Topics on this Page
- Why Contextual Interviews?
- Conducting a Contextual Interview
- Combining Contextual Interviews and Usability testing
During contextual interviews you watch and listen as users work. However, you conduct contextual interviews in your user’s own environment rather than in a lab. Contextual interviews are more natural and sometimes more realistic because they occur in the user’s own environment. They are also usually less formal than lab tests and don’t use tasks or scripts.
By going to the user, you see the user's environment and the actual technology the user works with. You can answer questions such as:
- What is the social environment like and are there people around to help the user?
- What is the physical environment like and what type of internet connection do they have??
- How long does it take to complete common or target tasks?
- What if any impediments to completion are there?
In a contextual interview, you watch and listen as the user works. You don't usually give the user tasks or scenarios.
To understand what a user is doing or thinking you can ask questions as the user navigates the site. The results are usually qualitative, observed data, rather than quantitative, measured data.
In a usability test, you usually have all users try to complete the same scenarios resulting in comparative data from several people trying the same thing. In contextual interviews you watch people’s behavior in their own environment doing their own tasks.
However, you can combine contextual interviews and usability testing by:
- Taking scenarios along during contextual interviews. Combine watching users do their own work in their environments with asking them to try a few of your tasks.
- Interview users during a usability tests to find out the sorts of questions, issues, tasks they would come to the site with. Let the users do their own tasks but have them do some of your tasks as well.
Website usability testing is often informal and conducted much like a contextual interview. However, usability testing can range from informal and qualitative to quite formal and quantitative.