Field Study
The Power of Observation - Real Customer Insight

Field Study

Before a product is conceptualized, it is critical to understand its intended customers: what type of environment do they work in, how do they conduct tasks and what tools do they use to accomplish their goals? And once a product is released, it is important to see how customers interact with it, and validate its model(s) and requirements.

In order to observe people’s natural behaviors, it is necessary to conduct research in their “natural habitat,” rather than in a lab. This type of research is called field study. A field study includes a variety of methods, such as a diary study and on-location interviews.

Customers’ workspaces or homes can reveal a great deal about the context the product will operate within, as well as how they actually use the product. With a field study, you gain a holistic view about how your customers behave in the “real world,” instead of watching them perform a specified set of activities in a controlled setup, or tell you what they think they would do.

Our Approach

Usability Sciences conducts field studies in a variety of locations, including users’ homes or offices, or in a store.

  1. We start by working with you to understand your research objectives, identify your target audience, identify location(s) to conduct research and determine which topics will be covered in the study.
  2. Your assigned research team will then develop a test plan. The plan includes the moderator questions that will be used and/or metrics to track to ensure all necessary feedback is gathered. In some instances, a field study can be less structured, consisting mostly of observation.
  3. In parallel, Usability Sciences’ in-house recruiting team will screen and schedule participants who meet your target audience. In some instances, participant recruitment is done in real time in the field.
  4. One-on-one interview sessions vary greatly in length and are dependent on the environment in which the sessions occur. Sessions are generally conducted over several consecutive days. During the sessions, participants are asked questions about how they conduct specific tasks or use a product, as well as their goals, needs and frustrations within this defined domain.
  5. After the interviews are complete, the results are analyzed and compiled into a report, which contains observations about common user needs and various environmental factors.

The Results

Conceptualizing and designing a product within a vacuum, without any consideration of the target audience’s needs, is a risky business approach. The project team makes assumptions about people’s behavior and attitudes, and if these are not tested early on, changes later on in the process can be costly.

However, by examining real customers working in their usual surroundings, you can design your product based on concrete observations instead of guesses, as well as confirm whether your product meets customers’ needs. The end goal being that the customer experience is as seamless and painless as possible.

The field study method is especially ideal for researching “real-world” mobile device usage, since a realistic environment is difficult to replicate in a lab. One example is a geo-based mobile app, which is typically used in contexts with numerous distractions and dynamic physical environments and conditions.

Field studies will also help you answer the following questions:

  • How do your target customers naturally perform a task?
  • What kind of environment will your product have to operate within?
  • How can your product solve unanticipated challenges revealed during the study?
  • How can you improve the product experience for current customers?
  • Is my customer experience helping or hurting my customers?

Contact us today to find out how your target audience acts in the “real world.”


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“From beginning to end, everyone I interacted with from Usability Sciences was professional and thorough. I was impressed with the testing technology, the methodology and especially the team that led the project. This is one of the most impactful pieces of research I have ever delivered to my team. Thank you!”

Kevin King
Senior Director of Digital Media, A&E Television Networks

“USC managed tight timelines and a client team that was tough to wrangle, But more importantly, the quality of the work was exemplary. It's work I would hold up as "the way we should do things" and share as a case study across the organization.”

Group Product Director
Digital Marketing, Pharmaceutical Company