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Field studies

Find out you can use field studies as a method to develop your products and services

What is a field study?

Field study is a qualitative research method that is conducted in the location where the user is present. By observing the user in their natural environment, you can gain a better understanding of their behavior, challenges, activities, and goals. You can see both how an individual user behaves and also how they collaborate, interrupt, and communicate with others.

It can be difficult to gain the same insight into the user’s behavior if the study is conducted in a constructed environment. There are many different methods for field studies. In some studies, the person conducting the field study observes the user without interacting themselves. In other studies, the observer interacts and interviews the participant as their understanding increases.

The goal of field studies

Field studies are conducted to gain a deeper understanding of why people behave in a certain way in a specific situation. You collect information and data in a realistic environment to understand the user’s behavior, needs, and to discover new solutions.

Examples of field studies

There are many situations where field studies can be a good research method to choose. Customer visits in different industry or business contexts can, for example, be a type of field study. You can then better understand the problems that the user encounters and ask questions as you observe and learn the user’s behavior.

An observation without you interacting yourself can be a way to understand the user’s vocabulary and how they find solutions in different situations. It can, for example, involve listening to a support call or observing sales representatives and customers in a store. You can also conduct a field study early in product or service development to find a design or layout that appeals to the user.

When should one conduct a field study?

Field studies are excellent as a research method when you want to increase your insights about the entirety of a product or service. In many cases, it can be advantageous to conduct the study early in the development of a product or service in order to gain a user perspective and make adjustments and improvements in a timely manner.

You can also conduct a field study when you do not have enough knowledge about your actual and potential users. In order to develop products and services that your users need, you must see how they act in their natural environments. By observing people when they perform certain activities, you can find out what they actually do, not just what they say they do.

A field study can result in improving the user experience. If your users operate in an environment that you do not have sufficient knowledge about, field studies can increase your understanding. Your users may live in a different country, speak a different language, or belong to a different culture.

There are also studies that are not suitable for field observations. There are simply studies that are better suited to be conducted in a location where the user does not normally perform the activity that you want to study. If what you want to study is confidential, sensitive, or private, for example, the user may feel safer in a more closed environment. If the study is based on recording the user and this cannot be done in the natural environment, another location may also be preferred. Likewise, if you are more interested in studying how user-friendly a product or service is, rather than studying the user’s environment and context.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of field studies?

The advantage of a field study is that it is conducted in a natural environment and therefore can increase knowledge about the user’s actual behaviors. The study provides a comprehensive and thorough understanding of the user’s experience.

Unfortunately, field studies are both time-consuming and costly research methods that can be difficult to budget and finance. An alternative in product or service development may be to combine different research methods to keep costs down. For example, a cheaper method such as a survey can be combined with a smaller field study.

Another alternative to reduce the costs of a field study is to observe the user using various audio-visual tools. However, you must be aware that you only see what the camera shows and that you may miss things that happen outside the film. Another difficulty with field studies is that it relies on the observer’s interpretations. In order to obtain the most accurate result possible, the observer must therefore distance themselves from the environment and act impartially.

How a field study is conducted

All research methods always start with the existence of a problem that needs to be solved, and the same goes for a field study. What is the purpose and goal of the field study? Make a thorough planning before you start. Then the chances are much greater that you will get a useful result from the study.

Since a field study is to be conducted where the user is located, you must go to that place. It can be, among other things, a workplace, a home, a shopping center, or a school. Also, provide clear guidelines for the observer if it is someone other than you. Where in the premises should they be located so as not to disturb the participant’s natural behavior? Should they only observe or also interact with the participant?

Determine which method is best suited for your field study. It may also be good to visit the site of the study before the actual observation is to be made.

Important to find participants from the right target group in the field study

You also need to find individuals from the right target group who want to participate in the field study. Feel free to ask for help from us at FeedbackFrog to find and book individuals who are representative of your target group. We will provide participants who fit the selection criteria we receive from you. Once all the data has been collected, you should process it and conduct an analysis. The results of the field study can then serve as a basis for further development of your product or service.

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