User Research

Project Name

Research for a Federal Agency

May 2019

Washington, DC

Type of Project:
Ethnographic Research (Field Studies & Contextual Inquiry)


Project Goal
Conduct usability studies and field studies in order to determine usability of the federal agency’s Intranet.


As a member of a research team of 3, I assisted with conducting usability studies and contextual inquiry field studies with a variety of intranet user types.

During one field study, a tornado warning came into effect. I followed the participant’s lead (mostly for my own safety, though I was definitely curious what the emergency protocols were) and left the cubicle to seek shelter in the basement of the building. As we walked, the participant happily shared how he typically navigates emergency situations, what this would mean for his commute home.

While the tornado watch may have negatively impacted a “normal” field study, it enabled me to see, in real-time, the delivery of emergency alerts and the findability of important emergency protocol information in an intranet.

Lessons Learned

  • Be prepared to take photos during field studies to capture how people supplement or keep track of necessary information.
  • Be flexible in note-taking strategies (using recordings, photos, or even your phone) to ensure you can balance note-taking and active listening.
  • Well-designed intranets impact more than daily work; they also keep employees informed and well-prepared for extraordinary situations.