


Interviews really are the crux of the Inspiration phase. Human-centered design is about getting to the people you’re designing for and hearing from them in their own words. Interviews can be a bit daunting, but by following these steps below you’ll unlock all kinds of insights and understanding that you’ll never get sitting behind your desk. Whenever possible, conduct your interviews in the interviewee’s space. You can learn so much about a person’s mindset, behavior, and lifestyle by talking with them where they live or work.

http://www.designkit.org/methods/2


A field study is a general method for collecting data about users, user needs, and product requirements that involves observation and interviewing. Data are collected about task flows, inefficiencies, and the organizational and physical environments of users.

Investigators in field studies observe users as they work, taking notes on particular activities and often asking questions of the users. Observation may be either direct, where the investigator is actually present during the task, or indirect, where the task is viewed by some other means like a video recorder set up in an office. The method is useful early in product development to gather user requirements. It is also useful for studying currently executed tasks and processes.

http://www.usabilitybok.org/field-study