Task Analysis and Contextual Inquiry

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Contents

Readings

Optional Material (not required)

Reading Responses

Lauren Fratamico - 2/3/2013 1:34:27

One potential disadvantage of the "master-apprentice" model is that it might discourage novel idea formulation. The apprentice observer might see what is present and limit themselves to ideas that look like that because that is what they are exposed to. In an apprenticeship, the observer might not get the opportunity to ask as many questions of clarification so that they can really understand why someone is doing something. They may just assume they understand why since they are watching it, but they might miss critical parts of the why. These are also bonuses in interview models. The interviewer can ask whatever questions come to mind about the why, and they can also visualize some of the process instead of just seeing it. This could allow for more creativity to solve the problem in a new way.

Alice Huynh - 2/3/2013 17:04:52

This chapter argues for adopting a "master-apprentice" model during interviews. It also describes other relationships (like interviewer/interviewee) that interviews can fall into. What are potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model? And conversely, what are potential advantages of other interview models?

One potential disadvantage of the “master-apprentice” model is when the apprentice seemingly has better knowledge than the master. Then while the master is doing his work the apprentice will butt in and offer suggestions that the master doesn’t need.

Another possibility is if the master is not especially talkative. The model relies on the master speaking of past experiences and explaining exactly what they’re doing. The master could be too comfortable in their environment in such a manner that they tend to skip over small steps that they assume that is not necessary just because the master already has knowledge of that step. The apprentice could easily overlook this skipped step and not even notice it. The reading notes that it is the interviewers job to notice “holes” in stories, but these holes cannot be noticed all the time.

One potential advantage of “interviewer-interviewee” is that by stopping the work it allows for both parties to focus on answering the questions rather trying to multitask. If a question is not related to the work then stopping to answer “survey” questions could be beneficial.

For the “guest-host” relationship it could be good if the host gets distracted easily. Being nosy may not always garner a better relationship because if the host is distracted and loses their train of thought then the whole process will need to start all over again.

Alvin Yuan - 2/3/2013 23:40:50

One big disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is that the designer only gets to explore what the customer provides in a limited time frame. If the designer is making a product for a specific situation, following a customer through a normal day may be very inefficient in terms of getting useful data. A supervisory-style model like scientist-subject allows the designer to place the user in the expected situation and go from there. Going in a different direction, the master-apprentice model might not allow the designer to gain a broad understanding of the user he is targeting. Following a user for a few hours only allows the designer to see so much, whereas being able to ask some general, broader questions (like in an interviewer-interviewee model) increases the range of information the designer can gather in the limited time. Another issue is that master-apprentice assumes the user is a master in the situations the designer wants to explore, an assumption that doesn't always make sense such as when the situation involves the user exploring a new product or environment. This is where supervisory-style models might work a little better, like a parent letting its child explore in a loose but controlled fashion. Another thing that the parent-child model can explore that the master-apprentice model cannot is how users might resist a new product (like a rebellious child). This can highlight the critical faults in user experience and provide great data, albeit in a negative context.

Cong Chen - 2/4/2013 2:59:01

Some potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model is that you put the customer/master is in a higher place than you and that you may be overstepping the boundaries and comfort zone of the customer. By having the customer be the master and you, the interview, the apprentice, this implicitly requires that the customer is comfortable with taking the lead in explaining/showing the topic of hand. There can be cases where the customer is a shy person and simply does not enjoy being the "master". If this were the case, it would be a bad relationship model to follow as it makes the customer uncomfortable and can affect their ability to respond to your questions or give you insight.

Another disadvantage is that when you are following your customer around, you may be overstepping the boundaries/comfort zone of the person without you even knowing it. In the article, they mention that when you follow the customer, you want to see what they touch, understand everything they do, including who they speak to, what files they look out, what cabinets they open, etc. If I was the customer, I would definitely feel very uncomfortable about extreme positive attention as it borders being stalked/creeped upon. Besides simply being too extreme, there could also be the case that what the customer does does not permit for such detailed understanding by an outside person; thus, a different relationship model would be necessary.

Some potential advantages of other interview models, such as the interviewer/interviewee model, are that they are more commonly known interview structures and more people may be comfortable and used to such interactions. The typical interview of the interviewer asking the interviewee questions can still be effective if asked the proper questions that urge the interviewee to elaborate, giving the interviewer more insight. By using a more common structure, you may be able to get more information as the interviewee may know what/how to respond and have prepared something. Interviewing them on the fly on the job is something they may not be used to.

Another potential advantage is that other relationship models take up less time. Usually, people are quite busy and cannot afford to offer up 3+ hours of their time (this is the amount suggested by the article for the master/apprentice model). Thus, another model may be more appropriate as it takes up less time and effectively allows the interviewee to respond to the interviewer.

Colin Chang - 2/4/2013 17:07:05

This chapter argues for adopting a "master-apprentice" model during interviews. It also describes other relationships (like interviewer/interviewee) that interviews can fall into. What are potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model? And conversely, what are potential advantages of other interview models?

One disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is if the person being observed becomes self-conscious of their actions such that their self-consciousness impedes on their ability to work. As an extreme example, imagine you are trying to design something for a dancer/artist and your asking/interrupting them causes a self-destructive self-consciousness, such that they do not function normally (that is, they're behavior is different when you are present rather than when you are not). Another problem that relates more to the text, is the shortness in duration the master/apprentice model suggests. Sometimes, 'getting the gist' of some user's process may be insufficient information to design on their behalf. Perhaps a more serious (more actual apprentice-like) approach would be more appropriate.

One advantage of a different model (interviwer/interviewee) is the combination of formality and allowances for preparation. The thinking here is that the designer can prepare a plan for how to gather information, a plan not really possible in the master-apprentice model, to maximize efficiency/information density etc.

Jeffery Butler - 2/4/2013 19:50:12

Two disadvantages in the master-apprentice model are that the approach is fairly redundant and interviewers could distort data. In this approach the interviewer watches the customer perform his or her work. During this process the interviewer watches for patterns, structure and reasoning to the task that the customer is performing. If the interviewer has a question about the ongoing task at any time, the interviewer can simply ask a relevant question to the task at hand. Every single time when the interviewer is interviewing different customers they would follow through the customers day to day routines and find where their solutions applies remedy. This can lead to redundant information of the customers which can waste time, energy and money on the developer’s end. But what if the developers are extremely close to developing their product, but they only need a few last minute questions answered? Wouldn’t an interview-interviewee approach be a much faster method on collecting data? Also, having an interviewer over the customer’s shoulder could make the customer feel uncomfortable and make the customer perform the task differently than what they would have originally done. Therefore, the presence of an interviewer can break the customer’s routine and distort interview data.

On the other hand, this model does a great job with interviewers quickly becoming masters at a task and finding problems within the customer’s ongoing activity. This model provides interviewers with the ability to learn enormous amounts information of an unknown topic in a relevantly short period of time. With the interviewer observing the customer’s ongoing activities, the interviewers can periodically ask questions in order to gain insight at the task at hand. This enables the customer to understand the ongoing experience rather than having an abstract view/perspective. During the observation of ongoing activities, problems can become extremely prominent to the eye of the interviewer. The customer has become accustomed to any problems in the product; so, if the interviewer were to ask the customer whether the product had any flaws, the customer would likely not recall the particular problem since they have become accustomed to it.


Soo Hyoung Cheong - 2/5/2013 0:52:41

One potential disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is that it will take too long for the interviewer to spend time to see for himself all that the “master” can offer in terms of experience. Also this may have another disadvantage in that it can pass on bad habits or misconception that the “master” had.

Potential advantage of interviewer/interviewee model is that it will focus its attention on particular questions that were important, which are the ones that end up in list of questions that must be asked. This means that the interview is limited to adequate amount of time. Expert/novice model guarantees quality of interview since they are entering the session with reliable background resource. Also, it guarantees that the interviewer will fully understand all of what is being answered. Guest/host model provides comfortable setting for the interviewee to answer questions that may be “sensitive” or “deep.”


Mukul Murthy - 2/5/2013 4:27:21

While the master-apprentice model is effective for learning from customers how to improve a product, it does have its drawbacks. One of the problems of the idea of the customer as a "master" is that a customer is not a master. The customer is one user, but may not be the only one. While a customer may be familiar with himself and his needs, he is not an expert on all users. While the customer has a lot to offer, he should not be the "master", but rather one of the people the interviewer learns from. Another problem is the problem of masters' conformity. The master role suggests that these masters do their tasks in similar ways, which discourages crazy or out-of-the-box thinking. If the customer is treated like a master, what they say is their correct way of doing it, and alternates are not considered. One of the other problems I saw with this model is that too much power is given to the customer. The interviewer is there to learn how to improve their product, but that doesn't mean the entire experience should be dictated by the customer, as a master-apprentice model would suggest. An apprentice learns whatever the master does.

Other models also offer some advantages. The interviewer/interviewee model is useful because while the interviewer does not get as much open-ended feedback, they can go in with a very precise set of goals for what they want to learn and feel confident they will find out all that information. An expert/novice model could be very advantageous for a product the customer will have to learn to use. If the interviewer treats the customer as a novice learning the product, the ways the customer learns what portions could be useful in improving the product. Finally, the guest-host model observes the customer in as natural conditions as possible. The less the interviewer intrudes, the more similar the customer's experience with the product would be to an actual day working with it where they wouldn't have to constantly answer questions about it. Having a customer in their comfort zone may make it easier to observe certain things.

Haotian - 2/5/2013 14:13:51

I feel like one disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is that it gives too much control over to the master/customer, especially when the interviewer/apprentice has made it clear that the interview is to be a contextual interview. That is, being the master, the customer could very likely point to aspects of his/her work that she believes to be important and highlight those parts more than other parts of work. Being an apprentice, the interviewer would naturally be swayed to believe that whatever the customer thinks is important to his/her work is actually the most important. However, the various examples of the reading show us that, many times, important work-structure details and problems are problems which the master/interviewee don't find important enough to elaborate on, and it is up to the interviewer/apprentice to make the interviewee elaborate.

An advantage of a more conventional interviewer/interviewee model is that the designer is allowed to choose what topics are important to discuss. In this way, if the interviewer sees something obviously worth looking into, he/she would be able to ask about it right away, and be in control of the flow of the conversation. Even though the modified master/apprentice interview process allows for this as well, a traditional master/apprentice relationship would not have the apprentice be in such control.

Michael Flater - 2/5/2013 15:37:56

What are potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model?

1. One major disadvantage is that this model relies heavily on getting a subject with the ability to play such a role. Some people don't talk much and, as a consequence, the role playing turns back into interviewer/interviewee.

2. People are standoffish, especially when it comes to being "viewed" in their work.

3. Having trained many people in my life, I know from experience that the best way to learn is not the same for everyone. Some people are great at seeing and then doing, while others actually have to do the task for their brain to fully grasp it. Showing somebody how to do a task is a skill as well, even when playing the master/apprentice model. It isn't always as easy as this paper suggests.

And conversely, what are potential advantages of other interview models?

The interviewer/interviewee model has been around forever, we all have to go through it to get a job. It allows the interviewer to get directly to the points of interest without needing the interviewee to explain the intermediate steps. This can be useful when particular issues must be addressed in a new process or entire system. This also allows an interviewer to suggest ideas and get immediate feedback as well as an open forum for the interviewee to voice their concern about what a new process or system might entail.

Of course, all this can be addressed through the master/apprentice model but another model might be faster if the interviewee already has special knowledge of the industry and/or process being inquired.

Tiffany Lee - 2/5/2013 16:29:46

One potential disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is that some customers may get very self-conscious about what they are doing because it may seem to him or her that the interviewer is constantly judging what is happening and questioning what is happening. It may cause the customer to do things that he or she wouldn't normally do such as doing tasks in a more detail way. Also, for jobs that are less work intensive - jobs that involve less physical tasks and instead require more internal thinking - this model may not be quite as advantageous compared to other models such as the interview-interviewee. This model is based on allowing the interviewer to see the physical processes of the customer; if most of the work is internal, the interviewer would not be able to see the customer's process thus invalidating what makes this model so great.

Thus a potential advantage of the interview-interviewee model is that it is better suited for jobs that are based on more internal thinking than physical tasks. Another advantage of the interview-interviewee model is it is better at establishing a closer relationship. Also it is a great way to set up the rules of the relationship.

One advantage of the science-subject model, is that it may bring about ideas/topics of discussion that wouldn't have been mentioned in the master-apprentice model.

