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This could mean watching someone use a digital service, while we take notes. Look for anything they struggle with and ask what it is they’re trying to do. Often, doing this individually with different users will flag up common problems that people would usually not bother to report.

There are 3 ways to run a shadowing study:

  1. Natural – there is no interference from the design team. You just observe user behaviour.
  2. Controlled – the design team sets a task and observes users carrying it out.
  3. Participatory – participants set the activity and decide how to complete it. The design team joins in and can ask questions but should not lead.

In most situations we use a participatory protocol, as it gives you the best chance to explore your users’ needs, behaviour, values and motivations.

Before you start, think about how you’ll record your observations. We advise that you stick to 2 team members – 1 to ask questions, the other to take notes. Take lots of pictures. Wearable cameras can be useful here, as they can show you the participant’s perspective on what they’re doing. Screen recording orĀ  voice recording is a lower budget option, that can still provide a lot of insight.