Innies: field study safety

3 Jan 2011 - 4:21pm
5 years ago
2 replies
1214 reads
Eva Miller

I'm looking for strategies to quiet legal nerves about doing design research in people's homes or cars (contextual inquiry, field studies, etc). Their main worry is safety: is someone going to go nuts and hurt you if you visit their home? And then what?

Now, I know that's silly, but I think some quick testimonials from innies who have performed field studies many, many times for many, many years for their company (not as an external agency) would help. Why innies? Because we want to perform this kind of design research ourselves and feel it's crucial to educate the entire company about it's value. We want to move toward cross-disciplinary design teams that translate business needs into strategy. Owning the user research helps build more empathy among everyone making a new product.

So: who can testify? Is safety a concern? In what way? What have you done to mitigate it?


3 Jan 2011 - 5:13pm
Nick Finck

A few things to think about.  When we send researchers into the field they go often in groups; facilitator, observer/note taker, and in some cases, translator.  Rarely would we send a researcher into a home by themselves.  We've just completed a large study in 200 homes in more than 6 countries and there were some cases for concern as far as safty goes.  For example, one participant had a shotgun openly visable in the corner of the room.  I am sure they had a permit and it wasn't loaded, but ya.   I'd say be safe than sorry, bring another person with you even if they are just there to observe.

8 Jan 2011 - 8:30am
Paul Bryan

I agree with your legal team. Fieldwork is far too dangerous for employees. Entrust it to the daredevil, expendable consultants like me and my team.

Of course, we almost always bring client partners into the field to observe, so the risk is equivalent. So far, the worst fate we've faced is a pet rescuer whose home was filled with animals I'm allergic to, and who chain-smoked and seemed to purposely cause the smoke to drift into my face as I asked questions.

Paul Bryan

Linked In Group Owner: Digital Design Strategy

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