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Using cultural probes to help identify staff needs

by Martyn Green on June 14, 2011

Like task observation, cultural probing helps you discover areas of difficulty and frustration within job roles. Often referred to as diary studies, staff are asked to document the tasks they undertake on a daily basis. Because they are carried out by the user, they provide a convenient, cost effective method of identifying processes that can be streamlined by an intranet.

How are cultural probes conducted?

Firstly, you will need to brief users on the type of information you want them to record and agree how long this will be done for. Be as specific as you can as you do not want to miss out any important information. The user will then be given a cultural probe ‘kit’ to record the activities they have been briefed on. The contents you provide in this kit will vary depending on the information you want to gather, but most kits will contain a diary to record comments.

Other contents may include:

  • A digital camera
  • Pens
  • Paper

Generally, it can be anything that will help with gathering and recording information. It is a good idea to have a follow up interview shortly after the initial briefing to ensure that the right type of information is being collected.

Once the information has been collected, it can be analysed and documented and will give you a better idea of what your staff are looking for in an intranet. The information you collect can also be useful for creating personas, to help test intranet usability at a later date.

Topics: 2. Plan

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