I’m struck sometimes how much some of my meetings over the years have resembled that conclave of philosophers. In general, the syllogism goes something like this:
- I’m a user
- I have teeth
- All users have teeth
Now, a lot of this comes from simply doing usability tests. It’s amazing what you can learn about - not only the particular subject matter of the test, but all sorts of things about your system, your users, and people and technology in general. Do that a hundred times a year over so many years and, yup, you do get to know those chickens pretty well.
An even more effective method, though, is through field studies. Now, you may know these as “ethnographic studies” or “contextual inquiry,” but all they really involve is simply watching people doing their thing in their own environment. I’m definitely not a purist when it comes to these things, so I typically have no problem just making them a glorified interview. However you do it, you’re sure to get a lot out of it. And no matter who runs 'em.
Oh, by the way … Hens? They don’t have any teeth. Believe me – I just looked.
(not Whitney, by the way)