Loucopoulos P and V Karakostas (1995) System Requirements Engineering. McGraw Hill International.
Observational methods involve an investigator viewing users as they work and taking notes on the activity which takes place. Observation may be either direct, where the investigator is actually present during the task, or indirect, where the task is viewed by some other means such as through use of a video camera.
Useful early in specification for obtaining qualitative data. This method is an alternative (non-involving) version of Contextual Inquiry. It is useful for studying currently executed tasks and processes. It has been extensively advocated in the past.
Allows the observer to view what users actually do in context. Direct observation allows the investigator to focus attention on specific areas of interest. Indirect observation captures activity that would otherwise have gone unrecorded or unnoticed.
Observing can be obtrusive and subjects may alter their behaviour due to the presence of an observer. Co-operation of users is vital and so the interpersonal skills of the observer are important. Notes and video tape need to be analysed by the note-taker which can be time consuming and prevents the task being split up for analysis by a number of people. If events or behaviours which occur at unpredictable intervals are of interest, this kind of observation can become extremely time-consuming.
Analysis usually takes 5 to 7 times the amount of time spent recording events unless a substantial amount of analysis is done in real-time, during off-peak moments. Indirect observation requires access to audio visual recording and playback equipment.
Observers require training and practice in order to take accurate and complete notes.
Some partner experience (SINTEF, NPL, HFRG, NOMOS). Technique widely used in industry by HCI consultants, and portable video kits are popular.
Widely documented in the literature.
Naturalistic Observation as a field method involves the following steps:
Observation as an approach in a laboratory setting is instantiated quite specifically using the Laboratory Based Observation approach. A variation of single user observation is two-user observation where pairs of users are invited to work together and the above process is carried out on the pair. One of the ‘users’ in two-user observation may be a member of the design team, and this is particularly useful in situations where there may be an unstable prototype.