Monica To - 2/5/2013 16:37:24

This chapter, Principles of Contextual Inquiry, by Holtzblatt describes the different possible relationship structures that an interviewer and a customer could fall into during an interview for learning insights for a design project. One particular relationship that he argues for adopting is the "master-apprentice" model. The master-apprentice model essentially gives the role of the interviewer as the apprentice and the role of the customer as the master-customer. In this model, the interviewer is the apprentice, with nothing to offer and just there to absorb and learn as much as possible from the master. The master, which is the customer, goes on with their routine and the apprentice simply watches and learns. Holtzblatt then goes on to describe the "Four Principles of Contextual Inquiry", specifically the "Partnership" principle, and points out the potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model. One of the possible disadvantages is that the traditional master-apprentice model gives too much power to the customer (master) and doesn't allow for the partnership to flourish. If the customer is in full control of the direction of the interview, the apprentice (interviewer) may be missing out on important insights because they wouldn't be able to ask questions or dig deeper into specific details. The interviewer without this power is then unable to fully understand certain work practices and will ultimately be unable to design something to its fullest potential. The hope is that the master-apprentice model will eventually develop the perfect balance between the two, apprentice and master, and a partnership could be found. Once this partnership develops, both parties could work towards the same goal. Another different model is the interviewer/Interviewee model. This model will give more power to the interviewer, where the interviewer will be able to ask all the questions. However, this model won't give the interviewer the design data they're looking for because the interviewee may not get the chance to reveal an important detail if they aren't given the freedom. But if a balance could be found in this model, it could potentially be advantageous; the interviewer could steer the conversation by asking relevant questions, while also giving the interviewee the freedom to explain further and go into details that weren't asked but are relevant.

Avneesh Kohli - 2/5/2013 17:57:19

I think the biggest potential disadvantage that the master-apprentice model can pose is that the master could become frustrated with the apprentice as the demonstration goes along. Given that an apprentice has little to no experience, asking the master to perform their jobs as usual means having to try to keep up at the normal pace, which would prove difficult to do without experience. The apprentice could of course ask questions, but if that becomes too burdensome for the master, the whole process could throw the master out of their rhythm and be counterproductive. Additionally, despite the master trying to talk through their work, these explanations might be too short and not descriptive enough, as they are working at the same time.

I think the main advantage of interview models is that the designer has more control in directing the interview. This is especially useful is the designer is at least somewhat familiar with the product he/she is learning more about. Rather than having to spend a significant amount of time as an apprentice to a master, the interview can propose specific use cases and scenarios and ask the customer questions related to them. The author suggests that normally during interviews, the customer will summarize and leave out incredible amounts of detail that would normally be caught during a master-apprentice setting. That isn’t necessarily true, because the apprentice might not pick up everything the master is doing. Alternatively in an interview, rather than having to switch between the master and apprentice dominating the conversation, the designer is always driving the conversation, and thus the customer is more able to answer the questions that he or she would be asked even if they were operating under the master-apprentice model.


Christina Hang - 2/5/2013 18:12:11

The master-apprentice model allows people to conduct an effective interview while the interviewee teaches as they work. However, potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model include not gaining all of the concrete data and details that designers need, putting too much interviewing control in the master-customer’s hands, and distracting the interviewer from their real task, which is not learning how to do the work but to gather data for systems that support the work. Since an apprentice would pay more attention to what the master is doing, they will spend less time asking for the details of the work process and gives the master control over what happens during an interview. On the other hand, an interview model that is more like a partnership would not only help the interviewer get the insight on the work that they want, but it will also teach the customer to examine their work structure and design possibilities. When the interviewer shares their interpretations of the work and suggests design ideas, they are able to get immediate feedback and clarifications that will help them get a better understanding of the work and stimulate better solutions. When using this model in combination with the four principles (context, partnership, interpretation, and focus) the interview will not fall into a situation where both sides are only asking and receiving answers. Instead, the interview will make both interviewer and customer think about the work structure and understand more of why certain actions or methods are used and not simply how the work is done.

Si Hyun Park - 2/5/2013 19:12:06

The core problem of the "master-apprentice" model lies in its assumption that the "master" - the customer - has the ability to carry out the tasks as the interviewer - the designer - expects. It is possible that the master might not represent or explain the task correctly, confusing and creating misconceptions for the interviewer. As a result, the interviewer will conduct the research under the misconceived state, which would lead to even more misconceptions and false interview results. The "master-apprentice" model assumes that the customer is capable of simulating the work environment, which may or may not be true. An example of a situation where "master-apprentice" model will not work would be an application with a radical new idea, such as a 3D user interface. (http://www.famo.us) SInce such an interface is so radical and never been seen before, it is difficult for the customer to simulate its actual uses without any prior guidance from the designer.

An expert-novice model would address this problem, as it counters a problem in which the customer cannot simulate the actual work environment. Since the interviewer can participate in the interview, specifying and giving guidance to the customer as needed. An interviewer-interviewee model is another alternative. It allows the interviewer to ask specific questions that he/she needs to the customers, and receive answers from them. As a result, the interviewer can gain answers that he/she needs directly in a controlled environment, without the fear of unexpected events. However, these two methods pose a problem, in which the customer might not feel comfortable in a controlled environment and respond in an inaccurate, or unrealistic way.

Moshe Leon - 2/5/2013 19:28:32

1. What are potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model? The author keeps calling Master/Apprentice model a “starting point”. There are many things that may be beneficial, but there are a few significant flaws. The Master must be in his natural environment, or the location where he is usually performing the action, or whatever it is that the apprentice is there to observe. Not being there might produce different results, and that is hardly what the apprentice wants. So the apprentice is required to go to the Master’s natural environment, and observe him multiple times. The multiple times approach is necessary since the apprentice will learn from a master only by observing multiple times- that’s how more scenarios are covered and observed. This is yet, another flaw, since the apprentice is not really an apprentice, he does not intend to pick up the trade, but only to study it closely. The Multiple Times approach and the working in the master’s natural environment is necessary, to trigger both events that are unique to the environment, and have tools or objects which could trigger a random memory of a scenario that the master can share- a very important learning tool for the apprentice, whom can benefit greatly from his master’s past experience. The problem is really when you translate the participants of this method into the really names- the master is a user of a future product, and the apprentice is a design team. The design team has no time to test and get a “full apprenticeship” with every possible user persona, and there could be many in some cases. There are certain modifications that it needs, in order to fit the design-team/user pattern that we are in need of. Falling into other model-patterns is also a potential problem that can occur, and that can produce bad results if not handled properly by the interviewer.

2. what are potential advantages of other interview models? I really look carefully within the article, and the only two other interview models I could find were: a. Scientist/subject- in summary: I am going to study you, so be helpful and answer the questions. There is no need for you to understand why I am asking these questions. The interviewer can bring the interviewee into his environment, there is no need of extraneous ,methodologies explanations by interviewers, which often take a lot of valuable time. The information extracted out of the interviewee is precisely what is needed, due to the nature of the precise questions by the interviewer. There are no open ended questions. b. Parent/Child- in summary: less formal, I will tell you what to do and you will do it because you want my approval (you might also rebel to show your independence). This dependency relationship model could achieve amazing result, if the interviewer as the “parent”, is ready to present rewards (of various nature, according to interviewee) to a “child”, the interviewee. The powerful reward of approval is also at play, and the interviewee is often further motivated by seeing that the interviewer is happy with his answers. c. Interviewer/Interviewee- The only god thing I can think of with regards to this model is that the questions are being answered properly, with an adequate amount of seriousness and commitment to help with the interview process. d. Expert/Novice- The Expert, gets to observe only, and pay full attention to the Novice, whose sole purpose is to serve as a subject of research to the Expert. e. Guest/Host- If handled properly by the interviewer (Guest), the interviewee would loosen up and be extremely productive in his own environment.


Matthew Chang - 2/5/2013 20:01:09

The problem with the master-apprentice model is that it can take a long time to fully understand the situation and gather enough information to be able to build a full picture of what the "master" is doing and start to develop means of solving these problems. It can also be difficult for the interviewer to get a global view of the situation and not get caught up in the details.

In regards to the advantages of a regular interviewer/interviewee relationship, information can be transferred faster, though with less fidelity. People tend to abstract what they do when they are not actually doing it in person, which leads to brevity, allowing the interviewer to focus on the big picture.

Elizabeth Hartoog - 2/5/2013 20:07:42

For the master apprentice model, it is a thorough way of seeing what is relevant to the user's day to day tasks. This is a double edged sword because it makes it very obvious what functionality is important to the user, but it ignores things that may be important to the user but not used daily (maybe only weekly or monthly). And this is something that the user isn't likely to think to do during an interview since that is not how this model works. This model also has the potential to be an extremely inefficient model to gather data. Because the user is going through his day to day doings, there could be long gaps between relevant events that the interviewer wishes to probe on. The interviewer can't force the interviewee to get to the relevant points immediately, that would disturb the flow of work and how the user gets there. If the user is constantly interacting with elements relevant to the interviewer that the "apprentice" can probe about, that's wonderful and an example of this model working well. However, that may not necessarily be the case for every interview situation and could be problematic if the design team is on a tight schedule.

This brings up the advantages of the other models mentioned in the article. The interview/interviewee model allows the interviewer to very quickly get to the key questions or elements that the interviewer wishes to observer of get input about. If the design team is under a tight schedule, this would allow them to more quickly receive the input they need. Also, it allows the interview team to receive more diverse input since they can ask for input on functionality and aspects not only that occur in the regular schedule but may be related to more specific or weekly or monthly related things.

The expert novice relationship does not initially seem to have its advantages and probably should be quickly transitioned away from. However, it does give the interviewer the insight into what problems a customer often struggles with and how in the future it could be made easier for the customer to solve themselves (better documentation, better ui to avoid problem etc).

The guest host relationship allows the user to guide the interviewer in the direction that he or she thinks is relevant. This is a good way for the interviewer to see what aspects of functionality and use are important to the user. It also allows the interviewee to highlight problems for the interviewer more clearly or allows the interviewer to see how the user views problems from their perspective and how they might approach them.

Achal Dave - 2/5/2013 20:42:04

Master apprenticeship: The issue is that design teams can't afford to spend as much time as an apprentice, and also that they have to explore a wider variety of people--not only one person doing one job. They have to learn about diverse tasks to help aid them.

Some other models, and their advantages:

  • Interviewer/interviewee: You can get information about events that occurred in the past, or that are not reproducible; if done correctly, you can get a similar account of the event as if you had been there.
  • Partnership: the withdrawal and return pattern when interviewing while the interviewee works allows the designer to gain more information about patterns and exceptions.
  • Expert/novice: When the customer asks for help, you can learn what is confusing or needs fixing. Also, the customer may be more likely to complain about certain things that the expert has worked on.
  • Guest/host: I honestly do not think this model has any advantages if the interviewer feels like a guest--the interviewer simply won't be able to ask probing questions. However, if the customer acts like a host, s/he may be more likely to answer questions in more detail, and in general be more receptive of the interviewer's comments/questions.

Cory Chen - 2/5/2013 20:50:44

The master-apprentice model can take a lot of time since it requires the "master" to be currently doing his task and requires both people to experience the whole process. Also, this model gives the master more power than they should have, since at the end of the day the interviewer is the one leading the conversation and questioning.

The interviewer/interviewee model might be useful if you go into the interview already knowing what it is that you want to ask about so you skip to the relevant part immediately. It might also be useful for directing the interviewee towards the relevant tasks that you are especially interested in. I guess the expert/novice model can be useful if you want to learn how to guide and teach people to use your device/software, but I can't really see any uses for it aside from that. The guest/host model might be good for seeing how your product is used under pressure, but is probably not useful overall

mia kissick - 2/5/2013 21:13:46

The potential disadvantages of master-apprentice model includes: 1.apprentices often only learn about a single job, but interviewers need to study a widely varying work practice and meet the needs of the whole market. 2.interviews cannot afford the time an apprentice would spend to learn about the work practice.

Potential advantage of other interview models includes: 1. interviewer/interviews:This model will save the interviewer's time by specifying the questions that the interview needs to know in design the project. Once the underlying questionnaire is filled out, the interviewer will have at hand what is needed to solve the problems, at least what the interview thinks is needed. 2.Experts/novice:This model will provide some insights to the customers what the product the interview designed works, and the customer may give the interviews feedback as he/she learns how to use the product. There maybe a learning curve for a particular product, and once the customer climbed up the learning curve, he/she may discover potential advantages of it. 3.Guest/host: This model favors some sensitivity to culture measures, and will likely to produce a more relaxed/friendly atmosphere between the customer and the interview. This type of atmosphere has the potential to let the customer be more open-hearted about their work, and may allow deeper insights to come.

