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Collaborator Locator

Collaborator Locator


User Centered Research and Evaluation
Fall 2012


6 weeks


Charles Awieda
Luis Gonzalez
Arthur Hong
Kelsey Stroshane
Stephen Trahan



User Researcher
Communication Designer


Contextual Inquiry
Affinity Diagramming



Sharpies & Post-its


The purpose of this project was to learn the Contextual Design method developed by Karen Holtzblatt, who also helped design this part of the course. We were not given an end goal, but were told instead that we would conduct research then determine the solution as a group. 


First we needed to conduct research, specifically a contextual inquiry interview with a student while they worked on an assignment in their preferred workspace. We recorded the interview and took notes which would later be interpreted by the group. In order to mitigate any user biases so that each user was given equal weight, we coded each user with U and a number (ex: U#4).

During interpretation sessions for each interview our team would listen to the interviewer's account of the interview and use the information to build models. These models helped us understand the triggers and intents of the user's work (sequence model), the flow of information between people (flow model), and pressures that might influence the user (cultural model). Each model provided the opportunity discover and show breakdowns in communication that might be complicating the user in their task which helped us understand their pain points. We also compiled a list of insights throughout the interpretation to capture any important or unexpected observations about their workflow.

After interpreting the data collected for individual users, we created an affinity diagram to look at similarities between users which we then used to draw out broader themes. We also consolidated the sequence and flow models as a way to view higher-level relationships in the context in which our users were working. Creating this birds-eye view of all the data provided the opportunity to clear the way for connecting the inner workings of the larger context and see the exchanges between different people, tasks, and technology. None of the nuances within the data were lost, however, as it was all represented in the sub-categories as well. 

We used our understanding of the data to extract key issues that needed to be solved. In addition to these issues, we also kept a running list of hot ideas that might resolve the key issues. From these lists we created three visions that would address different issues we uncovered. Each vision was distinct and focused on a different aspect of that data that we wanted to improve upon.

In the end, our team decided to pursue the collaboration roadmap vision. By allowing peers to display their skills and skills they sought, people could maximize the benefit of working with their peers. The real-time map aided discovery of peers that you might not otherwise know were looking for help. The goal of the app was to connect peers with one another in real-time to foster collaborative friendships of mutual benefit for both parties. Basic wireframes were created to showcase the functions and explain basic interactions.



Learning Contextual Design was quite a process that was, at times, quite frustrating. The issue was not with the process itself, but in our similarities with our users. Convenience sampling was realistically the only way we would be able to complete a full Contextual Design cycle in a short time with limited access to external users. Our group also decided to pursue a vision we found to be compelling and unique, and while our choice was supported by our data, reception to our idea was less than stellar. It seemed the predictable, obvious solution was better received for all the groups that chose that avenue, and those that had chosen otherwise were somehow incorrect. This created a rift within the class that appeared to be an artifact of the course and not the process, an issue which was resolved with a conversation. Though there was some disagreement, overall the experience was valuable and proved useful in future projects.