How Remote Contextual Inquiry Got Us Up-Close with Users

Wednesday June 4, 2008

TechSmith, Okemos, MI

Joanna Markel and Serena Rosenhan, ProQuest

As members of the User Experience Design team at ProQuest, a company that produces information products for libraries, we wanted to know more about how our users approach research. While we routinely conduct usability tests and evaluations as part of our product development processes, we needed a new method to help us answer questions about the tasks and situations for which our products are designed. We turned to contextual inquiry and designed and conducted a series of field observations of college students doing library research. After conducting 13 rather time-consuming in-person observations, we modified our methods to remote online observations and quickly discovered that there were unexpected benefits to this approach in addition to time-savings.

Between the two sets of tests, in-person and remote, we gathered a wealth of data about our users that has impacted both our interface designs and our larger corporate culture.

In our presentation we:

  • Share our experience with two methods of contextual inquiry (a more traditional approach and a remote approach), including tips for an easy approach with a big payoff
  • Share selected videos to highlight the power of the research method for getting up-close with users
  • Share how we used our study findings to improve user experience and drive organizational change
  • Inspire attendees to try their own field studies


Wednesday June 4, 2008
6:00-8:30PM (Food and networking at 6, program begins at 7)



2405 Woodlake Dr
Okemos, MI 48864


Cost (includes food and beverage):

$5 Students, $10 UPA members, $20 all others


Please RSVP to

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