Site visits, also called contextual inquiry, provide the opportunity to learn about user´s tasks and goals, while at the same time understanding the environment in which they perform these tasks. The environment could be the office, factory floor, home, or out in the world.
We conduct site visits to provide useful, valuable information to you about your users, their tasks, and environments in a number of contexts:
- Requirements gathering — to learn what the essential product requirements are before product development begins
- Competitor analysis — to learn how users are using competitor products, especially what extra “artifacts” they create to help them work with the products. This information tells us what users find difficult in using other products so that your new or revised product can address these competitively
- User profiles — to learn who your users are and what matters to them. We learn from your users by asking questions, observing them, observing their environment, and following them as they move through the process of performing relevant tasks. We take this information and create specific personas that represent the users we have studied.
- Customer experience at point of sale — to observe and interview customers at the point of sale or when they are considering a purchase. Site visits can tell us things about users, tasks, and environments that no other process can.
Why site visits are different from other UX tools in your toolkit
Unlike focus groups, site visits let us observe what is important to users, not just get their opinions (which may or may not represent what really matters to users).
Unlike lab testing, site visits let us see, observe, and understand the world of the user, not the sometimes artificial world of the lab. Site visits let us in on restrictions users may have regarding space, noise, access to information, and other limitations on users´ ability to perform optimally with your product.
Unlike telephone or paper-based surveys, site visits put the user in the driver´s seat, avoiding the potential bias inherent in surveys and questionnaires.
Why site visits are essential for learning about your users
Site visits are an essential part of a user-centered design process. Ideally, they should be conducted before design begins.
But at any point in the development process and also after the product launches, site visits can provide valuable insights into users´ goals, tasks, and environments.