Annie Shin - 2/5/2013 21:27:51

Potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model is that it doesn't give subjects the opportunity to better justify or explain their actions because they are so focused on doing. Subjects also may be from a bad sample that use a product in a way that is inaccurate from the rest of the population. The withdrawal and return may also throw off subjects from their momentum. Potential advantages of the expert/novice model is that how quickly or slowly the user learns how to use the product shows how intuitive or clear the product is. The interviewer/interviewee model allows the design team to cover everything that the team members want to cover. Sometimes by following the master-apprentice model, the subjects will not do something that the design team is interested in watching the subject to do.

David Seeto - 2/5/2013 22:03:50

In the master-apprentice model, one must ask "are customers necessarily the masters of their trade?" The chapter argues that the four principles of contextual inquiry, context, partnership, interpretation, and focus, can be applied to the master-apprentice model in order to gain a better understanding of the customer. However, what happens if the interviewee is not the master we expected them to be? Firstly, in terms of context, the customer may steer the designer completely away from what the true focus should be, blinding the designer from ever finding the correct focus. Secondly, the master can unknowingly be a biased partner, injecting personal opinions in a manner in which the designer would be none the wiser. If the designer assumes the master role from the customer, what they say will seem knowledgeable and harder to question. In fact, the designer may have their abilities to question the customer to be hindered. Finally, the so called master may be a master in their trade, but completely unable to communicate it with another individual. Worst yet, they may be skilled in communicating ideas, but the completely wrong ones. In this case, the focus and interpretations may not reflect what is true.

Conversely, the interviewer/interviewee model may be helpful because there is a sense of a power hierarchy. The interviewee must respond to you properly and in the manner you dictate they do. In this way, the interviewee may talk about how this "should be" and not how things are. This might provide information on a flaw in a previous design that did not translate theory to practice. In the scientist/subject model, the designer is in complete control. They create their hypothesis and test it without interaction with the subject. Sometimes, the designer does know best. In the expert/novice model, the interviewer can learn about the short falls of the current design by interaction with a novice, someone who through perhaps no fault of their own was the end receiver of theories not necessarily translating to practice. Learning what the novice does not know can be just as helpful as learning what the master does know. Finally, the guest/host model may be helpful in that it is a gentler approach. It may be a stepping stone into various other models if it was otherwise impossible to jump to the other models from the get go.

Zhaochen Liu - 2/5/2013 22:20:22

Potential disadvantages

1. The ‘master’ itself may do something wrong. If the ‘apprentice’ simply observes the action from the ‘master’, the information he got might not be accurate.

2. It is entirely possible that the ‘apprentice’ presence will affect the “master’s” normal work. So, the master will not behave normally, which will cause a false perception for the ‘apprentice’.

3. Different ‘masters’ may perform the job differently. It is hard to say which one is correct or which one is the best. Therefore, talking to only one ‘master’ is not enough.

4. This model also heavy relies on the “master’s” communication skills as well as the “apprentice’s” comprehension skills. If they have trouble communicating with each other during work, the outcome will not be ideal.

Compare with other models

  • The ‘’’’’interviewer-interviewee’’’’’ model has the advantage of easily gather very specific data because the interviewee knows know your intention.
  • The ’’’’’expert-novice’’’’’ model is sometimes good because it helps the customers understand the product completely when they are clueless. It saves some time and boosts this process.
  • The ’’’’’guess-host’’’’’ model creates a very comfortable and natural environment for the designers and the customers. It will establish a very friendly and healthy relationship between them.


Kimberly White - 2/5/2013 22:24:27

The master-apprentice system is good because it forces the customer to actually walk through their day, doing tasks, instead of summarizing. It's very specific, and allows the interviewer to ask questions at relevant times, or get clarifications on what the customer is doing. The biggest disadvantage to this is probably time, since it's very detail oriented and could take a full day (or more) to properly follow a customer through a complex task. Because of time constraints, it could also limit the number of people that can be interviewed, and by extension the number of views the interviewer is exposed to.

Other relationships, like interviewer/interviewee or expert/novice, are probably briefer to conduct, and get straight to the point. It'll also reveal specific issues the customer might have, since they'll likely be most vocal about the best/worst features of a product. This would make it clear what the customer considers important, and what they see as a problem.

Brent Batas - 2/6/2013 0:07:53

One potential disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is that it requires you to be at the same location as the user. If the user is far away, or if it is impractical to be in the same location as the user (say, if you’re designing something for scuba divers, or deep sea fishermen, etc.), then the master-apprentice model won’t be fully usable since you wouldn’t be able to observe the person directly doing their job. Another potential disadvantage is that people may do things differently when being observed (consider how a teacher/students behave differently when being observed by a board member), so that might give the interviewer a distorted view of day-to-day interactions.

A potential advantage of the Interviewer/Interviewee model is that if you do have a list of questions that need to be answered, it ensures that you get those questions answered. Having specific questions to ask the user means that you can get responses that are relevant to your design.

A potential advantage of the expert/novice model is the user will be encouraged to offer opinions about the design of the application. They might be able to share alternative ways of doing things that you might not have thought of. If you didn’t make it clear that you were the expert at your system, they might not be so inclined to share radical opinions.

The guest/host model seems pretty bad, but I suppose an advantage is that you avoid pissing off your user. Sometimes people might be made uncomfortable if you get too close too fast as an interviewer.

Yong Hoon Lee - 2/6/2013 0:12:15

The main disadvantages of the master-apprentice model were listed by the article itself, namely that the apprentice has too little authority, the apprentice may misinterpret his or her observations, and that the apprentice often cannot guide the direction of an interaction. These potential problems are addressed by the text by suggesting three areas in which the model could be adjusted, so that it is not a strict master-apprentice model where the apprentice has much less authority than the master and usually cannot dictate any part of a session. Along with those concerns, I think another potential disadvantage is that if it is indeed true that people tend to fall into the role given to them, the "master" role is not a very common one, and thus some might have trouble adopting it. For instance, some customers may not be able to go about their workday while another person is watching, and some may change their workflows to be more "acceptable" to an outside party. In these cases, the interviewer must decide whether to continue with the master-apprentice model or move on. While I do believe that the master role can be taught, it may be a lot of effort for those who are shy and not used to taking charge in the way that is necessary, even if "taking charge" simply entails doing one's daily work. Another potential problem with this model is that some workflows are variable, and users may not have too much insight about a process performed on any given day. This model works most effectively when the customer is able to elaborate upon his or her workflow and explain why he or she performs the tasks, but in the case where a customer performs many different tasks as part of the job description, it may be harder for him or her to articulate why the actions that are performed were chosen.

The interviewer/interviewee model is used as part of the standard contextual interview, as seen on page 65, mainly for the advantages it provides in placing the customer in a familiar role and getting him or her used to the interviewer. Furthermore, if summary accounts are needed, interviews are a simple, straightforward way to get that information. Because people are so accustomed to interviews, this is an easy model to implement, and can be useful if one is looking for data which is not too specific. The guest/host model can be beneficial if it enables the two parties to become more comfortable with one another. As the article states, they should not constantly be trying to be polite. Instead, the two parties should interact in such a way that the customer feels more "in charge" of the situation, as is customary of a host, and that the interviewer shrinks to a more supporting role. This will prepare the customer for the master role, if the interviewer deems it useful for the current context and the customer is not used to playing that role. Again, because everyone has been the host of an event or a guest during their lives, the customer will fit into this role easily, and works as a stepping stone to the master/apprentice model. In some cases, the customer will not take the interviewer seriously, and will not give the interviewer thoughtful answers or thought processes. In this case, the expert/novice role may be useful, in that it can establish the expertise of the interviewer and show the customer that the interviewer can be useful and helpful. By establishing that the interviewer is indeed an expert, the customer can gain an appreciation for what the interviewer is trying to do, and the data given may be more useful. The scientist/subject model may be useful for gaining initial information about a customer and his or her workflow. If the customer has a more variable job, the interviewer can act as a scientist observing the subject for the first few times the customer performs the relevant job, and then transition to the apprentice/master model. The customer will then have more of an idea of what he or she is doing, and the interviewer will gain a stronger sense of how the customer does this job and what changes are made in each iteration.

Lishan Zhang - 2/6/2013 0:27:28

I think there are some potential disadvantages of “master-apprentice” model.

1. It is really hard to identify a master. Different masters may act differently in the same situation. So the result may not be suitable for others.

2. The model relies on a sustainable observation from an apprentice. It is quite likely that a master may do something incorrectly under such pressure but the interviewer cannot find out.

3. The master/apprentice model takes too long for a certain master and requires too much attention from interviewers to record all the things down.


The potential advantages of other interview model:

1. The interviewer/interviewee model allows the interviewer to decide some specific topics that they really want to discuss. It can help interviewer to learn from users in a short time.

2. The expert/novice model lets the designer tell the customers what to do. In this case, it is best for introducing new ideas because a lot of guidance can be provided to the customers.

3. The guest/host model has the advantage of building a good relationship between the designers and the customers.


Brian Chang - 2/6/2013 0:46:48

Unlike an apprentice, an interviewer has a different purpose and different constraints. The interviewer is there to learn and think about what ways a new design can meet needs or wants of the user rather than just learning the craft of the master. The interviewer also cannot spend too much time there to go through all the processes the master takes in order to finish his craft.

    The contextual interview structure addresses many of these shortfalls. In the contextual interview structure the interviewer gets to see the customer do the craft, but also has time to interject and ask questions. The interviewer also gets to go step by step at the end and get feedback from the customer to make sure that the interviewers observations and assumptions are correct. 

Christine Loh - 2/6/2013 0:48:55

According to the article, the "master-apprentice" model represents the relationship between a master craftsman and an apprentice (the one collecting data/observations). Though the author of the article insists that this model is the most effective, there are a few disadvantages to the model.

First, the author mentions that having the craftsman talk about their work while doing it will protect them from the "human propensity" to forget the details. However, although they may be able to remember and see the details, they can still easily overlook or run quickly over small steps that seem trivial to the craftsman but are actually very important to the process. Since the apprentice is inexperienced, they don't know any better and may not know the real importance of the specific step that the craftsman just glossed over.

Also, if since the craftsman is so good at his trade (he is a master, after all), he tends to be extremely confident in his work and not allow for other thoughts besides his own (which he has been thinking for many years, potentially). There is not much thinking outside the box here.

A potential advantage of a model like the scientist/subject relationship could be that the study would be much more objective. The subject would less likely be biased from the observer giving too much information.

Another advantage for another model would be for the parent/child relationship, where they could guarantee a higher performance because they have more motivation to do well and please their "parent."

Shujing Zhang - 2/6/2013 1:04:09

1) Disadvantage of Master-apprentice model:

  • Some of the interviewees will be stressed out when being observed in such a close pattern. As a result, they will not perform as expected and deliver improper or even false behaviors.
  • The Master –Apprentice model may distract the customer from what he/she is doing. By going where the customer works and probing questions, customer will be distracted when he/she is operating an important task, for example workers in scientific lab requires extremely careful actions. This pattern will disrupt the process and get deviated results.
  • The model is inefficient for some of the work that is not observable. For example, if interviewing a software engineer, observing him/her coding does not give much interpretation of his/her work. Also, it is extremely inefficient to ask them to explain every line of the code to the interviewer.
  • Focusing too much on detail will miss the bigger picture when dealing with design of large-scale process. For example, if you are asked to design a production line, focusing on each worker’s task takes much time and does not yield many insights of the production line as a whole.
  • Sharing your interpretation will sometimes affect the customer’s behavior. Before your interpretation, they may not have thought about it. However, your interpretation may affect what they behavior in the future, even it is not precise.
  • Making focuses narrows down other ways of seeing how things works. Interviewees are less likely to give other perspectives that may be equally valuable.

2) Advantage of other interview models:

  • Interviewer/Interviewee: This pattern can be very efficient and accurate when dealing with cases like interviewing scientists or software engineers, whose tasks is not available to observe on site. Summarizing the work will be more efficient. People will give you main points, which almost always are the very points that you should work on. You can also obtain details by asking for interviewee’s past data records or asking them to explain their theorem.
  • Expert/novice: Companies invite you to give advices. It is sometimes a quicker solution to show up as an expert rather than a partner. If you have extensive understanding in the area, it saves a lot of time to step back a little, and give suggestions with your own expertise.
  • Guest/host: This pattern keeps polite relationship between interviewer and interviewee. As a result, interviewees are more likely to accept your design.


