Task Analysis and Contextual Inquiry

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Readings

Featured Responses

Sangeetha Alagappan - 2/5/2014 16:52:03

The article describes the “interview-interviewee” model as a formal conversation, like a verbal questionnaire. It contrasts to the “master-apprentice” model that encourages “partnership” and tries to make the interviewee feel comfortable as well as participate as the larger contributor to the conversation. While both models involve the interviewer asking questions, the kind of questions being asked is different; in the interviewer-interviewee model, the questions are structured and planned while in the “master-apprentice” model, the interviewer plays the role of the apprentice, intently observing and asking probing questions to understand why the interviewee is doing what he/she is doing (though this can work up to a partnership level where the interviewer and the interviewee collaborate as they step through a process with the interviewer helps bring attention to things the interviewee didn’t previously consider, suggesting a different structure in which the interviewee might see his/her work and offering alternative design ideas for opinion, all the while having the interviewee shape the interviewer’s understanding of the work being done). Therefore, the relationship modelled in the “master-apprentice” model is a “mutual relationship of a shared inquiry and discovery” of the work being done guided by context, partnership, interpretation and focus while the “interview-interviewee” model is a Q&A, structured relationship where lots of information might become lost in abstraction (due to the interviewee not actually doing the work while describing it) and basic inhibitions that might come into play in such a formal setting (awkward silences, summarising, short responses).

If a designer is working on a better cashier user interface, it’d be beneficial to conduct a contextual inquiry rather than a traditional interview with cashiers at checkout counters at supermarkets so that the interviewer can see how cashiers use the system in context, the problems they run into (bar code missing or cannot be scanned, duplicated entries, discount cards and coupons) and how they deal with these problems. Interviewers can get real time feedback on their designs and design for cashiers so that the product is user-centric. With a traditional interview, most people would not remember the intricacies of their usage or specific problems and ultimately, the interview would not provide useful information.

Seth Anderson - 2/4/2014 22:42:12

The master-apprentice relationship focuses on the designer taking the "apprentice" role by observing the customer, or "master", in their natural work environment. On the other hand, the interview-interviewee model is a far more formal setting in which the interviewer asks the interviewee questions as if reading off a survey, and after a response is given, the interviewer immediately moves onto another answer without any followup. These models are similar in that both have the interviewer asking the interviewee a series of questions, but the former model is far more informal than the latter, and allows for more followup questions as well as observation of the task in question.

A situation in which contextual inquiry would be far more effective than a traditional interview method would be when developing a new GPS app for truck drivers. To truly experience the on-the-fly needs of truck drivers, a designer needs to sit in the cab of the truck to observe how the drivers react in extraneous situations, as well as press further into certain concepts and terminology they would not understand had they not seen the driver using them. Since chances are the designer would be experienced only in driving cars, sitting in a truck could open up many insights that would not have been seen in a formal interview room.

Michelle Nguyen - 2/3/2014 21:43:23

In the "master-apprentice" interview model, the interviewer becomes an apprentice to the customer, who is the master. As a result, the interviewee becomes the one to lead the conversation as they go from task to task. Besides from the occasional clarifying question, the interviewer is only there to observe and learn--the master makes the call on what is important to the topic. In contrast, since the interviewer prepares questions for the interviewee to answer in the "interview-interviewee" model, the interviewer has control of the interview. They can decide what they want to ask and how much time should be spent on each question. Thus, the customer may not have a chance to address what they find most important. The structure of the two interview models also differ greatly. The "interview-interviewee" model follows a strict question and answer format, that goes from question, to answer, then to silence. Instead, the "master-apprentice" model begins with a brief introduction that may match the "interview-interviewee" model, then transitions to what the article calls "withdrawal and return" as the customer starts to work. This kind of interview is less structured, and the questions are asked as they come up, in contrast to being prepared prior to the interview. Also, in the "master-apprentice" model, they are able to go into detail about what they are doing and why, since their work is in front of them. Interviewers can catch the parts that the interviewee skims over as they are explaining. On the other hand, in the traditional "interview-interviewee" model, the interviewee has a tendency to summarize their answers since they think of their work in a more general way when they are not currently doing it.

Contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models when the interviewer is not familiar with their interviewee's work and its process. Due to unfamiliarity, the interviewer may have many incorrect assumptions regarding the work and may formulate questions that would miss details that could be vital. For instance, the interviewer could assume the importance of a certain part of the work process and wrongly focus on that aspect. Contextual inquiry allows the interviewer to clear up these assumptions and allows the interviewee to establish what the interviewer's questions should actually be. Also, contextual inquiry lets the interviewer actually see the process, rather than trying to create an image in their mind from the interviewee's words. Take for example a person interviewing a car mechanic, where the interviewer has no experience in such a field. The mechanic can explain the process in exact detail when the interviewer asks, but this will never be equivalent to seeing the actual process itself. After all, they may have somewhat of an understanding of the mechanic's vocabulary and have an image in their head, but they can never truly know if this is right until they see it for themselves. Only then will the interviewer be able to understand exactly what is happening. The interviewer will also be able to note the mechanic's habits in contextual inquiry. The mechanic may not think of explaining his habits to the interviewer in the traditional model (he may not even realize them as he works himself). Only when it is seen can it be called to attention. As a result, contextual inquiry will be much more beneficial in this case.

Reponses

Michelle Nguyen - 2/3/2014 21:43:23

In the "master-apprentice" interview model, the interviewer becomes an apprentice to the customer, who is the master. As a result, the interviewee becomes the one to lead the conversation as they go from task to task. Besides from the occasional clarifying question, the interviewer is only there to observe and learn--the master makes the call on what is important to the topic. In contrast, since the interviewer prepares questions for the interviewee to answer in the "interview-interviewee" model, the interviewer has control of the interview. They can decide what they want to ask and how much time should be spent on each question. Thus, the customer may not have a chance to address what they find most important. The structure of the two interview models also differ greatly. The "interview-interviewee" model follows a strict question and answer format, that goes from question, to answer, then to silence. Instead, the "master-apprentice" model begins with a brief introduction that may match the "interview-interviewee" model, then transitions to what the article calls "withdrawal and return" as the customer starts to work. This kind of interview is less structured, and the questions are asked as they come up, in contrast to being prepared prior to the interview. Also, in the "master-apprentice" model, they are able to go into detail about what they are doing and why, since their work is in front of them. Interviewers can catch the parts that the interviewee skims over as they are explaining. On the other hand, in the traditional "interview-interviewee" model, the interviewee has a tendency to summarize their answers since they think of their work in a more general way when they are not currently doing it.

Contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models when the interviewer is not familiar with their interviewee's work and its process. Due to unfamiliarity, the interviewer may have many incorrect assumptions regarding the work and may formulate questions that would miss details that could be vital. For instance, the interviewer could assume the importance of a certain part of the work process and wrongly focus on that aspect. Contextual inquiry allows the interviewer to clear up these assumptions and allows the interviewee to establish what the interviewer's questions should actually be. Also, contextual inquiry lets the interviewer actually see the process, rather than trying to create an image in their mind from the interviewee's words. Take for example a person interviewing a car mechanic, where the interviewer has no experience in such a field. The mechanic can explain the process in exact detail when the interviewer asks, but this will never be equivalent to seeing the actual process itself. After all, they may have somewhat of an understanding of the mechanic's vocabulary and have an image in their head, but they can never truly know if this is right until they see it for themselves. Only then will the interviewer be able to understand exactly what is happening. The interviewer will also be able to note the mechanic's habits in contextual inquiry. The mechanic may not think of explaining his habits to the interviewer in the traditional model (he may not even realize them as he works himself). Only when it is seen can it be called to attention. As a result, contextual inquiry will be much more beneficial in this case.


