October 18, 2022

Decoding: Digital Ethnography

Vasundhara Dhar

Just like we live in a society, digital spaces have become like a community where everything runs in unison. These digital spaces have become indistinguishable from physical communities

We know that observing people in their most comfortable environments helps generate the most valuable insights.

Ethnography is about observing behaviours and is unlike other research methods where we tend to focus more on user responses to different questions and scenarios.

COVID had a direct impact on the practice of ethnographic research and it became logistically difficult for user researchers to go physically to their subjects.

In this context, Digital ethnography became the main source of ethnographic insights. Digital ethnography is an effective way for user researchers all over the world to understand users without being physically in the same location.

Some popular ways to conduct digital ethnography :

  • Digital Diary : online journaling and mood tracking.
  • Observing people through unmoderated tasks.
  • Group discussions and contextual interviews

How can we do effective digital ethnographic research?

  1. We start with defining a clear hypothesis which will help us formulate better questions for the users. The observations from the users can then help us validate or disprove the hypothesis.
  2. Try to eliminate tech constraints for users. For example: for remote testing, you could set up specific hotspot zones or partner with cafes where your participants could go and take the test or interview. Here we are not taking them out of their natural environment and at the same time eliminating a constraint that they might face.
  3. Offer incentives and make the studies a safer space. Incentivising participants helps communicate that researchers value their time. Communicate transparently on how their responses will be used. Give them an option to opt out of any video recording if they aren’t comfortable.
  4. Creating Audio diaries or Audio first research. This is a simple method that could be used for user research. It isn’t very popular but the participant could take some time off the screen making data collection in their own environment relaxing.
  5. Present your data findings in the form of affinity diagrams, videos with real time insights etc. Let your insights drive solutions for example formulate a research roadmap showing how this data is the starting point towards effective solutions.

To wrap it all up, we at UserStudy are big believers in digital ethnography and are building seamless tools for end-to-end user research. We help product organisations recruit quickly and conduct deep user research faster. Check out our website to learn more.

Empower your teams to make informed decisions with real insights from real people.

Contact Us