Claire Tuna - 2/6/2013 1:31:12

One potential issue with the master-apprentice framework is that there doesn't seem to be an open discussion about the workflow of the customer. The designer is simply trying to capture the current work habits of the customer (even if they are bad habits) and translate those into software or whatever the technology may be. There is little reinvention going on, and the designer may not be able to suggest a new tool the customer could use. I think an advantage of the interviewer/interviewee model is the fact that the designer can guide the discussion and find out the information pertinent to the product. I think the best solution would be a compromise between interviewer/interviewee model and the master/apprentice model, wherein the designer watches the customer going about her daily work, but asks clarifying questions when needed (i.e. contextual inquiry). I think the expert/novice framework can also be helpful if the designer has an idea for a tool that he wants to run by the customer (e.g. "How would you feel about a new memo system? It could work like this..."). Making such a suggestion doesn't quite fit into the interviewer or apprentice role.

Eric Ren - 2/6/2013 1:49:26

While the master-apprentice model is helpful in learning how to perform the master's work, this isn't the end goal for the interviewer. As Beyer and Holtzblatt mentioned, "[..]interviewers are not learning about work in order to do it; they are learning about it in order to support it with technology." Interviewers are not trying to go through the full process of being an apprentice. They try to learn the needs of many people by looking at the different tasks people do and different roles they they take.

While the expert/novice model can be detrimental in observing customer behavior, it can be beneficial if the customer spews out a list of insightful questions to you. These questions can tell you what you need to focus on with your design.

However the most effective interview model other than the master-apprentice is the partnership model. In this model, both the interviewer and the customer collaborate to understand the customer's work. Since the interviewer both observes the customer and asks questions, the interviewer can point out aspects that the customer takes for granted. Throughout the interview, the customer will begin to notice the work structure he/she goes through, and can help the interviewer point them out as well.


Elise McCallum - 2/6/2013 1:58:45

One potential disadvantage of the "master-apprentice" model is that the master is so well-versed in his craft that he neglects to fully execute every step in the process, leaving gaps for the apprentice that only become aware when trying replicate the process. He also may have multiple ways to completing the same task, and the way he differentiates may not be made clear to the apprentice attempting to decipher why he makes such choices. The apprentice also may not have any additional knowledge of the technology and thus lack the proper context to be apprenticing, which could impact the efficacy of the "interview." Another disadvantage is that it may be easy to slip into other models of interviewing, which also harms the relationship and interview process. It may also hard to interpret properly everything that is observed, and to know what to focus on once one is immersed in the work environment of the master. There is also the chance that the master may err at some point in the process and not realize it until much later, rendering the work done up to that point invalid.

One potential advantage of other interview processes is the amount of time devoted to preparation. Both parties are able to assess their needs going into an interview. The interviewer can prepare a set of detailed and relevant questions for the customer that will, in theory, garner the necessary information to move forward. The customer can prepare a full description of the work process as needed for the interviewer. There can also be more room for asking questions to aide with interpretation, and there can more a direct idea of what to focus on in an isolated interview.

Yuliang Guan - 2/6/2013 2:15:57

What are potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model? Master-apprentice model has its own potential disadvantages. It may take too much time for the interviewers to learn the work. Interviewers are not going to do the work, so their purpose of learning is to give technical support. From this point, spending so much time to learn is a kind of wasting time. Meanwhile, interviewers may miss some useful information because of the limited-time learning process.Furthermore, in this model, the masters have too heavy tasks. The apprentices can only learn a particular work, but the designers need to know a widely various work. In addition, the master-apprentice model focuses too much on the masters. Apprentices do not play an active role, so if the team's direction is not fully correct, they may not collect entire effective information. Consequently, the expectation cannot be reached.

And conversely, what are potential advantages of other interview models? Other interview models also have potential advantages. Not like the apprenticeship relationship, some models provide a mutual relationship with customers to work together and share inquiry. Partnership leads to a close relationship that avoids the power imbalance between designers and customers. The Interviewer/interviewee model is efficient. The design team is the controler. They can ask any questions and get answers directly. Questions can be prepared in advance. Designers can control the direction. It is a good way to get as much data as possible in a short time. The Expert/novice model considers designers as experts so that they can guide customers about how to use the system designed by them. It is helpful for customers to know more about the system, especially for the customers that have no idea about the system. Guest/host model provides a comfortable relationship between designers and customers. Customers have more freedom and won't feel like being observed. The friendly relationship is good for the follow-up and feedback in the future.


Ryan Rho - 2/6/2013 2:31:36

Since master-apprentice model encourages frequent interaction between the "master" and "apprentice", it may disturb the customer working, or the customer would not work the same way as he or she usually does because there is a person observing him or her, which may make the customer less comfortable. In addition, the cost of this model may be high if the customer is far away. Not only it is hard to schedule for some cases, it would take more effort to meet a customer who lives overseas. Lastly, since a purpose of this model is to look at rich details of work, some observations may be incorrect due to over-observing minor details.

When it comes to sensitive subject matter, guest/host model may be helpful. For example, if the observation is about privacy, it would be rather rude to keep asking questions about privacy even thought it's purely for observation.


Zeeshan Javed - 2/6/2013 2:49:49

This chapter argues for adopting a "master-apprentice" model during interviews. It also describes other relationships (like interviewer/interviewee) that interviews can fall into. What are potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model? And conversely, what are potential advantages of other interview models?

Potential disadvantages to the master-apprentice model may become relevant if a person does not adopt the use of the four principles the chapter talks about. If an interviewer spends to much time learning the work of the “master” they end up wasting time and not applying their own specialties to the excersize. Also when undergoing the “master-apprentice” process the apprentice only ends up learning a single task, while there may be a wide variety of other tasks that are required for a profession. A designer is required to meet the need of the whole market, so they have to meet more than a single person and be confortable in confronting a multitude of people when learning about a process. Taking on different roles is essential and being stuck learning a single process is not enough for the designer to get a full understanding of the process they are learning. Worse of all they may construct a design that misses a key demographic and feature within the model they create. Having the customer and interviewer withdraw the action of doing work to discuss structure can be extremely beneficial. By paying attention to the details and structure of work the interviewer can teach the customer to attend to them also. The advantage of other interview models is the potential to explore more than a single process within the larger system of apprenticeship that is limited in itself. Getting used to other people can very easily be done using the conventional interview. Using the conventional interview one can easily acquire summary data, that can be more useful than contextual data in the right circumstances. A person can also gauge various problems by the way the person being interviewed reacts when talking about specific parts of his work.




Winston Hsu - 2/6/2013 3:07:58

Potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model include the lack of control and focus of the interviewer. The interviewer may not get the chance to observe the most important aspects of what they are trying to design. Additionally the master-apprentice model may take a lot more time since you have to individually shadow your customers one at a time, and it will take a long time to learn how to do what the customer needs to get done. In some cases it may be more effective to have less detailed interviews of many customers. Some advantages of other models include more ability to drive focus, like in the partnership model. Being in a partnership can also help make the customer more attentive to things that may help them perform their jobs.

Scott Stewart - 2/6/2013 3:41:58

A potential disadvantage of the master/apprentice model is that observing a person for the recommended two to three hours may not allow the designer to see all of the important tasks that an employee does. For instance, an accountant may process payments on Monday and send out invoices on Friday. Both of these tasks are essential, but simply observing an accountant for a day would not be able to account for both of these tasks.

The above example is where an interviewer relationship may have the advantage. An interviewer would be able to ask about important tasks that happen often and may get a better view of the big picture that wouldn't come from using the master/apprentice approach.

Kevin Liang - 2/6/2013 3:52:49

The interviewer/interviewee relationship can help identify many problems. Using exercises to remind the person being interviewed about his or her work really helps target the problem. It may even often remind them of past events that happened. It is all about triggering that conversation that reminds the user everything about what you want to know. This can be disadvantageous because you're not targeting a wide audience. You do not know who you are interviewing very well and his or her opinion may just be a special case. This may affect your design drastically and you may actually be building a design for someone that led you in the wrong direction.

Glenn Sugden - 2/6/2013 5:09:11

Some of the potential disadvantages of the master/apprentice model might be: difficulty in following around someone while they work (dangerous jobs, a rapidly paced job, etc.), being quickly overwhelmed by the amount of detail required to get their job done (and running the risk of them not finishing their entire work), overlooking some obvious high-level design questions because you are busy focusing on details of their work, personality clashes getting in the way of the interview, difficulty in handling jobs that require a group of people to complete, and being unfamiliar enough with the jargon that you are constantly having to uncover the meaning of specific words to understand the task as a whole.

Potential advantages of the interviewer/interviewee might be: the ability to help define the focus before the interaction even begins, the ability to generate questions ahead of time that you might not have occurred to you while you were observing them, the option to unburden them from having someone looking over their shoulder (and interrupting them) the entire time they work, and the ability to explore a question further, without having to instead skip it to move to the next stage of their work.

Expert/novice is tougher to justify, but one potential advantage might be to help the customer discover a new way of completing a task. Your designer's knowledge might present an option that the customer may not have considered otherwise.

One advantage that I could see for the guest/host relationship is when there are severe personality/cultural/etc. clashes that get in the way of a partnership. If the option to swap out either person isn't available, this may be the only way to salvage *some* kind of data from the interview. Another advantage might be when the work actually involves a guest/host relationship with the customer's customers - for instance a hospitality role, like a concierge ("so that I may understand the role better, treat me like you would treat your guests").

Ben Dong - 2/6/2013 5:10:26

One disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is that the customer can take over control of the interview. When using a traditional apprenticeship model, the interviewer only gets to ask a few questions, while the customer determines what to do and talk about during the interview. Also, if the customer does not develop a partnership with the interviewer, the model will not work.

A potential advantage of other interview models is the greater amount of focus and control that they afford interviewers. Instead of the customer guiding the flow of the interview, the interviewer can set the tone and focus areas. Depending on the day, a master-apprentice model may not capture all activities that the customer engages in, since their routine may vary from day to day.

Bryan Pine - 2/6/2013 8:42:24

  The master-apprentice model is useful because it saves the worker from having to think through their whole job and prepare an abstract description of their work.  However, this can also be a bad thing: the interviewer could miss out on general insights that aren't obvious while the interviewee is performing the task but that might come out when the interviewee stops that thinks about their work as a whole.  The master-apprentice model interview could also be skewed by the specific circumstances on the day of observation.  It attempts to draw general conclusions about how people perform their tasks by watching isolated instances of the task being performed, creating many of the same problems that focus groups face.  When the interviewee is allowed to stop and think about the task in the abstract, they are able to aggregate all of their experiences and avoid giving too much weight to the specific problems that happened on that particular day.
  None of this means that master-apprentice is not an effective or important model, but it does mean that it might help to mix in other styles, such as interviewer-interviewee or expert-novice.  An interviewer-interviewee style is useful when you have specific questions that you want answers to (maybe a little later in the process).  With a master-apprentice model, you are limited by the use-cases that actually come up while you are there; when you ask the questions you can seek the specific information you want.  Of course, with the interviewer-interviewee model you miss out on anything you weren't specifically looking for, so you should either mix up the style mid-interview to something different like master-apprentice or conduct other interviews using a different style.  Another style, expert-novice, can be useful when you have a new technology or way of doing things that you need to explain to the interviewee before you can get useful feedback.  Once you are done explaining, you should probably switch out of this style, but it is necessary to use at least briefly in many interviewing situations.
  The best of both worlds may be the partnership model, in which you allow the interviewee to perform the task but seek to develop a joint understanding of what is going on.  The interviewer can still ask the questions they want answers to, but you can also get new insights from watching and listening to the interviewee that you would never have thought of yourself.
  In general, I think an effective interview will usually include all or at least most of these styles at different times, because they have different purposes and all are useful for something.  The trick, in my opinion, is not to get stuck in one model when it is no longer effective.

Eric Wishart - 2/6/2013 10:05:14

The potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model tend to be those of time. It takes a large amount of time to watch and have someone explain while doing a specific task, as compared to having them come in and describe it. I would label this as a trade off because you must trade detail for time. Additionally, as an apprentice you may think a specific aspect is more import then it really is, and if you fail to clarify this with the master, you may focus on something that is not that important.

The potential advantages of some of the interview models is that the interaction can take place anywhere, which is much more convenient for both the interviewer and the interviewee. In an interview you are able to get a lot more surface level information in a shorter amount of time, that will help you identify where you should spend more of your time.

Joyce Liu - 2/6/2013 10:05:47

The potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model are that it might tilt the power too much towards the master-customer and might be too limited for the apprentice-interviewer to understand the master’s work practice. It may limit the interviewer to ask a few clarification questions.

