Contextual design (CD) is a user-centered design process developed by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt. It incorporates ethnographic methods for gathering data relevant to the product via field studies, rationalizing workflows, and designing human-computer interfaces.

  • Designers intuitively understand the leap from customer-centered data to a sound design direction, but to non-designers, this process can seem “fuzzy” or “magic.”
  • Recommended steps to make design work more predictable and inclusive of non-designers include:
    • Contextual Inquiry to understand the customer
    • Interpretation Sessions for each customer interview
    • Work Models and Affinity Diagrams to represent the complex systems of work
    • Visioning and Storyboarding to generate concepts to support the customer’s work
    • User Environment Design to document natural flow of the customer’s work
    • Paper Mock-ups to get feedback from customers before coding and implementation
  • The process can reduce the time it takes to move through customer-centered design challenges.

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