Andrew Fang - 2/3/2014 21:47:53

The master-apprentice model is driven by the present-- what is going on, what is happening during the interview. By acting as the apprentice and being nosy and asking questions, the interviewer can often figure out why the interviewee does certain things certain ways. This often makes the relationship more focused on finding and solving issues that the interviewee may have with the given topic. This method allows the interviewer to see and notice small details that the interviewee may do and not say. On the other hand, the interview-interviewee model is driven by questions that are prepared beforehand. This method can capture big concepts and ideas, but are subjugated to summarizing. Small details may be missed, and specifics may be compromised. While the interview-interviewee model is driven by the one doing the interview, the master-apprentice model is driven by the interviewee. In design, we often want to think in terms of the user, so this model would be more useful. For example, if we want to see how a user goes about learning how to use our app, we would want to utilize the master-apprentice interview model. If we tried to use the traditional interview model, we would be driving the interview and the user may just nod along to what we’re saying, even if they don’t understand. By viewing first hand what the user is doing and asking them questions while they are using the app, we can learn how to improve our app to make it more user-friendly or easier to navigate.


Jeffrey Butterfield - 2/3/2014 23:37:48

The master-apprentice model and the interviewer-interviewee model are similar in that both involve an “outsider” attempting to gain knowledge of an “insider’s” behavior. Both involve the “outsider” frequently asking questions to the “insider” as the main way to grow in understanding of the insider’s tasks and behavior. Finally, both models can result in less than ideal interview experiences, for the master-apprentice model is too cumulative in the type of data reaped by the apprentice, and the interviewer-interviewee model is too systematic and explicit in the type of information gained because it follows a predetermined checklist of questions that do not conform to the experience of the interview.

The two models are different because the insider is the authority in the master-apprentice model and the outsider is the authority in the interviewer-interviewee model. Again, the master-apprentice model leads to an overwhelming amount of daily details that are not all necessarily germane to the focus of the interview, and the interviewer-interviewee model is prone to missing key insights into a customer’s actions by relying on formal questions.

Consider a design interviewer wanting to know how a secretary used a copy machine. If the interviewer behaves like an apprentice, he or she will learn all the day-to-day actions of the secretary but not have any focus to steer the interview towards understanding the positives and negatives of the secretary’s copy machine experience. If the interviewer relies on a set of abstract questions—as in the interviewer-interviewee model—he or she will probably miss the greatest weaknesses or strengths of the copy machine’s design, because it is difficult to predict them beforehand.

Rather, by taking time to understand the secretary’s workspace, setting guidelines about how the rest of the interview will play out, and then spending time being an apprentice that steers the focus of the interaction with the copy machine (and asking many questions dynamically along the way), the interviewer will get a fuller picture of the secretary’s tasks and how the design of the copy machine currently facilitates or inhibits them.


Myra Haqqi - 2/4/2014 14:25:58

The “master-apprentice” interview model relates the role of “apprentice” to the interview who wants to learn from the “master” customer. The design team seeks to learn more about how customers do their work directly from the customers who do the work. In order to teach the designers, the customers must do the work and talk about their work while they work. The designers gain the opportunity to watch the work transpire, which leads them to make insights about significant details and the overall structure of the work in order to make design improvements. This approach is very effective because while people do something, they become more aware of what they are doing.

The “interview-interviewee” model, in contrast, is set up as the interviewer asking a myriad of questions, and the customers simply answer the questions without providing much of their own insights. However, this approach is not as effective, and the interviewer’s purpose is not to necessarily get a pre-determined and fixed set of questions answered.

Contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models mentioned in the article when a designer covets to understand a customer more deeply. Contextual Inquiry involves going where the customer works, observing the customer while he works, and talking to the customer about the work that he is doing. The main principles of contextual inquiry include context, by going to where the customer is working; partnership, by allowing the interviewer and customer to develop an intimate relationship in which the designer and the customer seek to discuss the work in order to solve the problem at hand; interpretation, in which the designer endeavors to gain meaning from the customer’s perspective in understanding what is happening; and focus, which involves uncovering important details and concealing unnecessary aspects of work, while also leading the designer to challenge his initial thoughts in order to expand and innovate.

This is more beneficial in a situation when a designer seeks to gain a deeper understanding of the perspective of the customer. Whereas in traditional interview models, interviews may ask the customers a list of questions that the customer directly responds to, contextual inquiry allows the interviewer to gain a profounder insight into things that the customer knows that the interviewer does not necessarily know. For example, if the customer knows some struggles that he faces while doing his work that the interviewer does not even conceive, then a traditional interview model would prevent the interviewer from learning about the customer’s adversities. Instead, when in contextual inquiry, the customer may remember to address a significant aspect of his work while doing the work, which will allow the interviewer to gain access into the customer’s thoughts, actions, and experiences while the customer does the work.

For example, if an interviewer is trying to discover hidden problems with some system, then he may ask a customer a series of questions in a traditional interview model, such as the interviewer/interviewee model. The customer may merely answer the questions directly and then stop talking after completion of answering the question. If the interviewer does not ask the right questions, then he will not learn of important aspects of the customer’s work that are relevant to solving the problem at hand. On the contrary, contextual inquiry would involve the interviewer observing the customer performing the operations necessary to complete the relevant work. In this case, the interviewer will be able to see exactly what the customer does and will consequently acquire the information needed to understand the details related to the significant aspects of the work.


Munim Ali - 2/4/2014 15:00:10

The "master-apprentice" interview model relies on the customer acting as a 'master' and the interviewer acting as the apprentice. In this model we glean information from the customer while he is at work. It relies upon observing the nuances associated with the customers work while also listening about their past experiences with that work. This could be a very time intensive inquiry model as the pace is set by the customer, and the time and amount of information you get is also determined by what the customer does. However, this model does allow you to capture details that would have been missed if other inquiry models were adopted instead.

On the other hand, we have the 'Interviewer/interviewee' model of inquiry where the interviewer sets out with a particular list of things he/she wants to learn, and designs questions that would allow him/her to gain this information. The interviewee is then asked to answer these questions with the possibility of follow-up questions based on their answers. This model has an advantage in that, the interviewer decides what information he needs and what kind of pace the interview will proceed at - this could mean a lot of time saved. However, this model might lead to the customer giving a lot of abstract answers with many missing details that could be crucial. Also, this model might putt off customers as conversation flows in a structured manner which is not very organic or easy-flowing.

Contextual inquiry would be vey helpful when interviewing people who have to work with their hands a lot - artists, sculptors, chefs, etc. This is because it is much easier to see how ,say a sculptor handles different tools and what issues he/she has with them while observing the person utilize these tools in action rather than passively gleaning this information in a non-contextual model.