The potential advantages of the expert/novice interview model is that you get an accurate picture of the problems with the system since as the expert-interviewer you aren’t supposed to help the novice-interviewee. When we conducted user testing for our Individual Design Assignment #1, this was essentially the model that we used. Using this model was effective in figuring out if our system was intuitive and whether or not it addressed the users’ needs. Partnership is another good interview model because the relationship is mutual—there is a balance of power—and the interviewer-designer and interviewee-customer have a shared inquiry. This type of relationship also guards against taking the conversation off topic. As for the contextual interview, it allows for the interviewer and interviewee to first get comfortable with each other and then dive into the apprenticeship. Since contextual inquiry involves context (going to where the work is and watch it happen), partnership (talk about the work while it happens), interpretation (find the meaning behind the customer’s words and actions), and focus (challenge your entering assumptions), it’s a much better revised master-apprenticeship model. One of the tips that resonated with me was sharing your interpretation with your customer. It is indeed a powerful technique because it allows the customer to reflect on his own practices and see if what you describe is indeed what he is doing. There is something very similar in peer-counseling. An example would be the following: Person 1 displays a lot of angry behavior like slamming the table or yelling, and then Person 2 would say something like, “So I gather that you feel angry right now.” Person 1 would either validate Person 2’s assertion and say, “Yes, I am angry” or Person 2 could respond by saying something like “Actually, no, I’m not angry, I’m just frustrated at the situation.” Although the manifestation of being angry and being frustrated may be the same, the feeling of anger and the feeling of frustration are actually quite different when you tease them apart. These types of episodes in peer counseling are similar to contextual inquiry because although the interviewer may go in with a notion of how things are, it helps the interviewer gain further insight on the interviewee either by validating or disproving the interviewer’s beliefs.


Jin Ryu - 2/6/2013 10:37:42

Some potential disadvantages to the master/apprentice model are in that basing the customer's needs solely on what they do and have done in the current time and setting may limit new design suggestions to local practicality and instant application. It may reduce free, abstract thinking for revolutionary ideas that may completely change in what the customer does. Also, a lot of time from the interviewer may be required in order to better understand their customer's line of work and exactly what they do. When their work must be compressed to a smaller time, things may be rushed, tasks skipped or skimmed over, and jobs may be explained in a vague and quick manner. It also doesn't account for some customers who may not be as willing to work or be as patient with the design team. The interviewee may also get distracted by the questions as they do the work and then forget how to return to it after if they do so at all. Customers from the same line of work may do things in several different ways so the design team may need to interview more than one person from the target audience.

There could be a few possible advantages to other models. For the interviewer/interviewee model, the design team and customer involved are likely to not run out of questions to discuss if the interviewer has prepared well. The constant asking/answering mode may get those involved into thinking and asking. Also, the interviewer may ask questions outside of the actual work done, allowing them both to get outside of the box, and even if it may go into the abstract, it could lead to new and possibly creative solutions. For the expert/novice model, the fact that an interviewer who withholds expert advice may be wasting time by making the customer struggle through a minor problem that he would've solved eventually but was perhaps stressed, distracted, or new. It could be easier to help so they can get over the bump where they can spend more of their valuable time tackling other important questions that could be realized after the customer has finished fixing the issue. Bigger problems that the design team would want to examine could lie even further down the road past the minor issue that the customer struggled with in the beginning, and with this model, they could be reached and discussed in time. Internal, technical design flaws of an existing system may also be spotted earlier on if the interviewer comes in as an expert. As for the guest/host model, it could make the interviewer and interviewee more comfortable with each other and establish better relationships, especially if it is a new one. The model can also work with some culture standards and also reign in the design team from going out of boundary where they are not supposed such as in high-level government projects.

Sumer Joshi - 2/6/2013 11:27:34

One particular disadvantage I found with the master/apprentice model is that the master usually articulates some technique to the apprentice so the apprentice can figure it out on their own. Yet, the problem with this is that the master "should" teach as much knowledge that they know, i.e how to read the documentation, good coding practices, etc so that when the apprentice runs into questions, the master can immediately answer it. It is this back and forth process that develops the apprentice's sense of direction and character into their own solution, not the use of just strategy without application from the master.

There are potential advantages to other interview models. The partnership model allows for a student to lead the interviewer to an answer that a student provides. During coding interviews, companies often want to see your thinking process, so there is often a dialogue. The expert/novice model allows one to lead a team with maybe some knowledge of the situation, but the novice maybe unsure of the design aspect of the project. It creates a sense of direction for the group, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Kate Gorman - 2/6/2013 11:45:44

The Disadvantages of the master- apprentice model are that it can very *time consuming* to follow around many different types of users to gain the breadth and depth of insight and concrete data to fully understand the problems and use cases at hand. This can also be *expensive* to bring users in. Is there a way to publicly observe people doing tasks for free and maybe ask them a few questions? Anyone that agrees to come in may be passionately bias and feel strongly which can skew your observations and interpretations, i.e. the users that feel strongly enough to participate may not be representative.

Also, you are observing the users as they currently demonstrate their craft. They may or may not have appropriately thought through and reflected on how they might like the current process improved.

In an interview setting, you may be able to remove the user from their environment and thus allow them to think abstractly about improvements and what is flawed about the current process. Whereas in their natural environment, it may be difficult to allow them to think in a different way.

Aarthi Ravi - 2/6/2013 11:45:56

Disadvantages of the master-apprentice model: - Time consuming as the interviewer has to spend a lot of time with the customer to understand the work routine and problems of the customer - An interviewer may have to interview a lot of people from different fields in order to get a complete understanding of all the issues faced by customers. - It could be a challenging task to understand a specific task of the customer if the customer does not perform the task in front of the interviewer. This is because the customer will not give a concrete/ detailed explanation of the task and it is a challenge for the interviewer to ask relevant and smart questions to make a customer reveal complete details. - The customer plays an important role in contributing to the contextual design. If the customer doesn't play a pro-active role and does not contribute effectively the model may not be able to produce a good design - The interviewer should be adept at interpreting the data he/she gathered from customers. If he/she is not then the raw data gathered has no meaning and the problem cannot be solved. - The interviewer has to always steer the conversation in order to stay focused. - The interviewer may find it hard to understand the problems of the customer if he/she is not an expert in that area.

Advantages of Other Models - Interviewer/Interviewee: Prevents the customer from losing focus and wasting time on irrelevant stories. Instead, the interviewer asks a set of questions to keep the conversation relevant, meaningful and focused. - Expert/ Novice: If you are an expert at designing a system, then chances of coming up with an excellent design is more. Also, the expert can help the customer solve existing problems in a much better way. - Guests/Host: A formal relationship would force the customer to stick to the agenda and not get distracted.


Tiffany Jianto - 2/6/2013 12:06:18

Most potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model come from the idea that the master, or customer, performs their daily tasks, while the apprentice, or the interviewer, watches to learn the task. First of all, this idea is based on the assumption that the master and apprentice are both paying great attention and have some similar understanding of what is going on. However, if even one party is not enthusiastic or paying full attention, a lot of good learning material can be lost. Furthermore, Beyer and Holtzblatt say that “by watching instance after instance, the apprentice builds up a big picture of how to do the work”; however, if the master is inefficient in his way of working and the apprentice does not know or realize there is a better way, this very inefficient way will be continued. The interviewer learns about how the master does something by watching and following him around the office, but this also does not account for special cases which may not happen often. For example, if there is an important alert that comes up rarely, then the interviewer will probably not learn about it while he is solely observing the normal everyday routine of the customer instead of getting more information. Finally, Beyer and Holtzblatt also say “The apprentice role discourages the interviewer from asking questions in the abstract and focuses them on ongoing work,” but this seems like the apprentice may learn and do without understanding how something may work. The other interview models are the interviewer-interviewee, expert-novice, and guest-host. For the interviewer-interviewee model, the interviewer may be able to learn everything he needs to learn that he may not learn by simply watching the customer. The expert-novice may challenge the customer since he knows that he is interacting with a customer; therefore, the customer may try to act well or do his best. Finally, the guest-host model allows for a diplomatic atmosphere so that both the customer and interviewer don’t overstep any boundaries and have a smooth relationship. All these three potential advantages of these three models are not guaranteed in the master-apprentice model and potential disadvantages.

Marco Grigolo - 2/6/2013 12:13:04

The master-apprentice model has some potential disadvantages: To go in depth about the work of a master, we needs lots of time: since it focus on a daily work of the master, we need to follow the maser for a long time to cover all exceptions, and not only the usual work he does, since he explain us the job as he is doing it, and going astray to cover exceptions depends on him reminding events that are related to the job. It does not give much room for innovation: We usually follow and try to understand why the master do it: It becomes up to our imagination to develop different models of action and propose them to the master, and this might be done rarely, since the model do now well adapt to this kind of interaction. The master in fact is not necessarily skilled in what he does (like the scientist that did all manual calculations just because it was in his habit: it does not give us any clue about how to improve an electronic calculator). Moreover, the master is skilled in tasks that are already "solved", so the master-apprentice model is good for improving existing models, but mediocre in finding solutions that are truly innovative/solve tasks that no one has solved before (still up to us, to propose a solution, and the master is a mere check if the solution is might be right). Master-apprentice model focus too much on concrete data: it allows to understand how a particular customer works, but this is could be a disaster if the master way are completely different from how "other masters" handle it. We could interview more masters, but the synchronization (have to ask same question: need to wait till all other masters do that particular task), plus the time waste would be too much to be efficient

Parent-child model potential advantage. Parent-child model for example is better for improving a parent protocol. Is better because through rebellion we question the establishment and the routine of the parent, involve him in developing a different solution or to acknowledge his inefficiencies, and seek part in his doing that have room for improvement, so that they can be improved in a much faster and efficient way that with the master-apprentice model.

Expert-novice model potential advantage. This model allow us to get more focus on developing our application. While in the master-apprentice model we learn a good deal about how to make easier to solve master's problems, this does not help us in dealing with our problems when dealing in the application development. An expert-novice model allow us to understand what is important for us to solve problems we are facing during the development of the app, and skim what is inefficient to implement (most app development is usually out of deadline, forced to skim functions to be implemented in the program: a ranking by usability/feasibility makes a better app for the time/investment we are given). Interviewer-interwee model advantage. As a beginner, this model is great to get a quick, general grasp of what our customer is supposed to do, or to outline particular difficulties/advantages they have in their procedures. While overall is bad, it might be used as a great start in learning the basics of the customer job in a easy, fast and efficient manner.

Edward Shi - 2/6/2013 12:15:33

The master-apprentice model is great with getting real life observations. However, one does have to note that not everything happens all the time. Some situation may cause the subject to not perform a daily task or maybe their work situation is extremely dynamic and they have 15 different routines but you only see one. The master-apprenticeship model takes time and not everybody may have the time to do it. Furthermore, there are some cases where perhaps you are not allowed to follow your subject throughout the day due to security clearances or other hindrances. There may be situations where you are unable to take notes, and need to constantly be moving . Lastly, because the subject is aware you are there, they may perform somethings differently or act in a way that is not consistent with when they are alone.

The advantage of the interview/interviewee model is that it is a familiar setting. You get to dictate what is being said and what is relevant. The master/apprenticeship model may include time observing something that is not necessarily relevant to your study but the interview can specifically probe what he or she wants to. The interview/interviewee model also takes a shorter amount of time. This model, allows you to question more and seek more specific clarification vs the master-apprentice model.

Jian-Yang Liu - 2/6/2013 12:43:21

1) Even though the chapter argues for the master-apprentice model to be adopted, there remains several potential disadvantages to it. The first is that it presumes there is a “master,” that the person who is to take on the persona of “master” understands completely the task at hand, such that the person is able to teach the apprentice. However, the “master” may have an altered method of doing his/her job, which can then force the apprentice to follow along and misinterpret the ideal design choices. Other problems include that the “master” will be the one teaching the “apprentice,” so the “apprentice” will only learn what the “master” teaches, which could be a huge disadvantage when trying to create a product that will satisfy many customers. Further, there may be tasks where the “master” cannot deviate from the task at hand to answer questions, which could force the model back to an interviewer-interviewee model. Even if the “apprentice” asks for concrete data for a past experience, it puts too much pressure on the “apprentice” to extract fully the context around that past experience.

