How ethnography might help improve UX

David Linder

David Linder

MSc in Marketing from the University of Salford. Facebook Certified Planning Professional Facebook Certified Buying Professional
5 min read

Short ethnography studies can help create personas and enhance your website user experience and usability

Anyone who reads my Smart Insights blogs will most likely know right now that I make an effort to achieve a couple of things:

  • Show marketers that research isn’t too difficult, time-consuming or expensive (ok that’s actually three things there)
  • Show marketers the advantage of research and just why it’s worth the effort

The next method I would like to speak to you about is a particularly time-consuming kind of research: ethnography, which are long-term observational type studies, however, I also think that a straightforward short-term ethnography study may also yield fantastic benefits for user research and building personas. Ethnography doesn’t have to be time-consuming and you can find ways of by using this research method on a short-term basis to greatly help boost your conversions and focus your marketing by assisting you to understand your audience.

What is ethnography?

Ethnography may be the process is observing users to comprehend their behaviour, culture, needs, challenges, desires and creating a service or product predicated on this depth-insight. Obtaining the right person to see is key and being as involved using them or interrupting them can be essential. Ethnographers observe, nothing more. They interpret behaviour and will utilize this insight to boost something or service. It is important never to be tempted to ask questions, but purely to pay attention watching. Ethnography studies usually involve various research methods such as for example observation, interviews, surveys and may likewise incorporate diary studies, though diary keeping might not be required if you are observing which alone is actually a separate study, alongside interviews. Diary studies usually get rid of the need for ending up in a participant.

What may i used it for?

Ethnography might help with understanding users to generate personas and help out with the persona research. It’s about observing your customer within their natural environment, for instance observing shoppers in a grocery shop of these choice. It could be used to greatly help design websites, products to meet up customer needs and a deep understanding in comparison to conducting surveys by themselves.

Short ethnography studies it is possible to do

A great usage of ethnography research is when making personas, personas are best made up of depth information and ideally multiple research methods, such as for example depth-interviews, ethnography and utilizing the data you have in your database.

Ethnography also supports understanding how your visitors may use your product. If you are a B2B product that supports marketing teams, you can observe marketing teams within their business as usual tasks and within their marketing team meetings. You may use this insight to comprehend how your service might help them, how it could match their day to day activities, the challenges it can benefit with and the huge benefits you have to express to prospects to cause them to become purchase.

How to approach ethnography

The simple method of doing ethnography would be to spend time together with your customers, have a summary of things you intend to understand and the scenarios you should observe them in. For instance, if you are an online retailer of men’s clothes and you also want to know very well what encourages gym goers and fitness fanatics to a particular brand, in addition to know very well what inspires them, you can watch them having a conversation with friends, observe them in the fitness center and observe them research online for gym clothes and gym products.

This enables you to understand the who inspires them (e.g. could it be how many other people wear in the fitness center?) before they buy fitness related clothes and when social media influencers are in fact influencing them?

The research will help you create areas of your online marketing strategy if you’re likely to launch an exercise range – this research would assist you to reach the mark audience, that is the main one you observed.

Ideally, all ethnography studies would include multiple aspects including observation, interviews, surveys and also diaries to totally understand your market.

As I’ve earlier mentioned, ethnography research is effective for producing personas for the business. Hanging out with customers, taking notes and recording conversations (all with consent) can offer insights.

Ethnography also works effectively with regards to watching people use something and use competitors, some sort of mid-way between moderated usability tests and remote usability tests. You can view but in their very own office or home, instead of in a gathering room in your workplace.


As with all research methods, you can find benefits and drawbacks and an obvious big benefit of ethnography will be the depth of information you obtain. Ethnography can be about understanding a person in their environment, a focus group or usability lab isn’t natural.


The period of time required, even on short studies, continues to be lots of time out of marketers or researchers day, week or month. Such studies imply that participants might not act normal or natural during short intervals and for that reason observing participants for longer periods sometimes appears because so many useful. However, using ethnography to see in several meetings if you are a B2B product or spending a long time or days hanging out with customers still supports the knowledge of your customer. It really is however very difficult to draw conclusions which explains why ethnography ought to be used within a mixed method study. It is also sometimes difficult to totally understand why a person or participant did something, for instance, if they’re researching something in a particular way nevertheless, you might not fully know why. Observing does offer you a chance to follow-up, particularly when it’s finished with surveys and interviews at the top. By firmly taking lengthy recordings and a lot of notes does mean which you have plenty of research to dig through, that’s where various colleagues that are all also attempting to understand your visitors, or perhaps a researcher or research agency may help.

Should I take advantage of a researcher?

We do recommend using trained researchers and research agencies, ideally people that have are GENERAL MARKET TRENDS Society (MRS) members, however, I also fully think that so long as you follow guidance, published MRS guidelines on conducting research that ethnography may be used to get nearer to customers for just about any degree of a marketer. Ideally, junior execs and CEO’s alike ought to be getting nearer to customers and I’m an advocate of using both trained and experienced guidance to create studies and perform research, and also doing all your own.

Ethnography could have either sounded difficult or time-consuming before you read this short article, but through the use of some concepts involved with ethnography and taking time for it rather than large amount of time for this, you may use it in your favor.

David Linder

David Linder

MSc in Marketing from the University of Salford. Facebook Certified Planning Professional Facebook Certified Buying Professional

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