10. Observations

Interviews and Questionaires have been used to capture requirements and examining documents has helped understand data formats and flows.

But none of these help with understanding how people *really* carry out their tasks. Observation helps with this.

The aim of the observation is to:-

  • See how tasks are completed
  • How long they take to do
  • Any delays encountered
  • Any persistent problems with the current system
  • How data is entered and reports generated.
  • How many people are involved


Methods of observation could be either direct or indirect.

As in sitting next to the user and viewing work done. This has the advantage of being able to ask questions as you go along but has the disadvantage of users being uncomfortable with someone looking over their shoulder. This may lead to people carrying out the task as it 'should' be done rather than how they really do it.


With their permission, users could be viewed with remote video cameras. This avoids the awkwardness of being right next to them but it has the disadvantage of being less able to ask questions on the spot. It is also more costly to set up and may be impractical in open-air environments (e.g. fire-brigade or ambulance systems perhaps)


Challenge see if you can find out one extra fact on this topic that we haven't already told you

Click on this link: Observations




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