We had the pleasure to entertain Nick Leon last week – founder at research agency Naked Eye. He gave us a presentation on specialist research methods.

Piled into our meeting room and pens poised over notebooks, we heard about Nick’s preferred method of research: ethnography.

Ethnography – what’s it about?

For those who aren’t familiar, ethnography is the study of people and cultures for the purpose of behavioural insight. Some market researchers have questioned the validity of information taken from smaller sample groups, but Nick assures us that this isn’t the point. Ethnographic research is about in-depth knowledge and behavioural insight, rather than opinions.

Ethnography relies on an intimate and personal approach to research, as it is not a specific data collection technique. It explores both personal and social aspects and breaks down preconceptions. An ethnographer can adapt and use a mix of methods appropriate to a situation, from directed storytelling or graffiti walls to diary studies and focus groups.

Bronisław Malinowski, one of the most important anthropologists of the 20th century (when people still respected them), said, “The final goal is to grip the native’s point of view, his relation to life, to realise his vision of the world”. Yes, the point is to see through the eyes of the people you’re looking at.

So, why ethnography?

If we were to compare this to traditional focus groups, the advantages become clearer. Focus groups will often have an alpha that can dictate the room, while others will say things they don’t really mean just to feel useful. An ethnographer, however, often ‘follows the user home’ for a fuller picture of experience. They look for patterns and try to make sense of a place in relation to the entire social setting and all the social relationships.

How about an example?

Nick showed us a video he shot observing a lady using a leg-waxing product. In the video, the subject used the product in her living room and instantly dismissed the instruction booklet. Evidently, London bathrooms are too small to use the product, and the instruction document is poorly designed. The user experience was poor, and the product packaging had to be redesigned as a result.

So we’d like to thank Nick from Naked Eye for his input. Ethnographic research offers environmental and context specific feedback; Dusted can use it to further enhance our understanding of target audiences and help craft a better user experience. So can your company, so it’s something to consider, right?