Contextual inquiryis a user-centered design (UCD) method, part of the Contextual Design methodology, that happens up front in the software development lifecycle. It calls for one-on-one discussion sessions wherein users' daily routines or processes are discovered so that a product or website can be best designed to either work with the processes or help to shorten or eliminate them altogether. Contextual inquiry comprises preparation, evaluation, analysis, and design phases. (Answers.com)
During our first phase of research, our team sought to cast a wide net to learn why people do or do not use public transit, and what the experience is like for them. We also believe it is important to learn the challenges transit operators face, so that our ultimate solution honors their constraints. We focused more on breadth than depth, and as we move towards defining the problems we need to address, this will shift to a focus on depth.
We primarily collected our initial data through semi-structured interviews of transit riders, people who choose not to ride transit, bus drivers, and operations managers. All told, we communicated with more than thirty people. In addition, sixteen people completed a survey based on our interview protocol. While the survey did not offer the same level of depth possible in an interview, it did allow us to significantly extend our data collection efforts.
Concurrent with the interviews, we completed a literature search. Public transit ridership is not a new problem in public policy and urban planning discussions, and lessons from this research will apply to our proposed solutions.
Our team then brought all of this data together in an affinity diagramming session, in which we worked to organize the data we had collected. During this session, we were excited to see that a number of themes discussed during interviews and in the survey were consistent with literature findings.
We are also constructing a series of photo stories for ourselves. These annotated stories help serve as a quick context reference, and will also help us generate personas and scenarios as we move forward.