Translating Field Research Through Contextual Inquiry:
A Case Study in Retail Workspace Design
Translating Field Research Through Contextual Inquiry: A Case Study in Retail Workspace Design
An effective process for translating contextual inquiry data into usable design concepts is described. A literature survey, field observations and laboratory simulations preceded contextual inquiry sessions with seven cashiers working in retail checkstands. Data from this field research was communicated with a graduate student design team during interpretation sessions. Diagrams and pictures from the physical workspace were introduced, work behaviors and breakdowns were discussed and design ideas and insights were recorded during these sessions. The final communication tool is a wall-sized affinity diagram created by members of the design team. The affinity diagram tells the story of peoples experiences working in retail front end work environments by incorporating patterns of cashiers behavior and concerns, while maintaining details of each participants comments. It translates the applied research from basic contextual inquiry data to a sustainable communication tool for contextual researchers, workspace designers and other project stakeholders. The design research method presented yields valuable qualitative results for physical workspace design that can be communicated to people who are not involved in data collection.