Cultural Probes are powerful data gathering tools. A customer/user experience is important to understand. Sometimes it is possible to observe experience, but sometimes we can’t. Observation lets us discover certain things but the thoughts of the customer/user are important too. However, no two situations are exactly the same so it is usual to design specific probe tools for specific circumstances

what is it

The Cultural Probe is a record of the key sequence of actions and emotions that a customer/user ingoes through the course of a service experience.



why is it important

Capturing real data about user experiences is important. Quantitative data may be gained e.g. how long does an activity take; what emotions did they feel; etc. Repeating the experience over a longer time period gives wider data than recording/observing a single customer experience.



how to do it

  1. Define the questions that you want to answer regarding the customer/user experience
  2. Decide which customers/users/stakeholders should participate in the probe and for how long (Note different stakeholders may have different probes specific to their role in the experience).
  3. Design the probe(s). These can take many forms. They can be on paper, on-line, or on a mobile device, you choose. Simple is best from our experience. Determine the frequency that you want subjects to record their activities/thoughts e.g.throughout the day; am/pm; anytime during the day; etc. Write short, simple questions that you want answered e.g. what is happening? How do you feel why? What did you do? What time was it? Where did this take place? Etc. make sure that you capture the demographic date you need i.e. Name; Date; Role; Department; etc.
  4. Sketch the layout of the probe on a sheet of paper, ordering the questions, and leaving spaces for responses.
  5. Prototype and try-out the probe within the team. Optimise the design to make it accessible and attractive, this makes using it easier and better results will be gathered.
  6. Test your probe with trial participants, ask them to trial it for a day or two and give you feedback.
  7. Incorporate the initial feedback in final design revisions.
  8. Brief your subjects. Explain how to use the probe, how to contact you in case of questions, how to return the completed probe, etc.
  9. Follow up after the probe period has ended, schedule follow-up interviews with participants if needed.
  10. File the completed probes as a record.
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