Ryan Yu - 2/4/2014 20:16:45

The primary characteristic of the master/apprentice model is that the learning/teaching happens *in the context of ongoing work*. That is, the "master" is generally already engaged in their objective or their purpose -- the apprentice then views the master in their "natural habitat" for lack of a better phrase; this makes the source of the learning more natural and authentic. In this sense, the article states that "people aren't aware of everything they do... The best time to unravel the vital from the irrelevant and explain the different is while in the middle of doing the work." That is, people aren't completely aware of everything that they do until they make a conscious effort to pay attention to what they're actually doing; if they pay attention to what they're actually doing and vocalize these things, then they can better pass on relevant information to those that are observing them (the apprentices.) Furthermore, "talking about work while doing it protects the master craftsman and the customer from the human propensity to talk in generalization that omit the detail designers need." In this sense, talking and explaining work while in the process of doing it helps to steer the attention *away* from other irrelevant things, such as framing the work in a more positive light, or framing it in an alternative light; instead, the master can focus on *just* describing what they're doing.

On the other hand, the interview-interviewee model generally involves the learning taking place when ongoing work has *ceased*. Thus, the interviewer and the customer act as though there is a questionnaire to be filled out. Generally, this makes the interview very awkward, and does not provide a good environment for learning to take place in. This is primarily due to the fact that the interview is not taking place in a natural setting (i.e. when the ongoing work is still taking place.) As the article describes, "[the interviewer] asks a question, which the customer answers and then falls silent. [The interviewer], anxious that the interview go well, asks another question, which the customer answers then falls silent again. The questions are not related to ongoing work because the ongoing work has ceased." In this sense, the best solution for this type of undesirable interview is clearly to go back to performing ongoing work, then for the interviewer to just observe the interviewee in his/her natural environment (working on on-going work.)

Contextual inquiry is considerably more beneficial than the traditional interview models mentioned in the article for a huge variety of tasks. Contextual inquiry is especially useful when the problem that you are trying to solve may not be immediately obvious to those that the problems are addressed to. For instance, in the IDEO video we watched in lecture, we observed IDEO trying to redesign a typical shopping cart for a grocery store. I would imagine if a member of the IDEO design team walked into Safeway and pulled aside a random shopper, and started asking him/her questions about what he/she did and did not like in the design of a shopping cart, that the answers would not be favorable. In this sense, for something like a shopping cart, the customer really isn't aware of what he/she wants or would want in an improved shopping cart, and thus, the interviewer/interviewee model wouldn't really work effectively. On the other hand, if IDEO designers went into Safeway and just spent a couple of hours observing various shoppers put grocery items into their cart, watching shoppers with their children in their carts, and observing other various things, then they could get a much better idea for the improvements that they could implement on the shopping cart -- in this sense, via the principles outlined earlier in this response, shoppers aren't really made aware of their issues with the cart until they are still engaged in the "ongoing work" (shopping in this case.) Expanding this beyond just redesigning a shopping cart, contextual inquiry is overall greatly effective when trying to redesign or reimplement things that are prominent in everyday life (i.e. things that people are used to or things that people take for granted).


Ziran Shang - 2/4/2014 20:21:42

The interviewer-interviewee model often turns into a list of questions to be answered, which may or may not be related to ongoing work. Also, the customer may stop speaking once they feel that they have answered the question, rather than talking about other problems that they have. On the other hand, the master-apprentice model has the customer working as usual and narrating what they are doing, and the observer can ask questions as needed. This is more free flowing and relevant to ongoing work.

A situation where contextual inquiry is more beneficial than a traditional interview model is when the customer is doing something where they cannot recall all of the steps from memory. However, as they perform the task they will be doing the right steps and narrating them, and the observer can then get an accurate sense of what things are being done.


Jay Kong - 2/4/2014 20:40:49

The “master-apprentice” interview model is where the interviewer is the apprentice and the interviewee is the master. The name suggests that the interviewee is the expert in this interview. On the flip side, the interview-interviewee model is where the interviewer is the expert, asking questions that are expected to be answered. The main difference here is that the perception of power and expertise lies in the interviewee. This makes sense in the context that the interviewer is trying to learn about the interviewee’s behavior, as naturally, the interviewee is the one who knows best. Another key difference is that in the “master-apprentice” interview model, the master is engulfed in doing real work instead of waiting for the next question. This presents an opportunity for the interviewer to see how real work is being conducted. By seeing real work, the interviewer has a chance to develop insight and ask clarifying questions about why certain things are being done.

Contextual inquiry is more beneficial in the case where you want to study your users for a product that can be used in many different ways – say, for example, a text editor. The traditional interview model requires the interviewer to come up with a preconceived notion of what the user will be doing. This then develops into a contradiction because different users will have different uses. Contextual inquiry, on the other hand, provides more open-ended possibilities as it allows the interviewer to follow the user in his or her footsteps.


Christopher Echanique - 2/4/2014 20:52:09

In the master-apprentice interview model, the apprentice shadows the master while they do their work to learn how it is done and ask questions for clarification along the way. The goal here is primarily to learn the skills of the master, which is in contrast with the interview-interviewee model. In this model, the interviewer instead wants to obtain data from the interviewee to by asking them a series of questions. This model tends to be less effective in achieving its goal since it involves having the interviewee answer questions in a structure questionnaire-like format. Both interview models however share a common characteristic in that they both tend to influence the participants to behave like the roles that identify them, which might not be as effective as encouraging a partnership type of relationship. Contextual inquiry merges some of the elements of these types of models such as the context of the master-apprentice model and the focus of interviewer-interviewee model. This is more beneficial for design teams that might want to interview a customer to obtain data in order to create a system that supports the work they do.


Andrea Campos - 2/4/2014 21:15:48

The "master-apprentice" model emphasizes a more equal relationship between the "customer" and the interviewer than the "interviewer-interviewee" model does. In this latter model, the interviewer controls and leads the discussion, and prompts the interviewee for answers the interviewer wants to hear. In the "master-apprentice" model, the "customer" and the interviewer are in collaboration during the discussion, and if anyone must be said to lead, it would be the "customer" who is showing and talking about what they do. The "master-apprentice" model prizes observation and learning about the customer's work by having the customer actually do the work in front of the interviewer, and to talk about the specificities of their actions. The "interviewer-interviewee model" meanwhile is pretty strictly a dialogue in which the interviewee simply talks about their work, and most likely in broad and abstract terms since they are not doing their work as they go along.

A contextual inquiry can be more beneficial than traditional interview methods because it allows you to take note of the details and structure of a person's work since it is being both performed and talked about in front of you. This gives you the benefit of learning directly from the "expert," as well as learning things about the work that people would not otherwise be able to tell you in a formal interview. For example, if a person working in an office positions their files or folders in a strategic way on their desk so that it is easily viewable and accessible to them, such an action might not come up in conversation, unless the person was actually going through their work routine and they did this as usual. Contextual inquiry helps for instances like these, when people are unable to explain without demonstrating, or for facets of their work that they wouldn't think of telling you about, but that may actually be important to your goals.


Haley Rowland - 2/4/2014 21:20:21

The master-apprentice interview model is one in which the master teaches through doing work and talking about it while working. This allows for the interviewer to gather ongoing experience and concrete data because the master is physically doing the work. In the interview-interviewee model, there is no work being done and thus the interviewer is gaining summary experience and abstract data. The dialog in a master-apprentice interview consists of the master explaining work while he does it and the apprentice asking clarifying questions, making the focus is inherently on the work at hand. In the interview-interviewee model, the interviewer asks a set of questions and the interviewee answers them, but these questions don’t necessarily focus on the work and may be more disjointed than questions arising in the master-apprentice model.

