Ethnographic Research for UX
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What Is Ethnographic Research for UX?

 Ethnographic research is the study of people in their natural habitats. First used by anthropologists to uncover differences in cultural behavior, ethnographic efforts have now made their way into end-user analysis to help companies better understand their users.

Consider the user experience. One common way to gain feedback about what users like, what they don’t and what needs to change is through surveys — companies ask specific questions and users provide answers.

The challenge? Users may self-report their actions differently than they actually happened. For example, one common metric measured by UX surveys is “rage clicks.” These angry actions occur when users can’t get websites or applications to work as intended and are a measure of frustration.

In a survey situation, users might report that after 10 seconds of interaction with a non-functioning element they started to rage click. An ethnographic observation, meanwhile, may show that users began clicking after just 2 seconds, in turn suggesting the need for change.


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Ethnographic research offers three key benefits for businesses.

First is the ability to better understand the user’s world and how it impacts consumer behavior. Even the best on-site studies can’t replicate these findings: Since users aren’t in their natural environment, they’ll naturally behave differently. At home, however, day-to-day events such as dogs barking, kids needing attention or simply browsing through websites or applications can provide invaluable data about how users actually interact with their devices.

    Second, companies can discover where their UX stands up or falls down in a real-world context. In a controlled study, users will often be overly generous with clunky websites or confusing applications since they’re being observed. On their own, however, they have no reason to hold back, letting companies pinpoint potential UX problems.

    Finally, ethnographic research offers a framework for commonality. If a broad cross-section of users all encounter the same issue in their unique environments, it’s a safe bet that the problem is widespread enough to warrant in-depth analysis.

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    How Key Lime Interactive Empowers Ethnographic Analysis

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    While companies can complete their own ethnographic research design and testing, the amount of effort required is often time- and cost-prohibitive.

    By partnering with an ethnographic research company, however, businesses can streamline the process of testing design and deployment to gain critical customer insight. At Key Lime Interactive, our team of curious and empathetic ethnographers can create study parameters that not only provide top-level data about UX preferences but also help your company uncover more subtle contextual clues that speak to the need for specific design changes.

    Take your ethnographic efforts to the next level with Key Lime Interactive. Get in touch anytime.

    Chart your course for a better customer experience today



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