The term Contextual Design is comprised of two words context which refers to the over all environment, people, mood, feeling and other elements to which a person is surrounded with.
Design is a strategy or procedure through which certain actions and ideas takes place. Contextual design creates ways for interaction where people can relate and learns from one another. (Beyer & Holtzblatt, 1998)
An example is the master/apprentice model it’s a relationship that is used to gather data and information. In this model apprentice the trainee learns while performing with master the trainer. The trainer can observe and correct trainee on very second of work.
Although there requires a lot time in master/apprentice model where as design team members who works in contextual inquiry the working person and work is observed in its natural environment. In natural environment customer and interviewer works together.
Master/apprentice model has strong role of experience and habit that molds the action, if some things is based on experience there may some reason behind, to minimize effect of habit giving training to others plays a vital as the trainer explains the reasons of doing certain actions.
The events and stories attached to a task also shared be master or trainer hence takes a learner to the event whose conclusions and teachings could help an individual in future works that he / she carries himself.
Design team may learn same way through the experience of the customers by interviewing them. In experience they share important details and mistakes which become time saving and helpful information. This kind of work is based on observing ongoing working models rather rely on conceptual ideas.
The designer not only learns to start like apprenticeship but also apply knowledge to integrate it with technology and take into account other people and concerned areas that comes under his domain. Through four principle guide, the apprenticeship model can be modified to meet design’s team need. These are context, partnership, interpretation and focus.
Context gives ongoing experience and concrete data. Ongoing experience is more than just overall impressions of good or bad things and the concrete data is the inquiry method by interviewer when customer skips some past event information and generalizes it the interviewer should ask questions where the data is missing and bring that individual back to past event, through this process of retrospective accounts the customer will use all cues and critical areas which can provide actual detail of that past event.
In partnership the interviewer and customer works in a manner that can bring mistakes in front of them and through this customer is enable to reflect on his work. The customer will ask questions to himself regarding the actions he took while doing certain work and develops the partnership.
Design team members also have knowledge of work therefore during interview the interviewer can have alternative and different ideas in his mind, which he can share and gets the immediate feedback from the customer or at times provides the practical implementation to customer such as the technology and its implementation in human life. A good idea may bring small change in structure as the design is based on customer initial work.
In this partnership the interviewer and customer should not fall in other relationship models such as interviewer/interviewee in which no room for reflection on work and the task such as questionnaire need to be filled, Expert/ novice in this relationship model there is an expectation that customer will bring the work in a form that a expert has designed but insufficient information may lead to other side conclusion. Guest/ Host relationship model tells that host will try all efforts to make guest feel comfortable therefore intimacy not in form of personal but work related talk and comfortable interaction makes it inquiry. Partnership will give equal chance to both and will open areas of improvement.
The correct interpretation of facts and observations leads to future implementation of some design or product. A good design is based on correct interpretation of that fact.
It is based on reasoning and hypothesis which is scientific assumption that generalizes the results. If it based on data than gathering and recording of data should be accurate sharing the interpretation to customer in middle of task results two outcomes either customers doesn’t agrees with you or will bring precisely brings changes so that he can justify his work. This is not necessary to agree on what customer says through proper communication come up to correct data because that will help to come up with correct conclusion.
The focus makes you concentrate on topic that is important and you notice each and every detail of the work In a team if every individual pays full attention than it provides a shared starting point where every individual idea. An interviewer gets internal triggers to be more focused they are surprises and contradictions, nods, unfamiliar things that you did not understand. In this whole process do assume but assume to think beyond and challenge it to come up with accurate conclusion.
The proper contextual interview is one in which customer explains task, performs it and interviewer is open to ask question and express his interpretation there exist intimate work related relation ship between them. At end they may skim and revisit briefly the areas where the interviewer needs more clarification.
The contextual design has multiple implementations in almost all aspect of practical life from commercial product to information technology before implementation it is important to take in account that who could be the appropriate customer whether that could meet the specific demands and criteria and how the team will work to make it a success and what will be the method the areas that requires extra attention.
Beyer, H.. Holtzblatt, K. (1998): Contextual Design. Defining Customer-Systems.