Contextual inquiry is extremely beneficial when trying to determine how a user interacts with a product or goes about doing a certain task. In using contextual inquiry, a designer is able to gain insight into the structure and underlying goals of a user to better develop a user-centered design.


Armando Mota - 2/4/2014 21:45:48

The master-apprentice (MA) interview model differs from the interviewer-interviewee (II) model in many ways, most notably in the shape of the relationship between the two involved parties. In MA, the customer is considered the master, the questioner the apprentice, and the questioner observes the master at work doing his/her job. When interesting occurrences or questions arise, the questioner asks the master. In II, a standard question/response pattern emerges, and not much else is gained aside from the direct answers to the questions asked. In this relationship, the customer is less a master and more a person on trial, the questioner playing the part of the prosecution looking for answers. There is no collaboration in this relationship, it is not clear that anything more than providing explicit answers to questions is being accomplished. In MA, the apprentice is gaining insight from directly observing the master, and is pointing out his/her interpretations on the design and flow of the customers’ own work process (which, the customer may or may not explicitly be aware of). In this sense it is a very interactive process A situation in which contextual inquiry would be more beneficial than a traditional view model is one in which a customer has become quite automated in their task completion day-to-day, and would have a hard time explicitly telling you anything about the way they accomplish the tasks of their job. One such job might be a data entry associate at a company, in which the same routine is followed every day to open up spreadsheets/programs, input data, and perform some sort of quality control on them. Obviously, a much more detailed process occurs, however many times a customer will not explicitly have access to the information they use to carry out their daily routine, and it requires them actually doing it to bring this information to mind (it might even require you, the interviewer, bringing these processes to their attention to really remember that that’s how they do their job). This job might have a number of shortcuts, both software-related and paperwork-related, which might only be elaborated on when an interviewer questions these and brings them to attention. In this kind of situation, the traditional interview models fail in their main task, which is to get useful and detailed data from real customer interactions. Much of this data might be missed without the observation and feedback aspects of contextual inquiry.


Tien Chang - 2/4/2014 21:53:14

In the "interview-interviewee" model, interviewers do not just watch a single person and learn the trade to utilize it as in the "master-apprentice" model; interviewers must speak to many people around a process and learn how to support it with technology. The "master-apprentice" interview model could give more control of information to the master, while the "interview-interviewee" interview model could give more control of information to the interviewer. Interviewers must create more of a partnership with interviewees than an apprenticeship. "Master-apprentice" model does not have as much of a focus than to learn the details of the work, yet "interviewer-interviewee" model tries to have a clear focus of the interview.

A situation in which contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models is creating an application for those medical practitioners. An interviewer can still follow and shadow medical practitioners but may continue to observe and probe when necessary. An interviewer wouldn't necessary need to learn the trade - he or she would just need to interview (and hopefully without interrupting a surgeon's work).


Shana Hu - 2/4/2014 22:36:07

The master and apprentice model allows the designer to immerse themselves in the role they are researching. It allows the designer to collect a great depth of information by learning about work by doing it. By becoming an apprentice, the designer learns through the process. Whereas apprentices learn by doing, interviewers learn by asking questions. Thus, the information obtained by interviewers is reliant on the information interviewees provide. This presents a much different perspective than having the designer undertake the role of the apprentice and then form their own opinion. Interviewers also do not invest as much time as apprentices do in learning about a certain type of work. Apprentices can learn about a specific practice in depth, whereas interviewers are able to cover more breadth in order to form a more well-rounded base of knowledge.

Contextual inquiry is more useful than traditional interview models because it helps provide a grounded and well-rounded framework for gaining information and doing work. For example, if as a designer, I want to design a system for small business owners, but I, myself, have never ran my own business, it's important to use contextual inquiry to approach how to interact with interviewees. I would want to go to small businesses and observe how store-owners operate, in order to understand the target demographic's context. In interviewing store-owners, I should strive to create an equal partnership in which interviewer and interviewee can help each other (and not take too much power as the interviewer). It's also important to interview a lot of store-owners and to interpret a large range of data to create a complex and complete picture what is needed in the system. And lastly, it's important to keep track of a focus point which can steer the interview and learning process.


*Seth Anderson - 2/4/2014 22:42:12

The master-apprentice relationship focuses on the designer taking the "apprentice" role by observing the customer, or "master", in their natural work environment. On the other hand, the interview-interviewee model is a far more formal setting in which the interviewer asks the interviewee questions as if reading off a survey, and after a response is given, the interviewer immediately moves onto another answer without any followup. These models are similar in that both have the interviewer asking the interviewee a series of questions, but the former model is far more informal than the latter, and allows for more followup questions as well as observation of the task in question.

A situation in which contextual inquiry would be far more effective than a traditional interview method would be when developing a new GPS app for truck drivers. To truly experience the on-the-fly needs of truck drivers, a designer needs to sit in the cab of the truck to observe how the drivers react in extraneous situations, as well as press further into certain concepts and terminology they would not understand had they not seen the driver using them. Since chances are the designer would be experienced only in driving cars, sitting in a truck could open up many insights that would not have been seen in a formal interview room.

Namkyu Chang - 2/4/2014 23:02:00

Similar to the relationship between master craftsman and his/her apprentice, the master-apprentice model treats the customer as the master and the design team as his/her apprentice. Just like how the master would not design a class or curriculum to teach the apprentice, neither does the customer. They teach by talking as they do the work, describing the process, why it is so, etc., and the apprentice picks it up on the go. This makes the learning simple yet thorough, and allowing any questions in this informal process makes it a useful learning method.

Interviewer-interviewee model is only similar to the master-apprentice model in that it also allows questions from the interviewer to the interviewee. However, the main difference is that this model ONLY has this kind of interaction. The interviewer goes in to ask questions, and the interviewee responds to each question. Awkward silences, people not remembering answers, etc. are all part of the problem.

A situation when contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models is if the customer is so fixed on a routine that they cannot answer a question about a subject, but can perform a task when it’s handed to them. An example is if I don’t know the syntax of a new programming language I’m learning, but if I have a sample code in that language, I could code with using that as a guide.

Even though the author highly advocates the master-apprentice model, I do believe there are some limitations to it. This model works easily if the customer has a fixed, monotonous work (e.g. doing excel sheets, ringing people in at the registers, etc.) but not if it varies widely. In addition, if time is a factor the “apprentice” may not have all day to shadow the master, or vice-versa.


Kaleong Kong - 2/4/2014 23:30:33

"Master-apprentice" can let the interviewer learn the tasks and details of the interviewee's job or experience. Instead of having a fixed questionnaire in "interview-interviewee" model, “master-apprentice” model can help the interviewer to initialize questions during the "Master-apprentice" interview. Since the interviewer has done the job himself after the interview, he can easier to think at the interviewee point of view. In the article, there is an example about retrospective account. When the interviewer is using “Master-apprentice” model, they can know more about the reason of interviewee’s action and any step that interviewee skips or doesn’t mentioned. However, if the interviewer used "interview-interviewee" model, the interviewer may not able to know all the details.


Luke Song - 2/4/2014 23:35:29

When the interviewer acts like an interviewer, the interviewees easily start to explain abstractions about what they do, rather than do what they do and explain all their actions in detail. In contrast, the master feels comfortable enough to go about his or her daily routine at the same time as explaining all the necessary tasks that need to be performed, while the apprentice should feel free to ask about unexpected actions or fine details. For the designer, being able to ask about these is especially important, because we already know what the worker is doing on an abstract level; it is the finer points of their routine that we need to take notice and design to accommodate. In addition, some people can't even begin to explain what they do without doing it; if the interviewer only asked questions, and the interviewee only answered them, the interview would go nowhere.


Zack Mayeda - 2/5/2014 0:00:28

The "interview-interviewee" model is fairly static and largely predetermined by the questions drawn up by the interviewer beforehand while the "master-apprentice" model is fluid and can take unexpected turns - if the apprentice happens to notice something unexpected or interesting, they can come up with more questions on the spot. Questions in the "interview-interviewee" model may not always be related to the current work the customer is performing since the questions were written beforehand, however questions in the "master-apprentice" model are almost always related to the "master's" work since questions are led by the work itself.

Contextual inquiry can be more beneficial than traditional interview models mentioned when the work done by the observed person is fairly repetitive, routine driven, or if the work is manual. Specifically, contextual inquiry is beneficial when interviewing someone that is a line cook. Their job is probably extremely repetitive, and largely driven by muscle memory. It may be difficult to extract detailed information about their work through the traditional models mentioned since memories about their work are more physical or spatial. Contextual inquiry allows the interviewer to observe the cook while they are performing their work, when the cook may have more cues to remember detailed items about the steps involved in their job.


Allison - 2/5/2014 0:08:32

In the interview-interviewee model, the interviewer generally dictates the questions that are asked, the topics that are covered, as well as how much time and focus to spend on each topic. At times, the interaction occurs as if the interviewer is simply reading off a questionnaire that the interviewee must then fill out. Even in a contextual setting, the interviewee is likely to cease what they are doing in order to respond to the questions being fired. This model is flawed because the interviewer does not know what topics truly require attention. In contrast, the master-apprentice interview model allows the customer to play more of a leadership role in the interaction. As the master works, issues related to his work will surface naturally, triggered by the work itself. The interviewer can observe for herself the intricacies of the work that would most likely be omitted from a verbal description of the work if she were to follow the interview-interviewee model. Since masters are not necessarily teachers, observing the master as she works allows the apprentice to learn the structure behind the work without a lengthly explanation from the master. When designing a tool belt for a construction worker, it would be far more effective to observe the worker at work than to ask how she interacts with her tool belt. Since much of her work may have become second nature to her, it would be difficult for her to recall her every interaction with her tool belt outside of the context of her work.


Jimmy Bao - 2/5/2014 0:44:27

In the master/apprentice interview model and the interview/interviewee model are similar in the sense that there is interaction between the interviewer and the customer (where the master and apprentice could also fit the role of the interviewer and the customer). However, the differences are probably greater than the similarities. The master/apprentice interview model differs from the interview/interviewee model in regards to where the power is. Power is tilt too much toward the customer in the former since they are in full control and determine what to do and what to talk about throughout the interview. In the latter, power is tilt toward the interviewer who controls what's being asked, what is discussed, and how much time is spent on a particular topic. Furthermore, in the interviewer/interviewee model, once the customer answers the interviewer's question, the customer falls silent until the next question. In the master/apprentice model, there isn't that awkward silent period that systematically falls in between questions.

I think the reading provides several good examples of when contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models mentioned. To recap, the premise of contextual inquiry is to go where the customer works, observe the customer as he or she works, and talk to the customer about the work. It's extremely important in some cases to talk to the customer as he or she is currently doing work. The reading talks about some cases where it was hard for a customer to recall what they really do when they aren't currently doing it. Contextual inquiry is especially useful since your targets are already engaged in the activities that they are supposed to, which in turn, makes their answer more clear-cut since they don't have to recall much information on the spot.


Ian Birnam - 2/5/2014 0:59:49

The master-apprentice model is where the customer is the master, and the interviewer is the apprentice. The best way to teach is to teach about something while doing it, which is how the interviewer learns from the customers. As the apprentice, the interviewer will adopt the humility and attention to detail required to collect data properly. As masters, customers can shape the interviewer's understanding of how to support their work from the beginning, without having to just send them a formal document with no context.

In the interview-interviewee model, the interviewer asks a question, and the interviewee answers it. This happens repeatedly, and provides incredibly poor feedback. No work is being done or shown to the interviewer, so they have no idea how the interviewee truly works in their field. They could resume work, but then the question/answer interaction is put to a halt.

Contextual inquiry can be more beneficial because it requires you to truly understand your interviewee. You can't just sit behind a desk and ask them a series of questions, you need to observe them in their field and base your questions off of what you see. You have to talk about the work as its happening and be able to find meaning in it, while still challenging your assumptions. This can be incredibly useful when you're conducting interviews for something you're totally unfamiliar with. For example, if you knew nothing about dog training, then instead of sitting down in a room with a dog trainer and asking them questions, you would gain a lot more by going to work with them and learning on the job. As they work, you can ask questions and discuss why they do what they do, improving your knowledge of the subject. At the end of the interview, you walk away with much more than a few scribbled notes.


*Will Tang - 2/5/2014 1:03:00 - Good Response

While the "interview-interviewee" relationship is more structured and formal than the "master-apprentice" relationship, the "master-apprentice" relationship has its own advantages in certain situations. When the interviewee is unaccustomed to interviews, interactions may be awkward, and responses may not be as insightful as they could be. If the interviewee, however, is approached in their work environment and treated as a "master" by the "apprentice", they may feel much more at ease and comfortable. While they may not be used to teaching others, they are still able to provide much more useful insights into their work by just doing what they normally do. Important observations also come much more naturally if the master encounters points of possible confusion while performing their normal functions. One example where contextual inquiry might be more insightful than a more traditional interview model could be a fishing-rod designer interviewing fishermen. Getting on the boat and actually going out into open water to observe fishermen in their natural environment would probably yield much more useful information than simply asking a fisherman to recall all his problems and gripes in one sitting. In addition, a fisherman would be able to more easily explain esoteric concepts involved with sailing and fishing.

Doug Cook - 2/5/2014 2:10:38

The “master-apprentice” model of interviewing depends more on context than the “interview-interviewee” model. The two models diverge most in formality: the “interview-interviewee” forces participants to cease work with the designer firing off questions and the subject attempting to answer. Problems arise in this model because it invokes many of the disadvantages mentioned in the article – for instance that people have difficulty recalling details when they’re not actually performing the relevant task. A “master-apprentice” model addresses these issues by assigning roles to the participants that ensure work continues during the interview process. This keeps the subject within context and provides the designer with insights to the subject’s expertise. Although different models offer other improvements, the master-apprentice approach ensures a more productive interview than the traditional interview-interviewee model.

Contextual inquiry is especially beneficial in situations where inefficient habits have become second nature to the user. For example, the user may open an extra window to show account details that the application doesn’t display. After doing this for so long they treat it as habit and overlook it in traditional interviews. Yet, the designer has plenty of opportunity to catch it if the user is in his or her work environment. The context of that environment allows the user to recall and demonstrate those sorts of details.


Lauren Speers - 2/5/2014 9:38:54

Both the “master-apprentice” and the “interviewer-interviewee” models acknowledge the importance of questions during an interview. However, in the “master-apprentice” model, the questions are not the center of attention. Instead, the interviewer, or the “apprentice,” focuses on studying the interviewee’s, or “master’s,” on-going work and asking questions along the way. In this environment, the interviewee can respond to the questions more honestly and with more details because he is already in the exact mindset and environment that the interviewer is inquiring about. In the same way the “master” is the leader in the “master-apprentice” relationship, so the interviewee is the dominant person in this interview model. In contrast, in the “interviewer-interviewee” model, the questions are the very center of the interview, and as a result, they often lead to short, summarized answers ending in silence. Because the interviewer is the one who asks these questions, he is the dominant person in this interview model.

Though the “master-apprentice” model is, perhaps, the better of the two models because it will illicit more complete and honest information from the interviewee, it is still not a perfect model because of the power imbalance between the interviewer and interviewee. The contextual inquiry interview method described in this article is based on the “master-apprentice” model. Through the main principles of context, partnership, interpretation, and focus, this contextual inquiry model retains the environment that allows the interviewee to give complete and detailed answers, while creating a balance of power between the interviewer and interviewee.

This model is more beneficial than the traditional models when designers want to learn what changes they should emphasize in a redesign of a product or user interface. Though the interviewee’s may find it awkward to tell the designers what about the current product does not work for them, it is incredibly important that the designers get real data about the less successful parts of the first design. In this case, the contextual inquiry model would allow designers to see the issues with their product as they come up in the interviewee’s on-going work. And because of the partnership created in the contextual inquiry model, the interviewee will likely feel more comfortable explaining his concerns as the interviewer asks questions.


Shaina Krevat - 2/5/2014 9:49:26

The “interview-interviewee” model is the first form of interviewing that someone would think of and perform. The interviewer will have questions, and the interviewee will answer them. It will most likely take place in one location, and the only action being performed will be the interview. The interviewer will have all the power over what will happen during the course of the interview. By contrast, the “master-apprentice” model gives the interviewee the control. The apprentice (the interviewer) is trying to learn the master’s (the interviewee’s) craft, and so pays strict attention to what the master is doing. As opposed to taking place in a neutral location, where the only action being taken is the interview, in this model the exchange would take place in the master’s workplace, while the master is working. The interviewer will ask questions for clarification, but the interviewee will control most of what is discussed. This way the interviewer will be able to learn all they can from the interviewee’s point of view by seeing it first hand, as opposed to having them answer a list of questions that will probably lead them to predetermined beliefs.

A contextual inquiry will be more beneficial that a traditional interview in a variety of situations, particularly where there are a lot of intermediary steps that the interviewee is likely to forget, gloss over, or summarize. This is because when the interviewer gets to actually witness the process and they are able to probe on everything they see as opposed to just what they hear about second hand. A good example of this would be a worker at a cash register. There are many steps that they would likely forget, because many different situations arise. They might need software that is able to add a membership card after the customer has already paid, for example, because sometimes people forget to mention they have one, or they might have forgotten a coupon that needs to be added to the list and adjust the price of the purchase. Without contextual inquiry, this feature would be missed, and could create a lot of problems down the road.


Albert Luo - 2/5/2014 10:38:01

The "master-apprentice" and the "interviewer-interviewee" interview models are similar in that they both form a relationship with the customer, and once the designer assumes a role, the customer is automatically dragged into the other role.  Both models create a flow of information from one side to the other - either from the master to the apprentice, or from the interviewee to the interviewer.  However, here these two models differ because the format of information transfer is different.  With the master-apprentice model, the customer goes about doing his work and the designer is there to simply observe and take notes, maybe asking a few questions where it may be confusing or unclear what exactly the customer is doing.  The information naturally flows as the customer goes about his work.  But with the interviewer-interviewee model, the designer asks a lot of questions in order to pull information out of the customer.  The information is based more on what the customer says he does rather than what the customer actually does. 

One situation when contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models is when the designer needs to redesign an existing product to make work easier for the customer. The designer cannot be content to give the customer a call and ask questions about how the work could be made more efficient or the task made easier. Instead, the designer must enter into the customer's context and go to the workplace to observe the customer do his work there. Once there, if the designer doesn't create a partnership but instead falls into some other relationship model, then he misses out on valuable information. Once the partnership is formed, the designer also needs to take all the information and present his interpretation to the customer for feedback. Not doing this would risk having an incorrect interpretation from the facts, which would hinder the design and produce a bad design. Here, contextual inquiry would allow the design to be correct and appropriate for what the customer really needs. Lastly, maintaining those other relationship models would severely limit the focus and many important details might be dismissed rather than capitalized upon as opportunities to understand the customer's work better.


Jeffrey DeFond - 2/5/2014 10:44:33

The "mater-apprentice" model is about shifting the power of the traditional "interview-interviewee" model. The interview-interviewee model has a tendency to create abstract answers as the interviewee is not working while they are being interviewed. The power is unconsciously shifted to the interviewer and their scripted questions, not to the work and its context. I have used the interview-interviewee model as a research assistant in cognitive neuroscience, and it has its uses, but if one wants to get data on how a worker completes a task, or interacts with a piece of software, watching them use it and asking them questions about why they are doing the things they do is crucial, and more beneficial to the interviewer.


Andrew Dorsett - 2/5/2014 11:53:13

Both relationship models are meant to elicit information from a party. The apprentice is learning about a particular subject and the interviewer is learning about the interviewee. In contrast the apprentice would be similar to the interviewer. In a interview-interviewee model the interviewer as the power but in a master-apprentice model the apprentice does not. The master-apprentice model gets a better understanding of particular tasks and are able to observe details that are left out while being recalled. Where as during an interview you have a set a questions and typically don't get a complete understanding of one particular aspect.

Situations where you need to know one thing very well is where a contextual inquiry is more beneficial. It allows you to immerse yourself in that one thing. Along with getting details that are tough for interviewees to recall. Just like when you're designing an application for a particular task. It's better to see how a user performs the tasks instead of questioning them about it.


Rico Ardisyah - 2/5/2014 12:06:59

In this article, Beyer and Holtzblatt points out effective interview models. They compare and contrast some of interview models. Indeed, the relationship of the interviewer and interviewee can fall into some models. In fact, this model will determine whether the interview will be effective. One model that is being pointed up by Beyer and Holtzblatt is “master-apprentice” interview model. In this model, the interviewee is considered as master who is very familiar with the topic that is being interviewed. The interviewer is an apprentice that wants to learn things from the interviewee.

Indeed, “master-apprentice” interview model is more effective than usual “interviewer-interviewee” model. There are some aspects that differ these two models. As what the articles said, “Humans love to abstract”, human tend to express things in the abstract. Hence, when the interview falls into “interviewer-interviewee” model, most of the time, the interviewee will answer the question in the abstract. However, with “master-apprentice” model, the “apprentice” sees what his “master” does directly, hence, the interview will be more concrete than “interviewer-interviewee” model. This will also affect when the interviewee is asked to summarize his/her work. They tend to be abstract by only expressing his/her impression. However, in of quality of interview, the interviewer needs the ongoing experience. Hence, “interviewer-interviewee” model tends to yield into the impression of the interviewee; in contrary, “master-apprentice” model will produce the detail of the work. In addition, the “interviewer-interviewee” model tilts too much power toward the interviewer; and the “master-apprentice” model tilts power toward the interviewee. Since the interviewer may not be the expert of the interview topic, giving power too much to him may not be a good idea. When “the one who may not be the expert” holds the power, the interview also may not get into the detail. On the other hand, when the interviewee, who is the expert, holds the power, the interview will get into the real problem; thus the interview will be more effective. “Master-apprentice” model is also more beneficial than “interviewer-interviewee” model when the interviewer sees something that does not fit or notices the structure underlying an aspect of the work. With the “interviewer-interviewee” model, which is rigid, the interviewer can’t do anything. Differently, in “Master-apprentice” model, the interviewer has total freedom to interrupt the interview whenever he has question.