2) Other models, from the interviewer/interviewee to the expert/novice can have potential advantages over the “master-apprentice” model. The interviewer/interviewee model is especially useful for rapid learning, especially if the interviewer has prepared beforehand to allow the interviewer to grasp information quickly and efficiently. It could be even more powerful if used after the “master-apprentice” model, as the interviewer can further dig into the teachings of the “master,” clarifying confusing concepts and whatnot. On the other hand, the expert/novice model can be extremely helpful when attempting to promote some new design that is quite different from the original design used by the “novice.” It allows the “expert” to first change the “novice’s” original way of thinking where, instead of continuously thinking about how different this new model is from the old one, making it harder to use, the “novice” can embrace the new design first and foremost and critique it based on its efficiency with regard to the task at hand. Further, this model can be used for the “expert” to understand the necessary requirements for consumers to shift to this new design.

Ben Goldberg - 2/6/2013 12:49:32

There are several potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model. One important one is that the customer/master will take their roll too literally, forcing the apprentice/interviewer to sit back and not be able to ask as many questions as necessary. Also, the apprentice/interviewer isn't actually trying to learn the work to do the work, they are trying to learn the work to help improve it. This is something a traditional apprentice would never do.

The interviewer/interviewee model has the potential advantage of having the interviewer ask exactly what they want to ask. Of course this has the potential problem of having the interviewer take over the discussion, with the interviewee only talking in response to a question. That's why the reading suggests a partnership model which balances the discussion.

Erika Delk - 2/6/2013 12:50:01

Some of the problems with the master-apprentice model is that it really doesn't fit the goal of the interview. The interviewer is interested in learning how to abstract from the tasks the subject does and not necessarily how they do all of their tasks. Having a master-apprentice model however, focuses the interview on what is currently happening, and discourages abstract or more general questions that may be helpful to the interviewer.

Other interview models all have their strong points as well. For example, the teacher-student model is helpful when the interviewer is trying to learn the specifics of how the users accomplish their tasks, and the interview/interviewee model is good when trying to get basic information on topics that may not be related.

Raymond Lin - 2/6/2013 12:58:20

I think that the main potential disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is the fact that the master is in fact not a teacher. Even if they are an expert of their craft, to those who have no knowledge or unskilled it can seem overwhelming. The learning mainly occurs through observation, however, there can be professions, where observation is insufficient. From the reading I also interpreted this kind of relationship to be one where direct interaction does not really happen and in this way can be detrimental to their learning curve.

I think that the main advantage of other interview models like a partnership for instance, is the fact that each person is able to challenge one another. Without this dynamic, I feel like learning is much more difficult. Through the struggles of questioning and reasoning, understanding becomes much more concrete. Also, working with other people around your level helps competition which can be a good motivation to work harder, rather than feeling intimidated or put down by a more superior counterpart.

Anh Mai - 2/6/2013 13:10:56

The master-apprentice model is traditionally a relationship model between actual master craftsmen and their apprentices. In this, the master usually carries about his daily routine as the apprentice observe. The apprentice seldom asked too many questions since he is after all, just an apprentice. This can be a disadvantage because when applied to an interview, the interviewer will not get enough details for designing work; so interviewers must apply the master-apprentice model a bit looser - closer to an actual partnership, asking whatever questions necessary for his/her design work as the master is carrying on with his routine. To apply the master-apprentice model efficiently, you need to be able to expand it into more of a partnership, so both side can comfortably act towards each other more of equals, even though the customer is still the one with more knowledge and experience about his/her work. You need to be able to contextualize the interview, and sharpen your focus to interpret and make sense of the data you are gathering from the interviewee.

Other interview models can be advantageous at other times. The interviewer/interviewee model is definitely useful when all you really need are responses to certain questions. The expert/novice relationship is when you are there, interviewing to possibly help resolve problems that the customer might have, and not so much to gain data or information to help your own agenda. The guest/host model interview model allows the host to feel and know that you are being polite, and some people might actually be more comfortable in that situation and answer better.

Nadine Salter - 2/6/2013 13:12:59

The master-apprentice model is an effective way of letting the interviewer understand, in depth, how the client uses the system, especially because of how natural it is to explain what you're doing as you do it. This comes with a downside: the interviewer must be time-synced to the client, so following a process requires as much time as the client takes, and necessitates that the interviewer be present at whatever time the client is normally working. This can be problematic for processes that take multiple days or require multiple people working concurrently, or for processes that are at unusual hours or that are unpredictable, or for processes that are critically important and require complete attention. An on-call sysadmin, for example, might be woken by a pager at 3AM on a Saturday when a server implodes, and focus completely on quickly restoring the offending system — even if the interviewer happened to be around, this might not be a good time to engage in mentoring.

Other approaches, like the scientist-subject model, might be more appropriate for high-level analysis. The interviewer could ask several members of a client team to describe what they do throughout the course of a multi-day project, delving into low-level details (à la master-apprentice) only when relevant; this might work better when an entire system overhaul is being planned.

Kayvan Najafzadeh - 2/6/2013 13:15:25

As it says in the text "Unlike an apprentice, members of the design team contirbute their own special knowlegde about technology and what it can do. Apprentices learn a single job, but different projects may require team to study a wide varying work practice. ... , designers meet the needs of a whole market or department, so they must learn from many people. .... interviewers cannot afford to spend the time an apprentice would take to learn the work."

This paragraph is pointing out the different challenges that design team faces and master-apprentice model can not answer. I would consider these as disadvantages of this model.

In the conventional interview the fact that both customer and interviewer get to know each other a little helps a lot because then the customer can point out the points that she thinks is most useful to the interviewer and also the Transition model should be applied and make new rules so each side be aware of what actions might happen like interrupting or asking question and so on.

Andrew Gealy - 2/6/2013 13:16:15

The master-apprentice model may require more work on the part of the master. He might have to spend more time explaining and "withdrawing" from his work than he normally would if he were alone. He must be able to host the apprentice for an extended period of time, long enough to cover a wide range of instances and edge cases. It may also be the case that certain tasks worthy of note are not actually performed with the apprentice present, as discussion is unlikely to go beyond the present work of the master. Having an interviewer present and observing might make the customer uncomfortable or cause him to behave differently than he might otherwise. As is suggested by Beyer & Holtzblatt, the apprenticeship model "tilts power, if anything, too much toward the master-customer", allowing him too much control over the course of the interview. A customer might wish to take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the interviewer's product, but this is not really supported by the master-apprentice relationship.

Other models such as the interviewer/interviewee and expert/novice would allow for more control on the part of the interviewer. They could more easily raise discussions of particular issues that they're working on rather than hoping they come up. They also may be able to offer advice that the customer appreciates. These are potential advantages, but go against the central focus of observing the natural use of the interviewer's product. Cultural sensitivity is noted in the guest/host discussion; it may be the case that the customer is simply not comfortable acting as a master or being observed by the interviewer. They may need another model in order to fit the interview in with their cultural expectations and conventions.

Linda Cai - 2/6/2013 13:16:58

While the master-apprentice model is a great starting point in Contextual Inquiry, the model has some disadvantages. For one, it can be a very time-consuming process, depending on the work that the team will be observing. For some jobs, the core of the work takes several hours to days, and the design team may not be able to observe the crucial parts of the work unless they spend a significant amount of time observing, which can be inefficient at points. Also, the customer may not be comfortable with playing the role of the apprentice. For example, they may assume the interviewer has some connection to their company/boss, so they should not reveal any information that may compromise their job or performance. General nervousness of being watched may cause them to hesitate and hold back their thoughts while working instead of dictating their thoughts. Also, if they are aware that the interviewer is the one who designed the system or is an expert on the work or device, they may tailor their responses in a way that is unnatural or untruthful, to avoid showing mistakes or (perceived) bad practices in their work. If so, the observations may be misleading or unbeneficial. Another drawback is that many people may not be familiar with the master-apprentice model, and may instead take on the teacher-student model, teaching the interviewer and giving summaries and holding back their bad practices that they determine should not be passed on to students, but may be crucial information to the interview.

The other interview models have their advantages as well. The interviewer/interviewee model may not be very good to sustain throughout the entire interview process, but if the customer’s dictation or actions are not revealing some of the structure or details, and you’d like to change the direction to something relevant to your research, you can ask a question to find out something very specific or keep them on track. The expert/novice model may encourage the customer to voice their concerns about their work or a device, since as the novice they may assume the interviewer can help them with a problem that they consistency have to deal with or other issue. In the guest/host model, customers may be much more vocal and attentive to the needs of the interviewer, since they feel that they are to please the guest for their visit. Thus they may be more receptive to showing the interviewer their work and other details that may be of concern.

Brett Johnson - 2/6/2013 13:39:19

One disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is that the balance of power in the the relationship is tilted too much in favor of the master. In situations like the ones described in the readings, the designer needs to understand that they are talking to the expert on the work, but also realize that they too are experts and have something to contribute. The author notes that in this context, the designer needs to be an expert at seeing structure, not necessarily the specific work of the master. Also, the apprentice needs to make sure they are switching back and forth between observing the work and asking questions about the work, what the author terms withdrawal and return. While this model is advocated for in this chapter, there are also some advantages of other systems brought up as well. In the interviewer-interview model, the balance of power is tipped more in favor of the interviewer, although probably too much. In the guest-host relationship, the potential advantage is that the host (the customer) may feel more comfortable as they are not intimidated by the “expert” they are talking to. The guest must be culturally sensitive to make the host feel comfortable.

Samir Makhani - 2/6/2013 13:44:52

One of the potential disadvantages I noticed of the master-apprentice model regards the automatic assumption that a master craftsman has the skill-set to clearly articulate the details of a craft. What if the craftsman is a great programmer, but not very social, and cannot present his or her ideas in a clear manner that the interviewer can understand? I'm sure there is a lot of "silent talent" that exists in the world where the master-apprentice model may not necessarily may not apply due to the lack of efficient communication.

Another potential disadvantage I can think of is "stage fright." What if the interviewer scrutinizing the customer do their craft makes them feel uncomfortable, and the exact truth isn't given to the interviewer, but instead, the interviewer is given detail that is more favorable to them? I can definitely foresee a situation where the interviewee is intimidated by the interviewer's close watching, and begins adjusting their actions to cater to what may appear best to the interviewer.

Another disadvantage is not having a clear, focused point of view by the interviewer while studying the work of the customer. This could make the entire interview pointless because there was no proper steering of the conversation without focus.

Three other relationship models that are discussed in the article are the interviewer/interviewee model, guest/host and the Expert/novice model. One advantage of the the interview/interviewee is that you can direct the interview in a manner that is most conducive to you, but this will definitely limit the creativity of the interview. The idea of a partnership and mutual relationship of shared inquiry in the guest/host relationship will help the interviewer move out of the formal role, and become a similar role as the apprentice in the master/apprentice model. As long as there power imbalance is lessened, an intimiate relationship is possible! (In my opinion)


Eric Xiao - 2/6/2013 13:54:00

Some disadvantages of the master-apprentice model is that it ignores the high level theory that comes with developing work and doing tasks. It also deals well with individual work, but not with large group tasks. Being able to see one person do his job only gives a small glimpse into what the individual user can see from his own perspective, but it requires a lot of time to see this from every angle for a large scale business application, such as a project management tool. The master-apprentice model also marginalizes the designer a bit in this role as if he has nothing of value to add to the contextual problem.

The interviewer/interviewee model has the interviewer set the pace and ask the questions, which has an advantage in speed. The interviewer also gives the work structure, causing the worker to stop and think for a second about what he's actually doing, and not just rely on intuition or muscle memory. Customers can immediately shape the design ideas you propose as they fix the problem right in front of them. Sharing interpretations will also set structure, and will not bias the data contrary to common thinking.

I also particularly like the transition phase, where the new rules of social interaction are established by stating them. No need for awkwardness when everything is spelled out for you.


Timothy Ko - 2/6/2013 13:58:55

The biggest potential disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is in the difficulty of finding the right balance between the apprentice and master. The article talks about dangerous models like the expert-novice model, which reverses the roles of the apprentice and master so you end up not learning anything from the customer, and the host-guest model, where you aren’t nosy enough and too polite which ends up being a fruitless endeavor in terms of trying to find insight into a customer’s work structure. The key to the apprentice-master model is to find the right balance between the expert-novice and host-guest models, while not falling too much into the extreme of either one of them. That can prove difficult, especially if you are used to one of those two models. Another disadvantage of the apprentice-master model is that you might get too caught up in the apprentice role, which is not the point at all. You are supposed to figure out the structure of the customer’s work, not take up their work. It seems very easy to end up adopting their methods rather than looking for ways to improve or support them.

