Businessman is walking and talking on cell phone next to businesswoman who is walking and taking notes

Day In the Life Study

A Day in the Life Study is a type of ethnographic research in which a user is followed and observed by the researcher throughout a typical day. The researcher is able to observe moments that are so routine to the user as to be unremarkable, or even entirely unnoticed by the user. This removes the bias towards more interesting (but possibly less relevant or impactful) events.

The purpose of a Day in the Life is to demonstrate the various product touchpoints with a user within the context of their life. This will give the user experience designer insight to user behaviors, needs, goals and the amount of focus they can give the product at any point in time. For example, there may be a time during the day that your product has 100 percent of your user’s attention in a quiet office environment. At another time, he may be juggling a sandwich, a coffee and a computer bag while attempting to access your product.

Description

Schedule Time & Gather Materials

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Schedule Time:

  • Time Needed: 8 – 18 Hours
Gather Materials

Gather Materials:

  • Pen and paper
  • Camera
  • Presentation document

Carry Out This Method

Businessman writing notes on paper near laptop
  1. Arrange the study with a user of your product. Be sure to determine the start and stop time of the “day” as it pertains to this study.
  2. Meet the user at the time and place you have agreed upon. To ensure they go about their day as naturally as possible, develop a friendly rapport so they feel comfortable with your presence.
  3. Note external stimuli, the user’s active and reactive behaviors, and the times any notable events occur.
  4. Highlight touchpoints with the product, the context and other actors.
  5. Conduct a followup interview once the “day” is over. Ask the user about their thought processes, and mental and emotional states at touchpoints.
  6. Ask if this was or was not a typical day, and where it differed from the norm. Optionally, set up a Context of Use Analysis to clarify anything the user says here.
  7. Document your observations and relevant user feedback.
  8. Present your document to stakeholders.

Try These Tips

  • The emphasis is on observation, not interviewing. Don’t ask a lot of questions. Observe, take notes, and ask questions in follow-up interview.
  • Try to take notes unobtrusively.
  • Take photos of objects the user interacts with.
  • Storyboards and journey maps are one of the best ways to present your findings.

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