Kevin Johnson - 2/5/2014 12:13:28

In a traditional interview model, the interviewer has full control over the situation. He determines the conversation topics, the time devoted to each subject, and so on. However, the person who knows most about the subject at hand is the interviewee, so the interviewee should be the one in control. Otherwise, the interviewer risks focusing on irrelevant things and viewing the situation solely through whatever pre-established lens he came in from. Unfortunately, this is a model that people naturally fall into.

The master/apprentice solves those problems by moving to a different set of social norms where the interviewee is the "master", instructing his "apprentice". This places control of the interview where it logically belongs, and it works because it relies on an established social construct that most people have an intuitive understanding of.

Contextual inquiry is useful in any situation where three things are true. First, the interview process must be long; contextual inquiry is not a fast model. Second, the goal of the interview must be to understand the interviewee's perspective specifically, not to gain general information. Third, it must be physically possible to do a contextual inquiry in the appropriate context. This would work poorly in the context of a phone interview. Thus, the contextual inquiry model would work very well in the context of a job interview.


Alexander Chen - 2/5/2014 12:36:33

This articles introduces the master-apprentice (MA) model that is key to a successful contextual inquiry. A interview-interieweee (II) model would not provide the researcher with all the opportunities to capture nuanced and detailed information to explain why or how the client is performing an action.

The two processes start off similarly, MA and II both start off with the researcher letting the client know that he will be conducting some research regarding the client's work, discuss his focus, and will ask some general questions regarding the client's profession and situation. Most importantly, the researcher will ask for permission to tape the session and will guarantee confidentiality.

Afterwards, in MA, the researcher asks that the client assume the "master" title and continue with work as normal while the researcher assumes the "apprentice" position. Making this relationship clear allow for the client to feel more at ease and lets him continue work without the feeling that he is being interrogated. This allows for the workflow to be captured in more detail. In a II model, the client might answer some of the researcher's questions succinctly, but does not feel comfortable to delve into other similar topics. To make matters worse, the client is not performing any actions of their workflow, which could have been new topics for the researcher to discuss.

Finally, in MA, when the client feel comfortable and is doing work as usual, the "apprentice" can politely, but firmly ask any questions regarding why something has been done. If anything doesn't make sense to the researcher, it is important to point this out now and ask for clarification. This level of intricacy is not possible with a normal II model.

I feel that many professional that do not specialize in communication, but rather physical labor, such as contractors, plumbers, or electricians would not give much valuable information during an II session. They aren't trained to give complete summaries of their work, and their workflow consists of so many minute steps that they might forget to mention. By using the MA model, the professional doesn't have to think about how they want to represent their job, verbally. Rather they have the option to just show and answer questions. This makes the job analysis much easier for both the client and researcher.


Justin MacMillin - 2/5/2014 12:45:31

The "master-apprentice" interview model ends up being an extremely teaching oriented interview. The master knows the ins and outs his trade well while the goal of the apprentice is to do the best he can to learn from the expertise of the master. The reading says that an apprentice learns best by watching the master perform the actual work in real time, many times. As many iterations as the apprentice can see, the better. The more iterations he sees the more he can create a mental image of each step in his work process. The apprentice is not encouraged to build up a lost of interview tips, but rather learn in real time. Lists tend to keep people focused on accomplishing a list of items they thought were important rather than focusing on what is actually important. The "interview-interviewee" process is much more like a question/answer type process. While the interviewer shows the interviewee the process he needs to know, both can step back and go through a "withdraw and return" process of learning. They can both withdraw from the learning process, allow for questions, and return to their demonstration. Different from the apprentice process, in this process the interviewer is encouraged to ask questions while the work is happening to clear up any ambiguities. Both interview type models are similar in the way they encourage teaching and learning techniques. The author speaks to the human inclination to abstract any process to explain. It is only natural to leave out small details, making it difficult for someone to learn when their teacher describes the process without showing it at the same time. In both models, the learner must go to where the work is being done and watch the process to pick up as many concrete details as possible. The author also says to “work with people’s propensities wherever possible." It is easier to encourage natural human inclination than to go against it - make the process easier on everyone. Traditional interview models say that if you ask the right questions, then you will know everything you need to know about your interviewee. Essentially, the interviewer is getting a quick summary of the interviewee. It would be better know the interviewee in the context of an ongoing experience. It is not about the questions you ask, but the conversation that comes from the questions that is important. Yes, the interviewer must ask certain questions but it must not be thought of as a checklist but more like guidelines. Contextual inquiries would provide the interviewer more valuable information about the interviewee than a simple checklist would.


Eric Hong - 2/5/2014 12:51:22

The "master-apprentice" model and the "interviewer-interviewee" model are two relationship models interviews typically fall into. Both models focus on the transfer of information/knowledge: from master to apprentice or from interviewee to interviewer. However, there are a couple of major differences. As noted in the "Principles of Conceptual Inquiry" article, the "master-apprentice" model tilts power towards the master, who can control the flow of the conversation, while the "interviewer-interviewee" model tilts power towards the interviewer. Therefore, depending on the model used, power is either in the hands of the person passing on the knowledge or the person wanting to gain the knowledge. Both relationship models have their own problems in relation to the optimal designer-customer interaction we desire. The "master-apprentice" model assumes that the apprentice has little to no knowledge with the task at hand, which discourages a continuous flow of questions. The "interviewer-interviewee" model, on the other hand, assumes that the person gathering information knows the questions that needed to be answered, which is not always the case with designers and customers. Contextual inquiry, which has four stages consisting of the conventional interview (similar to "interviewer-interviewee" model), transition, contextual interview proper (similar to "master-apprentice" model), and wrap-up, tries to bring together the best of both worlds and fix the issues plaguing the two relationship models. A situation when contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models is during an interview with a customer doing work in a field the designer is not familiar with, such as designing a general software for a medical surgeon. In this case, the designer will not know the best questions to ask, which is required for the "interviewer-interviewee" model. However, the designer also need control over the questions and not get lost in the technical procedures. The contextual inquiry, which brings the two models together, will be more beneficial in this scenario.


Steven Pham - 2/5/2014 13:18:26

Mater-apprentice in the our design world means the designer goes out and follows a customer and watch how they go about their life or work. The interviewer in this sense does not interrupt the interviewee allowing them to have the most natural flow of things. The interviewer observes and takes notes on what they think is happening and if the interviewee wants, they can talk about what they are doing in an unobtrusive way. In contrast, the interviwer-interviewee model takes the interviewee out of context or puts them in something staged like a room. The interviewer asks direct questions with direct answers as a result. However since the interviewee is "out of their element" they might not give good feedback. "Natural-flow" is disrupted. What a customer say can contradict what they actually do since sometimes what they do is a habit and they do not think about it. One of the pros of this way is that you can directly get feedback. One example of when contextual inquiry is more beneficial is interviewing a driver. You can ask them "what they do when they change lanes" and they can answer what they remember from the driving test which is to check the blind spot. In reality they could be just checking their mirrors before changing lanes.


