Broads Authority Project

On January 18th we visited Great Yarmouth and Burgh Castle to learn more about the Angles Way, see how poor its access was and walk along Breydon Water with a focus group to start forming ideas for a digital solution to the Broads Authority’s problem.

Previously we visited Breydon Water and several other locations to conduct research.

Tomorrow (January 25th), we are visiting Great Yarmouth again to talk to another focus group (from Herring House – single homeless persons trust) and also visit Carlton Marshes, just outside the Lowestoft suburb of Carton Colville and close to Oulton Broad with a different focus group doing a similar activity to last week. This will give us an opportunity to explore a different section of the Angles Way and also conduct a more structured user research session where hopefully we can sit down and ask questions as well as ask questions ‘casually’ whilst we are walking with the focus group.

How to conduct formative user research

There are many ways, some of which I’ve listed below:

  • Surveys – online or on the street
  • Observations
  • Ethnographic interviews
  • Directed interviews (typical ‘question and answer interviews’)
  • Non-directed interviews (conversations)

Observation was used last time, this time to get definite qualitative data I’m going to ask questions.

The ethnographic approach

In order to prepare for this, today I thought of some questions to ask members of the focus group tomorrow. These have been created using my ethnographic interview research that I completed in November 2018 for the Norwich Market project.

Ethnography is the study of people’s lives: work, family, relations, religions and habits (UCL, 2018). It stems from anthropology which is the comparative study of human societies in order to understand what it means to be a human (UCL, 2018).

Ethnographic interviews have three stages:

  • Early interviews: exploratory in nature and focused on gathering domain knowledge.
  • Middle interviews: using data collected previously, more open-ended questions and domain-specific questions can be asked to ‘connect the dots’.
  • Later interviews: confirm previously identified patterns and making fine adjustments to assumptions. These tie up the ends.

A key feature of an ethnographic interview is that it takes place in the environment of the user. The reasoning for this is so that it is clear where the app would be used and so any obvious limitations of using an app in this area can be understood. The environment also gives secrets about the types of things the user do in it away.

From my blog post about ethnographic research, November 8th 2018.

Ethnographic research is focused around people in their environment.

Questions for the focus groups

Based on the ethnographic research carried out in November 2018.

Activities

  • What do you enjoy doing on The Broads/Waveney valley?
    • What’s your favourite thing about The Broads?
      • Have you ever done a walk along the Broads?
  • Do you know of any good walks on the Broads?
  • Would technology help enhance this activity?
  • What’s your favourite thing to do at The Broads?
  • Who do you do this activity with?  (other than people in this group)
  • How often do you do this activity?

Information

  • Does <insert theme> interest you?
  • Would you like to learn more about <insert theme>?
  • Do you ever wonder about <insert theme> when you are out and about?

Technology

  • How often do you use your phone outside?
  • Do you enjoy using technology?
  • Do you use physical or digital maps?
  • Do you enjoy/listen to audio books?
  • Do you use health apps?
  • Do you listen to music when you are walking?

Considerations

  • Does a 40 minute walk or a 2 mile walk sound appealing to you?
  • Do you use time or distance to plan your walks/day? Why?

I won’t ask all of these questions to people, a lot of them are repeated or similar to each other. These are variations of the same questions that I could ask different people. I also hope to be abe to ask these questions by dropping them into a conversation, rather than literally sitting people down and questioning them.

The themes are of course:

  • Landscape heritage
  • Cultural heritage
  • Ecology and biodiversity

I wouldn’t necessarily ask ‘does landscape heritage interest you?’ as the people in the group may not understand that question, instead I’d probably word it as ‘does the way this landform was created interest you?’ or ‘does the local geography interest you?’ I’d use words and phrases that are easier to understand.

Researching the site

Looking on the Suffolk Wildlife Trust website for information about Carlton Marshes, I’ve learned that it is a little like Burgh Castle in that it has a hard-standing walkway, has basic facilities such as a toilet block and is also free to visit. The site also lists some public transport options for travelling to the site. This suggests that there has already been some development at the site to make it more tourist-friendly, so perhaps we could make something that could improve it further?

There is a trail map available for visitors to look at, which can be viewed here. Several circular walks of varying length are offered and the Angles Way is mentioned too as being a ‘longer walk’ (perhaps aimed at enthusiasts). The walks are named after insects and other nature themes, so perhaps ecology and biodiversity could be a strong focus point for this location. The circular walks are a pleasant surprise – especially given that last week’s research in Great Yarmouth suggested that circular walks may be popular than a linear route.

When we finally come to choose the location that we will be focusing on we will need to decide if we want to add something to (virtually) nothing (for example, develop an experience at Breydon Water) or help to develop a location that various bodies have already started to improve, like Burgh Castle and (by the looks of it) Carlton Marshes.

What’s next?

Go to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft tomorrow and conduct this user research! As well as evaluate what we might be able to do at Carlton Marshes from a digital solution perspective.

Carlton Marshes is a nature reserve located just outside of Lowestoft, close to the River Waveney and Oulton Broad.

‘Evaluating successful user-centred design’ report

In my last project update I mentioned that I needed to reduce the word count on this report a further 200 words. By taking the same approach that I took a week ago when I last did a massive word count reduction on this report, I’ve managed to remove an additional 205 words and gotten the whole report down to 2,854 words (down from 3,059). This leaves me with approximately 150 words for some ‘industry dialogue’ which hopefully I’ll be able to get next week. There is a chance that another 100 words or so may need to go, but I’ll add in the industry dialogue and see how many words it is. As explained before, there is a chance that one of the case studies may need to be replaced with one that I can get direct industry dialogue for which may mean that the word count needs to be altered again.

I’m pleased with the progress that I have made today!

References

Cooper, A., Reimann, R., Cronin, D. & Noessel, C. (2014) About Face The Essentials of Interaction Design, 4th Edition. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley