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Contextual Inquiry

Contextual inquiry is a semi-structured interview method to obtain information about the context of use, where users are first asked a set of standard questions and then observed and questioned while they work in their own environments. The strength of this method lies in the fact, that the people are interviewed in their own environment. Due to the rich information about work practices as well as the environment and tools, this method is best to use early in the design process.

The main steps of a contextual inquiry process are:

  • Define the focus. Who are the users? What do we want to know?
  • Get to know the context. Meet the people and watch them while they work.
  • Discuss your observations. Learn more about unarticulated aspects the tasks.
  • Interpret the findings collaboratively with the participants.


  • You'll get information you can use to define requirements, improve a process or just learn what is important to users and customers.
  • Rich contextual information.


Summary of insight and rich description of the context of use, tools, social aspects.

How long does it take?

Typically 4 weeks, but the duration can vary with the number of participants.

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