The purpose of this method is to gain insights about people or systems through observations. The method can provide you with insights to people, workflow, environment, interactions etc. within a given situation or system as you follow a user. You will obtain valuable information based on observations by writing down everything the user does rather than having told the process from the user. When following the user it is important to only be as noticeable as a fly on the wall hence the name of the method.
Tips to include participants who are not able to:
Another way to accommodate this would be to have a helper with you even though it is recommended to only be 1 researcher following the user
Else, you could bring a helper that could take notes for you. The helper should not replace you and go instead of you as it is also very valuable to observe the situation. Afterwards you and your helper could discuss your observations compared to the helper's notes.
A user to follow
Identification of problems + overview of how the system works/how people interact
- Be observant
- Note down every step
- Be a ‘fly on the wall’
- Identify problems along the way
Step by step:
1 max 2 researchers should follow a user in the situation/system you are analysing.
Observe and note down every move/interaction the user does.
Do not ask any questions while observing.
Do not help the user if anything occurs, write down the breakdowns you see throughout your observations.
Act as a fly on the wall or think of yourself as a ghost – that is how little you should interact with the user while observing.
When doing this method you should consider:
It can be quite awkward to be followed/follow a user why it could be a good idea to speak or even meet with the user you are following beforehand. Else it can seem a little stalker-like for the user. The user might feel awkward having someone following them, which in some cases can lead to them making more mistakes than usually basically because they feel under pressure. If you have met/spoken with the user beforehand and have created a good relation to the user, the user will relax more and not feel judged when being followed.
As it can be difficult to be ‘the fly on the wall’ it could be a good idea that only 1 person follows the user. The more researchers that follow the user the more difficult it will be to be ‘the fly on the wall’.
When following a user around it can be easier to take notes on a piece of paper rather than walking around with your computer.
Take photos of given situations if possible, but make sure that the users have agreed that is okay beforehand.
Write down both what the user is doing but also what is being said.
Pens, paper, camera