Interview: Christina York on Observation Techniques for User Experience

We recently spoke with Christina York to bring you more information about her upcoming pre-conference workshop at the IA Summit, Observation Techniques for Developing an Experience Strategy: Evaluating the IA Summit.

Q: Why should someone sign up for your session?

There are two very good reasons for signing up. If you're looking to get some practical tips and experience doing field research, this is a great workshop. It will get you some basics in field observation techniques and practical experience applying those techniques to a real project. The second great reason is to give back to the profession by helping improve the conference experience. If you already have experience doing field research you can use your mad skills in the workshop to help evaluate the IA Summit and produce kick-ass recommendations for the 2012 planning committee.

Q: Why is it important that participants attend your session now?

I think the workshop is timely. With increasingly more companies switching to an agile development process, ethnographic research can offer an alternative way of building a knowledge base of user motivations, behaviours, and needs. This knowledge base can be a repository of practical information for any sprint, and can provide a starting base for sprint zero work. I have found field research an effective means to include user research into agile. Also, this session is a perfect complement to David Fiorito's workshop, "The Ethnographic Interview". Taking these two sessions together will give anyone starting out in field research an excellent foundation.

Q: How will your session help attendees immediately on their return to work?

Even if attendees don't do field work on a regular basis, the techniques taught in this workshop will help with lab usability testing and other desk research techniques. I have also found that honing your observation skills is useful in the workplace itself, helping you to understand colleagues/peers and develop strategies to work more effectively in teams.

Q: What are the top three things attendees will learn in your session?

First, attendees will learn basic observation techniques and all the little tips and tricks that go with being out in the field. Second, attendees will learn to analyze and evaluate field data. Third, attendees will learn and practice how to create insights from observations and boil those insights down into actionable strategies for improvement.

Q: Can you give us a glimpse of any surprises you've got planned for attendees?

No. I cannot tell you that I might bring in some devices and tools to play with. I won't let that slip.

Q: What are you willing to do/offer if you sell out your workshop seats?

If there is no more room for a body to squeeze into the room, I'll set up a separate "Research Team" for those who can't attend the workshop but who are still interested in providing feedback about the IA Summit experience. The research team will get a structured outline, a means to participate, and say in the final deliverable. They'll also get recognized for their contributions to the recommendations that will be presented to the 2012 conference planning committee.


You've heard it here, folks! Don't miss this great opportunity to learn what you need to know about observing the user experience and helping to improve the 2012 IA Summit. Get more details about this pre-conference workshop.