Some advantages of the guest-host model that I could see are that you don’t interrupt the work flow of the customer. If you are too nosy and constantly interrupt the customer while they work, you may not get an accurate depiction of their typical work day and thus can’t really make a good interpretation and design for them.

An advantage of the expert-novice model is that you can share your expertise in your field to show how it could help with the customer’s work. You don’t have to take over the customer’s work flow, but every now and then it would be good to interject and suggest a possible feature of your product that could help the customer with their work. This was actually touched upon in the article, and I believe that there were elements of the expert-novice model in their explanation as well.


André Crabb - 2/6/2013 13:58:58

The master-apprentice model is about the customers acting as "masters" of their work while designers act as "apprentices". This allows designers to learn about how a customer works in order to design a product that will assist with that work. One potential disadvantage of this relationship is that the customer, being the "master," takes too much control of the interview and doesn't focus on the information the designers need (i.e. information about design). Another could be that the customer is not good at supplying the information the designer wants. The chapter states that the customer should be actively explaining "what" and "why" in detail to everything they do, but if they don't really know how to do this, it could easily turn into an "interviewer/interviewee" relationship.

On the other hand, the "interviewer/interviewee" model could be more beneficial if the designers don't really need to learn how the whole system works. Let's say the designers are just implementing a small feature, or perhaps an update to an existing feature; the "interviewer/interviewee" relationship could suffice. Also, I could potentially see the "parent/child" model, where the designer is the parent and the customer is the child, work out in some situations. Being the parent, the designer has more control than being an "apprentice" and could sway the interview in a direction in order to get the information he needs while still asking the customer to work as they normally would. Typically, parents want their children to be happy and like them, so the interviewer wouldn't (shouldn't) take too much control and be too bossy.

Timothy Ko - 2/6/2013 14:05:18

The biggest potential disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is in the difficulty of finding the right balance between the apprentice and master. The article talks about dangerous models like the expert-novice model, which reverses the roles of the apprentice and master so you end up not learning anything from the customer, and the host-guest model, where you aren’t nosy enough and too polite which ends up being a fruitless endeavor in terms of trying to find insight into a customer’s work structure. The key to the apprentice-master model is to find the right balance between the expert-novice and host-guest models, while not falling too much into the extreme of either one of them. That can prove difficult, especially if you are used to one of those two models.

Another disadvantage of the apprentice-master model is that you might get too caught up in the apprentice role, which is not the point at all. You are supposed to figure out the structure of the customer’s work, not take up their work. It seems very easy to end up adopting their methods rather than looking for ways to improve or support them.

Some advantages of the guest-host model that I could see are that you don’t interrupt the work flow of the customer. If you are too nosy and constantly interrupt the customer while they work, you may not get an accurate depiction of their typical work day and thus can’t really make a good interpretation and design for them.

An advantage of the expert-novice model is that you can share your expertise in your field to show how it could help with the customer’s work. You don’t have to take over the customer’s work flow, but every now and then it would be good to interject and suggest a possible feature of your product that could help the customer with their work. This was actually touched upon in the article, and I believe that there were elements of the expert-novice model in their explanation as well.


Sangyoon Park - 2/6/2013 14:05:21

For the "master-apprentice" model, the disadvantage is that a person/team that is performing a master role is not always knowing everything or not always right of the work for an apprentice/design team to learn. Relatively, in interviewer/interviewee relationship, an interviewer is not always able to learn everything for the certain job or task(similar to the disadvantage of master-apprentice model), so in this case the disadvantage is that it just consumes a lot of work/energy from interviewers to properly learn everything that they need. There are several potential advantages for other interview models. For interview/interviewee model, it could be really useful when the interviewee needs to absorb targeted information from interview effectively and fast. For expert/novice model, it is useful when a novice(perhaps a design team) wants to learn from the customer step by step - if the customer is truly expert of the product, this will be a great choice.

John Sloan - 2/6/2013 14:05:29

There are a few disadvantages or a strictly master-aprentice model. The first is that an aprentice will usual spend months or years learning from the master, but the designer has much less time. It is challenging to learn all that is needed in a reasonable time limit. Another disadvantage is a true master-aprentice model will often restrict the interviewer to only asking a few clarifications as the customer dictates what to do and show. This is why it is recommended that the interviewer approach with a partnership model, where both the interviewer and customer work together to understand what they are both doing and what the interview is consider for potential solutions. This is a more open approach that allows the interviewer to understand more thoroughly what the customer is doing and conversely, it allows the customer to help shape the design possibilities. Another advantage of this alternative interview model is that it makes it much more difficult to fall into other relationship models that inhibit good data to be obtained, such as the expert/novice model. This is because you are continually sharing goals with the customer and when a true partnership develops, the customer will act correctly for good data to be collected.

Oulun Zhao - 2/6/2013 14:07:27

Potential disadvantages of master-apprentice model:

One potential disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is that it is not that easy for the interviewer(observer) to formalize the scenes or steps he/she observed. Since most of the time the observer will simply watch and will not disturb the master by asking questions(making them stop and talk), it will be fairly hard to generate a formal notes from the interview.

Potential advantages of other interview models: 1.Interviewer/Interviewee model The answers will be structured well and in a more systematic format 2.Expert/Novice model: This model would work well if the customer is so stuck to do any more of the work you came to see. Then with this model you can help the customer out with your expertise. 3.Guest/Host model: A potential advantage is that you can make sure that you will definitely not annoy the customer in this model. Good for maintaining your relationship with the customer. Other two mentioned at the beginning: 4.Scientist/subject model: The customer will probably tend to give you very serious and formal answers. In some cases, this type of answers might be useful. 5.Parent/child model: A potential advantage is that the interviewer can have more control of the conversation.

Dennis Li - 2/6/2013 14:09:02

The author believes that the relationship model is much more beneficial in understanding the concern of the customer than simply following a list of rules. With a list of rules you're too preoccupied to "relate to the customer". If we follow a relationship model, however, if we stay in an appropriate relationship, we wille easily and "naturally act appropriately". Additionally, with models, if we properly play out our role, the customer will naturally fall into the counter role, the only trick then is to make them play the role that will squeeze out the most information.

The master-apprentice model is a method where the interviewer studies the interviewee in the workplace. This model allows the "master" to comment on certain aspects of his work that are important as they come to mind, and allows the "apprentice" to ask questions whenever he is not sure about why the master is doing something. This model is convenient for people not familiar with or good at teaching. Instead of having to prepare a presentation in a conference room, the master is able to stay in a place of comfort making it less stressful for both parties. Additionally, this model reduces the chance that the interviewee will forget a key aspect of his work (maybe even something that he is unaware he's doing) that he may have otherwise missed in another situation. This model also allows the interviewer to gain a much more in depth understanding of the work process. Instead of simply being explained of the process, the interviewer is actually able to see the actions performed, and if given not only a narration of the actions, but is able to hit pause and ask questions of his own. In a situation where we are observing customers, the master-apprentice model may be even more effective. With customers, we have to interact with a wide range of people, not just experts in a field. By observing the actions of multiple customers, we are able to extrapolate common strategies and patterns through their actions. While working on the actions, customers and masters alike a cued to past experiences by reminders of their current environment.

Despite the obvious advantages of the models, however, there are numerous possible flaws that could occur. Firstly, because the observation process requires the interviewer actually be in the work environment, the "master" may be inhibited from really doing the work as he is used to despite whatever encouragement the interviewer provides. This would be an issue if the interviewer were an actual apprentice, however, because he is not, the problem grows even larger, because the interviewer would not have the background an apprentice would have. This lack of foundation means that not only would the interviewer be asking more questions than an apprentice, but the master, limited by the gap in technical jargon, would not be able to best describe the reasoning behind his actions. Another disadvantage to the master-apprentice model is the great time requirement. In order for the interviewer to gain a full grasp of the work being done by the master, he would have to spend multiple days with the master on each process of his work cycle. In contrast, a simple interview process or presentation would allow the interviewer to gain insight on each step of the work cycle within a single day or even the span of a few hours.

Harry Zhu - 2/6/2013 14:13:28

A potential disadvantage of the master-apprentice model are that the customer, or the interviewee might be too cooperative. While the master-apprentice model might be more effective, it requires a lot of collaboration from the interviewee side, which relies too much on getting the right person to do the interview on. Also, it depends on the customer/interviewee being an actual "master of their craft". If the person has no idea what they're doing, they might not be worth interviewing. Because of this potential downfall of finding the right person to interview, this is where the expert-novice model might be better. Since the interviewee might not be able to take charge, it's up to the interview to do so. This same argument can be made for the interviewer-interviewee model.

Eric Leung - 2/6/2013 14:15:55

Some disadvantages of the master-apprentice models are that the "master" may not necessarily know why exactly he is doing the things he's doing, or the "master" may not remember how to do something and refers back to things he's done before (such as using an old report and changing data on it).

Some potential advantages of an interviewer/interviewee model is that you get to pick the exact questions that you would like to ask. Whereas in the master/apprentice model, you would have to hope that the "master" will do something to show you how it is used, you can directly ask exactly how they would do something, no matter how rare it is. Also, you can ask them how they would like to do something, instead of just observe how they currently do it.

An advantage to the guest/host model is that if you're able to make yourself as invisible as possible, then the guest will work most similarly to in their natural environment. Because people do not work the same when they are being observed, this model has a huge advantage only when being as invisible and non-intrusive as possible.

Weishu Xu - 2/6/2013 14:17:44

Potential disadvantages of the master-apprentice model can arise if the activity requires a higher-level understanding of why certain concepts exist or certain actions are performed. While this model could be an effective way to list out tasks and instructions, it may not cast an overview on the purpose of the job at large. In addition, as an apprentice, it may be difficult for the interviewee to pose questions or challenge the actions and choices of the interviewer. This might also inhibit the effective brainstorming process for creative ideas. Furthermore, the article mentions that the purpose of the interviewer is to develop a technology solution and cannot spend the amount of time an apprentice normally would to learn the trade. In order to craft a well-designed solution, they would also need to gain perspectives from a wide number of people in the industry.

One way to address some of the issues faced by the master-apprentice model is by using the partnership model, where the interviewer and interviewee can collaborate to understand how the job works as well as deliberate over how to improve it. It also shifts the power structure to make it more balanced instead of heavily tilted toward the master. Another tool to include in the interview could be using ongoing experience instead of summary. This can help both the interviewer and interviewee determine what are some important details that might otherwise be forgotten in a summary and collaborate to structure the facts into understanding.


Zach Burggraf - 2/6/2013 14:18:20

In a typical Master-Apprentice situation the apprentice spends many years watching the master in action. Apprentices often learn by doing. This takes huge amounts of time and in many scenarios, a designer does not have the time to take on a full apprenticeship, nor does the customer have time to walk the apprentice through all of his trade. Another potential problem is there is not always a Master available. If you treat every customer as a Master, you may receive false information if your interviewee/customer is actually not very skilled or does not represent the typical user. Other models may be much more time-cost-effective and more realistic.

Tenzin Nyima - 2/6/2013 14:19:45

Some of the potential disadvantages of "master-apprentice" model are: Unlike the apprentice in real life, interviewer usually doesn't have whole lot of time to spend with the customer. As the author said, the apprentice role discourages the interviewer from asking questions in the abstract and focuses them on ongoing work. This leads to the risk where customers can potentially shape the interviewer’s understanding of how to support their work from the beginning. In real life "master-apprentice" model, apprentice just learn from the master. But in designing projects, unlike the apprentice, interview/designer has to contribute its own expertise along with the customer for a better design.

To overcome some of the drawbacks, a designer can come up with other models, as described in the reading to have a balanced model for interviews. Again, if one leans too much towards one particular model, then it is not good. Some other alternative models are as follows: “Interviewer-Interviewee” model: Unlike “master-apprentice” model, interviewer gets the control of the conversation. Although it is not good to have one side (here in this case - the interviewer) to take control but the input from the interviewer is also very important. With this model, interviewer can ask questions and learn everything he/she needs to know for the designing process. It is very important to question the customer. But this should be done with much care as the chances of customer simply answering and then adding nothing is very like to happen which will lead to the absence of any inputs from the customer who actually use the designed application. “Expert-Novice” model: Expert viewpoints and helps are important in design works. But designer should be careful from thinking himself/herself as an expert and spend the whole time helping the customer. This model could be very helpful if the designer let the customer do as if the designer himself was not there to help, and if the customer gets stuck then the designer should come and walk the customer to solve the problem. This way is very effective because customer will learn what he/she was missing and also the designer will learn what are the things that need to simplify.


