formative + generative + summative research + strategy | 2016 - 2017
Two formal ethnographic studies of 3 professional groups were conducted to inform the design of future offline and online experiences. Conducted in 2016 over 3 months with overlapping schedules.
The first effort focused on Retinal Specialists and Ophthalmologists at their Annual Conference in Chicago. The second study focused on Rheumatologists at their Annual Conference in Washington, DC. The plan and the report template was the same, yet the results different for these 3 groups of professionals.
My responsibilities in these ethnographic studies included the research strategy, planning, training non-UX people to do observations, report of findings, and facilitate conclusions and recommendations of the creative team.
Genentech's Physicians Marketing group requested an ethnographic study of Retinal Specialists with expectations set from a previous effort with a different researcher. This study will inform the design of future conference booths.
Genentech is research driven so they had a refreshingly deep engagement with the process – asking lots of great questions and was able to understand more about the choices to be made as far as the strength of the research.
One effort was organized and conducted, and another study was requested with just under two weeks to plan and initiate.
Both ethnographic studies were conducted at conferences with access provided by Genentech including both vendor and practitioner badges. Team members with vendor badges faced the challenge of other vendors not welcoming squatting or observation type behavior, while those with practitioner badges were often engaged by vendors.
Genentech had experienced with one other ethnographic study which focused on the traffic of their conference both and what was engaged with rather than the people, their attributes, and their type and level of engagement with and within booths explained by usability and design principles. My approach would add a layer of detail and explain traffic and engagements.
Genentech insisted that I use their presentation template which included a hierarchy of 2 levels and supporting style guide.
I am always mindful of the client’s existing understanding and experience with research and other approaches. I look to understand similarities and differences in my approach vs previous experience to ensure I can speak to what can seem like contradictions, differences, and similarities. I built upon the structure of the past plans to build upon the client’s understanding. I then added a new layer to the research objectives and explained what this type of study can deliver – proactively explaining the difference and similarity in focus and approach.
The business objectives, planned activities (conference booth design and marketing communications) were identified; past booth designs, intentions, and performance; competitors; the current both design and intentions were reviewed; and the team’s target audience knowledge and assumptions were captured.
Observations focused on people and their actions.
People observations included eavesdropping on their conversations, observing their movement patterns and interactions, personal observations including body language, attire, attributes, and their stuff at different locations and times of the overall conference flow.
Actions included between and within booths, food areas, conference lectures, and presentations, etc. When possible photos were taken with mobile phones and tablets. Photos of competitor and Genentech booths were taken after hours for a clean view of designs.
Observations were documented in an app created using Fulcrum.
Observations were made over 3 days with each person assigned to a daily quota, and quotas for specific locations including competitors at times that considered conference schedules. I assigned each member of the team to a certain number of observations, competitors to observe, and activities to attend.
Creative Team Training
Working with an account manager, medical expert, and junior designer I gave a brief introduction to making observations and the importance of gathering raw data without conclusions. For example, documenting facial expressions rather than noting the person was disappointed.
During the conferences – and between my observation work, I took the time to monitored the raw data/observations coming in and gave feedback to individuals on their observations and data. I spent time with each of them practicing accompanying them and coaching them through the different types of observations and how to remain unnoticed and not influence happenings while capturing unbias, useful data.
The first study was analyzed after the second study’s observations were conducted.
The approach to analysis was the same for both studies – review and tag observations into types of observations, type of conference experience, location, people, etc. and then analyzed.
The analysis was conducted to identify patterns of behavior each category of conference experiences, and common attributes of attendees were identified. Behavior, traffic patterns, and interactions with and within booths were identified and evaluated to the booth designs and applicable design and usability principles to explain behavior and the success of different booths and booth attributes and features.
Findings with both strategic and specific recommendations for each effort were crafted separately with a similar analysis and presentation approach.
For both studies, the initial findings were reviewed with the creative team, and we formed recommendations together agreeing on what worked and did not work from specific examples and the applicable design and usability principles.
The results revealed detailed insight into each of the 3 professional groups at their respective (two) conferences) including high-level conference interest, needs, and preferences. Results included both qualitative and quantitative findings to ensure qualitative findings were weighted and prioritized appropriately. However, the biggest finding was the need to reset expectations in terms of what is a successful experience for conference attendees, the featured brand(s), and business objectives.
Successful booth features and the related, essential design principles were identified and discussed to ensure the client understands what makes features and a booth successful.
The Retinal Specialists analysis revealed an additional layer of this professional groups’ preferences, expectations, and insights into reasonable business objective(s).
Strategic + Specific Recommendations
The recommendations focused on an umbrella strategic approach – Design for a successful attendee experience, not from the brand (User-Centered Design). The user needs were outlined with examples of high performing booth features such as beverage/food options, layout approach, design attributes (i.e. color, font size, assets, etc.), the most successful features for each professional, and more importantly – a booth intent were included.