Contextual design (CD) is a user-centered design process developed by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt. It incorporates ethnographic methods for gathering data relevant to the product via field studies, rationalizing workflows, and designing human-computer interfaces.
- Designers intuitively understand the leap from customer-centered data to a sound design direction, but to non-designers, this process can seem “fuzzy” or “magic.”
- Recommended steps to make design work more predictable and inclusive of non-designers include:
- Contextual Inquiry to understand the customer
- Interpretation Sessions for each customer interview
- Work Models and Affinity Diagrams to represent the complex systems of work
- Visioning and Storyboarding to generate concepts to support the customer’s work
- User Environment Design to document the natural flow of the customer’s work
- Paper Mock-ups to get feedback from customers before coding and implementation
- The process can reduce the time it takes to move through customer-centered design challenges.
Motivations and Key Principles
- The system design must support and extend users’ work practice.
- People are experts at what they do – but are unable to articulate their own work practice.
- Good design requires partnership and participation with users.
- Good design is systemic.
- The design depends on explicit representations.