How Ethnographic Studies Help Create Better Products and Services

What Are Ethnographic Studies?

Ethnography is the study of people and human behavior. It is direct and includes human participation with your subjects. Ethnographic studies are based on the observation of various participants in natural contexts. Or you can study them in specific environments. No matter the environment, the purpose is to analyze your subjects’ experiences, attitudes, thoughts, reflections, and beliefs.

Ethnographic studies allow you to know your user inside and out. Once you understand the user, you can do many things based on data and information about real users. You can create proposals, concepts, brainstorming, prototypes, and plans once you have a better idea of who your user is. The principle goal of ethnographic studies is to be able to create a better design. You can be more confident with your design once you know your user. Knowing your user in this well helps you design something that will fulfill their expectations, behaviors, and attitudes.

How Do You Conduct Ethnographic Studies?

In order to conduct these studies, you should have a diverse team, which includes a sociologist, anthropologist, and/or psychologist. It is fundamental to implement these studies early on in a project, since this reinforces the creation of your strategy and increases the success of the project once it goes to market.

The simple act of observing a person in their natural habitat tells you a lot about that person. Their habits tell you what they are interested in. Their facial expressions when they scroll through Facebook tell you what reaches them and what doesn’t. Things like choices and routines give you a valuable insight into how you can reach them as a designer or a marketer.

This is just one example of an ethnographic study, but you can see how useful they would be when designing a product or service for a specific population.

Ethnographic Study Example

Let’s pretend we are conducting a study in order to provide an innovative service for high class women in Brazil. In this case, we want to study women who prefer to spend their day shopping rather than running errands. We want to know what kind of mobile app would help them the most with their schedule and daily activities.

Using the ethnographic study example we mentioned above, we can hypothesize how the study would go. We would work with several women who fit this profile who agreed to the study. We would observe them on a regular day in order to take notes on their actions and behaviors. This observation would serve as a basis for analysis and inspiration for the creation of the application.

That’s what ethnographic studies are all about- inspiration for new products and services as well as confidence that you are creating something that will fill a market need and be accepted by your final users.

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