• To perform user research.
  • To look beyond obvious (and boring) behaviour to see the unusual.
  • To make our assumptions and values explicit.


What you see and hear – just the facts. Observe real people in action in a relevant environment. Record what you see and hear. Be objective and try to be invisible – do not participate in the activity.

What to look for when observing users:

  • Patterns, repeated behaviour
  • Unusual / extreme behaviour
  • Inconsistencies (what is said vs. what is done)
  • Work-arounds / modifications to the environment/situation
  • Passion, energy, high activity


  • Write down what you see immediately – no thinking.
  • Sit still and don’t do anything but watch.
  • Write things down. If you rely on memory, you will “taint” your observation with interpretation.
  • Practice observing people when you have a few minutes to spare.