Alysha Jivani - 2/6/2013 14:19:50

The master-apprentice model allows for the designer to observe a very specific instance or task, and while this can be useful, it can also be a disadvantage. It can make it hard to see the big picture or general themes (like what the type of task is trying to achieve), might not provide enough context, and it can make it very easy to get locked into details of one specific instance. As the chapter mentions, it is necessary to have multiple observations (in my opinion, these should also be at various times and for various types of tasks) in order to get a better understanding of the goals, issues, system, etc. It also relies heavily on a strong set of observational skills, the ability to pinpoint specific questions about actions, and it assumes that the user/customer will recall past events, etc. by using current tasks or actions as a cue (which might not always happen). Sometimes explicit explanations to the “right”, specific questions can be beneficial.

One potential benefit of the scientist/subject model (mentioned at the beginning of the reading) is that it allows the designer to observe the somewhat natural behavior of the user/subject and ask questions without influencing their thoughts/responses (though perhaps the way the relationship is described at the start of the chapter—“it doesn’t really matter whether you understand why I’m asking”—is too harsh and not the best way of viewing the situation). It also seemed like the chapter (during the actual part about the 4 principles of contextual inquiry) blended the master-apprentice model and interviewee-interviewer model. A distinct advantage of the interviewee-interviewer model is that the interviewer can probe for more detailed or concrete explanations and thus supplement their observations by directed conversations to find out more context or information. The chapter also brings up the notion of partnership, which I think is very effective, because it allows the user/subject to reflect on what they’re doing, why, and how, and potentially leaves room for more insight.

Soyeon Kim (Summer) - 2/6/2013 14:20:11

First, the master-apprentice model requires a serious attention to be able to get full benefits from the observation; if the interviewer is often distracted or is encountered with some kind of difficulty during the process, it is likely that what the person can get out of this model is minimal and less effective. Second, the intense observation of one person can cause biased learning; the focus can be too narrowed as a result of a loss of obtaining a breadth of opinions from more people. Lastly, this indirect way of teaching and learning requires more time than other models, and thus this may not be suitable for some designs that are time-sensitive. The partnership model provides an equal status for both user and the designer, allowing more intimate relationship and bidirectional flow of conversation. More insights can be shared directly and more effectively. The interviewer/interviewee can provide a clear set of interactions of what design team wants to obtain from the users. Also, by providing the same questions, analysis and evaluation of the collection of data can be much simplified and clarified. The expert/novice model can be useful in discovering issues and pitfalls of the product that the customer can point out and this can ultimately contribute to a better design decision.


Juntao Mao - 2/6/2013 14:20:42

Potential disadvantages of Master/Apprentice relationship include: -The apprentice learns all a master knows, but in interview, the interviewer needs to guide the conversation to focus on the part related to the design. -The interviewer also wants more of a partner relationship in order to voice questions and stop the master in the middle of work to inspect a particular overlooked aspect. (withdrawal and return) -Also, the interviewer not only want to observe like an apprentice, but also interpret the observations, and suggest interpretations in order to get instant feedback. Potential advantages of other types of relationship: -Interviewer/Interviewee: Generally not great way of interview, however the list of questions model may be used if there is no way of getting to observe the customer at work. -Parent/Child: Useful if this parental relationship is the area of design. Especially if little kids are the customers, they may need a stricter guiding hand to not stray too far off track. -Guest/Host: Useful when first meeting the customer, before moving into the partnership stage.

Tananun Songdechakraiwut - 2/6/2013 14:21:05

Disadvantages of master-apprentice model 1. It is relying too much on the master part. The apprentice can easily pick up bad habits from the master and fail to see opportunities to improve the work process. Thus is required to be clever to prevent it from happening. 2. The apprentice should be inquisitive about it or may end up having information gaps in the process. 3. This model is time-consuming and takes several years. The authors admit that it is a process of several years. 4. In fact, an apprentice position is subservient and the customer can possibly lead the focus of the interview astray. Thus, when that happens, the apprentice or interviewer must twist the model to firm the contextual inquiry's purpose. 5. Some customers may not like strangers to be around while they are working.

Advantages of other interview models: interviewer-interviewee, expert-novice, guest-host, and partnership 1. These methods are less time-consuming compared to master-apprentice model in the sense that the information is presented, not picked up. 2. The interviewer-interviewee model is commonly expected by the customer and thus occurs naturally. There are many known techniques that will leave some customer more comfortable. Even though it is abstract, this model can be used to obtain a broader information about customer's purpose. 3. In contract to master-apprentice model, the partnership model allows the interviewer to be more involved in the process and to create an environment where collaboration can develop. 4. The guest-host model maintains harmonious relations between the interviewer and customer since the two are to be kind to each other. 5. The expert-novice model possibly inspire the customer to have faith in the interviewer. As a result, the customer is certain about presenting them with the information.

Timothy Wu - 2/6/2013 14:27:22

One potential disadvantage of the master-apprentice model is the sense in which the apprentice has to laboriously spend time learning the craft in detail. In the traditional sense of the relationship, the master is teaching the apprentice the craft and all of its details meticulously with the goal of imparting expert knowledge of how to perform the craft. However, in the context of design work, the apprentice is the designer-interviewer, who doesn't quite have the time to belabor each minute detail of performance, nor is it the goal to do so. Instead, the designer-interviewer's goal is to learn as much about the craft as he or she possibly can, while trying to spot patterns throughout the observing period. Thus, the limitations of the activity of interviewing for design disallows the traditional sense of a dutiful apprentice seeking to learn each minute detail and instead requires the designer-interviewer to adopt certain focuses.

Another disadvantage of the role is the sense in which an apprentice is usually deferent and respectful towards the master. Because a traditional apprentice has a much longer time frame during which to learn the craft, and has the benefit of a longer term relationship with the master, the apprentice has to be respectful to the master and not be too nosy or inquisitive. In the words of the author of the reading, "The apprenticeship model tilts power, if anything, too much toward the master-customer." This is a big disadvantage because the designer-interviewer needs to gather as much information as possible from the customer in a small amount of time, which requires a more equal power dynamic that promotes open communication.

As for advantages of other interview models, there is a definite benefit to the partnership interview relationship model. This relationship allows for a more balanced power dynamic between the two parties and makes it possible for the interviewer to be nosy and inquisitive about the actions of the customer. Being able to interrupt and ask questions is crucial to the interview process, which is more difficult to do if the power dynamic is such that the interviewer has to be overly respectful and courteous to the customer. This model is also useful because it allows for open communication and exchange of ideas and observations, as if in a conversation. This open flow of communication can facilitate the designer sharing with the customer initial design ideas.

Another advantageous aspect of one of the other interview models is the importance of the initial setup of the contextual interview. For this, the reading suggests to use the traditional interviewer-interviewee model to walk the customer through the interaction and to help the two parties get to know each other better. It should also give basic background on what the customer is doing to help the interviewer maintain a specific focus. After this initial interview phase, you can then lay down the rules of the contextual interview proper so that interactions that defy social norms during the interview are not construed in a bad way or result in awkwardness.

Brian Wong - 2/6/2013 14:27:45

The author often argues how asking very specific questions when the "master", or user, is working is important. However, contrary to the author's view, I believe this will often disrupt the flow of the user's thinking. The author states how it is easy to go into periods of intense questioning, and then back to working. However, as someone who is easily distracted while doing even the simplest of homework assignments, I believe that these constant periods of questioning will disrupt the normal flow of what the user normally does as they continue to take substantial time to adjust themselves back into what they were doing after answering questions.

Interviewer/interviewee has the advantage when the interviewer knows the subject they are discussing. Often times the interviewee may be shy and not fully able to delve into the topics that matter to the interviewer (or designer). A skilled interviewer, however, can probe the interviewee for the answers to the questions he/she needs to be answered to build a better prototype.

With expert/novice, I generally agree with the author that this is a poor relationship to take on. The one advantage I do see, however, is for technologies or new designs that completely break the mold of what is currently out on the market. For example, many of Apple's design features were first of their kind and quite proprietary when they released on iPods and iPhones (swiping right to delete, for example). In order for a revolutionary design like this to take off, it may be necessary for an "expert" to help guide a "novice" through some initial tutorial phase.

The guest/host relationship has the advantage of partially addressing the issue above with the master/apprentice relationship--a period of questioning that disrupts the train of thought of the user. So the advantage of the guest/host is that you exactly how a user would work in the real world, without random distractions from someone pounding them with questions. This also has the advantage of being able to record the interaction, and then afterward, going back with the "host" to dive into more details about some of the actions taken.

Alexander Javad - 2/6/2013 14:28:39

A potential disadvantage of the "master-apprentice" type of interview with a user would be a lack of foresight to provide helpful features if one considers only one point-of-view. Other interview models such as the "expert-novice" relationship might be more advantageous because it helps identify areas where design is in critical need of improvement.

Derek Lau - 2/6/2013 14:29:16

A few disadvantages that come to mind with the master-apprentice model is that there could be a tendency for the apprentice to not speak up. In a master-apprentice model (a category in which the idea of job shadowing fits), you need both the master and apprentice to be good at being vocal, or else conversation will become one-sided, leading something to more of a expert/novice model. Additionally, in the master-apprentice model, there may be a tendency to focus too much on the detail and on the concrete and not enough on what the general, more abstracted idea is. If the master explains everything that he is doing and the apprentice asks a detailed question about every action, the process will be very inefficient.

Conversely, in an expert-novice model, there is a very clear goal of conveying the expert ideas in a top-down teaching fashion and the most important, usually abstract, ideas will be covered without worry for time constraint. A pro about the interviewer/interviewee model is that there are set questions to be asked, and if there is silence during the observation process, the interviewer has a list of questions from which to choose to keep conversation and ideas flowing. An advantage of the guest-host model comes when dealing with cultures where a bit of separation between authority and layman is necessary for conversation to flow where otherwise, one of the parties will be offended by the other's culturally uncomfortable intimacy.

Arvind Ramesh - 2/6/2013 14:29:45

There are many advantages of using the "master-apprentice" model during interviews. The intuitive way to conduct interviews would be to go in with the "interviewer-interviewee" mindset, but as was stated in the article, this approach is counter productive. It does not allow the user to go about his or her work, and instead forces you to ask questions in a field in which you are not an expert. Instead, allowing the customer to go about his or her work, while asking questions, allows you to observe while taking note of key points. The phrase used in the article for this was "observation interspersed with discussion". Another important point that was brought up was that the user will often forget many details in a typical interview format. By observing them and taking on the "apprentice" role, they will mention all the minute details as they come up, and you can get a much better understand of how the system works. Also, things that happen while you are observing the customer will often remind them of past events, which they will tell you. These events often offer insightful advice as to how to improve the system.

Some disadvantages of the master-apprentice model are that you cannot possibly spend the years required to become a true "apprentice", you are just there to observe for a day or two. Without asking specific questions, you might not get some key pieces of information you need.

Advantages of other interview models are that it allows the designer to focus on a particular area which he feels is very important. By just observing the customer, the designer may gain only a little insight in a specific area that he was hoping to improve on. By asking questions in a typical interview format, the designer can get more specific answers.


Lemuel Daniel Wu - 2/6/2013 14:30:01

The recommended model of "master-apprentice" in this chapter is very interesting to me, because in the past, I remember specific interviews where I had something much more like the "expert/novice" model happening during the interview.

However, when doing the reading, I noticed certain things that could lead to problems if only adopting the "master-apprentice" model for interviews. First, this assumes that the user (the master) always has a rational reason for doing something. However, some users just like to click around in applications to see what the applications will do in response. Others, while trying to think about what to do, have a sort of guess-and-check method of clicking on buttons to get in hopes that it will somehow lead to a state that they want, without thinking about whether a button was initially designed to help them achieve their goals. This "master-apprentice" model will ask users why they did something, and often, the result would probably be "Oh, I don't know," or "I'm just trying stuff out" - at this point, some other models of interviewing may be better because we can no longer assume that the user is the master who has everything all perfectly thought out. At that point, a "parent/child" sort of model may be helpful, because the interviewer will need to tell the user that he needs the user to only make decisions that have some sort of logical flow behind them.

The "master/apprentice" model also fails to realize that not every person thinks the same way, and occasionally, you will come across a user who doesn't understand the message what different parts of the application are for. This may be for multiple reasons, including cultural differences. He may, perhaps, misunderstand cues that are built in to different widgets that intuitively make sense for an American, for example, because he just came from a different country and culture to work at the company that wants to use the designer's application. Though this is a very contrived example, it can be seen why the interviewer may need to step in and inform the user about the meaning behind different symbols if his target audience doesn't fully understand what the application is for.