If you want to explore and understand the behavior of your users, cultural research can provide a multitude of perspectives on the potential use of your product and its functionality, requirements and limitations.
But how do you make the most of these efforts? We’ve had Cultural Sociologist and Researcher at Attention, Anders B. Kiertzner, share some thoughts and advice on how to apply cultural research in product development.
The most important advice for conducting cultural research is to keep an explorative and curious mindset.
Of course, you need to come prepared and understand essential properties and requirements of the product you’re researching for. But when you approach the users – the actual human beings you’re getting to know – you should try to leave your preconceptions in the background: Stay open, even naïve, and explore your users and the inherent dynamics of their worlds.
When exploring your users’ needs, preferences and motivations, make sure to let diversity unfold. In the end you’ll want to outline common themes and shared beliefs among your users. But be prepared to resist the (more or less inevitable) urge to draw conclusions while you’re still exploring.
Embracing diversity will get you richer data, deeper insights, and ultimately better products.
Listen out for the narratives
One of your most important objectives when engaging with the users, is to get them talking and sharing their stories with you. Listen to them. Explore their different social and cultural narratives to understand how they make sense of situations, events and actions around them. Ultimately, you’ll be able to deduct extensive insights about their identities, aspirations and values.
Again, resist the temptation to generalize too much and too soon.
Fitting your findings into a few, unifying categories can seem very satisfying at first, but you don’t want to do that at the expense of the rich data you’re in the field for.
Make your insights agile and feasible
At the end of the day, the purpose of your research is to contribute to a better product. In sharing your results with designers and other project stakeholders, you need to consider which insights to focus on as well as how to communicate them.
The main theme here should be feasibility and business relevance.
Relate your findings to insights gathered in other user research studies such as situational, market and trend analysis; understand technical aspects and the scope of the project in relation to the company’s product and positioning strategy.