Daniel Haas - 2/5/2014 13:48:38

In the "master-apprentice" model, the designer takes on the role of a novice in the field of the customer. That is, the customer is assumed to be an expert, and the designer learns by watching the actions of the customer as they perform work. Asking clarifying questions as the work proceeds enables the designer to learn about the structure of the work, and observing many customers working reveals commonalities in that structure that are important for designing solutions. However, there is a suboptimal power imbalance inherent in the master-apprentice model that prevents the designer from steering the inquiry: the master must teach and the apprentice must follow.

The "interview-interviewee" model is similar in two main respects to the "master-apprentice" model. First, both models rely on aggregating several interactions with expert customers to form a model of how the work is structured. Second, both models demonstrate a power imbalance. In the "interview-interviewee" model, however, the relationship is flipped: the designer has too much power, and the customer is unable to take charge and demonstrate his or her knowledge of the work. This reveals the main difference between the two models: master-apprentice is all about observing work in progress, whereas interview-interviewee is all about asking questions.

As should be evident from the above comparison, both of these models have their shortcomings: master-apprentice makes it difficult for the designer to steer the exploration of the work towards the desired focus, and interview-interviewee makes it difficult for the designer to elicit concrete details about the work's structure. Contextual inquiry attempts to capture the best of both worlds, and is therefore more effective than other models in situations where the goal is to get a precise, data-driven model of the work's structure based on the customer's experience and expertise. For example, when trying to identify shortcomings in presentation software in order to design a new product, contextual inquiry will be most beneficial in understanding how customers use existing tools, where they get frustrated, and what underlying structure is inherent in building presentations with any tool.


Sijia Li - 2/5/2014 13:49:36

The most crucial difference between "master-apprentice" interview model and the "interview-interviewee" model is that, in the "master-apprentice" interview model, the "master" (or the "interviewee", the customer) is actually in the process of doing his work! In other words, the customer is taking the 'full control' of the conversation. According to Beyer & Holtzblatt, "The traditional interviewing relationship model tilts power too much toward the interviewer. The interviewer controls what is asked, what is discussed, and how long is spent on a topic. ... The apprenticeship model tilts power, if anything, too much toward the master-customer. It suggests that the customer is in full control, determining who to do and talk about throughout the interview" (Chapter 3, Beyer & Holtzblatt).

In the master-apprentice interview model, the interviewer is just like someone standing right next to the customer when the customer is doing his work; the interviewer watches the work happen and learns the details from it. "When you are watching the work happen, learning is easy ... Seeing the work reveals details" (Chapter 3, Beyer & Holtzblatt).

For example, if we are trying to developing an mobile application for drivers, we need to know the actual context. That is, we can not just grab a random person who does driving and interview him with questions. Instead, we need to get into a car, sit right next to the driver, watch what he does when he is driving and interview him when he is indeed driving the car on the road. In this way, we can unveil the true details of using the application while driving.


Matthew Deng - 2/5/2014 13:53:32

In the "master-apprentice" interview model, the interviewer acts as an apprentice to the customer who is the master. The interviewer watches the customer as a apprentice would watch their master: following their every move, questioning their actions, and not correcting them when they are wrong (how would an apprentice know that their master is wrong?). This allows the interviewer to get the information he desires: how the customer actually uses the technology without the bias of having the interviewer there. On the other hand, there is the "interview-interviewee" model, in which the interviewer leads the conversation. The interviewer will ask questions, to which the interviewee will provide answers. Both are very one sided in the sense that it will either be the customer directing the course in the "master-apprentice" model or the interviewer in the "interview-interviewee" model.

Contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models mentioned in the article when the interviewer is trying to gain knowledge so that they will be able to assist the customer with technology. As the author mentions, the "master-apprentice" model is a good starting point, so that the interviewer is able to see how the customer will perform with the technology as it is, rather than just answer questions as in the "interview-interviewee"model or even be the one asking questions in the "expert-novice" model. Likewise, the "guest-host" model does not allow the customer to act normally, and subdues the interviewer's nosiness, which is an important part of collecting data. Overall, contextual inquiry is great for actually find out how customers use products as they would on their own, and to be able to see how they think when they are using them.


Andrew Chen - 2/5/2014 14:32:36

In the interview-interviewee model, both the interviewer and the interviewee have clearly defined tasks, and the interviewer has a clear idea of what he wants from the interviewee (answers to his questions). In addition, the interview-interviewee model lacks the free flow of thought, because each thought begins and ends with the corresponding answer to a question. Thus, in such a model, the interviewer learns via the verbal answers of the interviewee. On the other hand, in the master-apprentice model, the apprentice, learns by observing the master at work. The master’s main focus is doing his work, but his work may facilitate either questions from the apprentice or explanations from the master, both from which the apprentice stands to gain.

A situation in which contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models is one like the secretary example in the article. In such a case, contextual inquiry is more effective, because while the designer learns by observing the expert and asking questions, he can also use his expertise in recognizing structures and patterns in workflow to provide insights and ideas to the expert, who may possibly come to certain realizations that may benefit the development of new ideas.


Sergio Macias - 2/5/2014 14:35:20

The Master-Apprentice model is very similar to the Interviewer-Interviewee in that one of the people (master for the former, interviewer for the latter) holds most, if not all, the power during the interview. In the former, the apprentice is there for the ride, having to pay attention to every little detail and making sure they miss no crucial step. In the latter, the interviewee has no control in which direction or of which topic the conversation will turn to and has to be ready to answer any question the interviewer throws at them. Even though in both relations, someone is there to learn something (apprentice about the craft and interviewer about the interviewee), the contrast comes from the fact that the one with no power is trying to learn from the one with all the power in the former, while the opposite is true for the latter. A situation in which contextual inquiry would be more useful over the traditional interview model is perhaps you are trying to learn something new in your field from a fellow expert. They have come across this new technique to do something. You (as the interviewer trying to get more info about the technique) would ask all these questions about it and have all this info, but usually the key in practical matters like this is hands on training and watching someone perform the task. So even if you ask all the right questions, when it comes down to do the technique, you will still be a bit confused. Here is where contextual inquiry would be a great technique to use; this is because you will be guided but yet will still have the power to be able to interrupt, stop the process, clear up any confusion you have from that moment, and then continue. It is very crucial to clear up any confusion before continuing with the exercise because when times comes for you to perform the technique, perhaps you will still be confused about that one part and won’t know how to continue. Contextual Inquiry is a powerful tool to be taught something but yet still have the power to lead the conversation to points where you are unsure or fuzzy on.


Anju Thomas - 2/5/2014 14:41:49

The interview-interviewee model suggests that the interviewer takes control and questions the customer throughout the process. The customer simply answers the questions and remains silent. Here, the interviewer decides on the questions to be asked, time to be spent, and the topics discussed whereas the master apprentice interview model gives control to the customer. The customer takes the role of the master, deciding what to do and what to talk about and interviewer only asks few questions for clarification when needed, taking the role of an apprentice. However despite taking on the role of an apprentice, the interviewer is different in some ways. For instance, instead of wanting to know how to do the work and bringing no useful skills, the interviewers want to use the data to design a system that supports the work and develops expertise in matching patterns, analyzing work structure and distinctions in the way people work. Despite the subtle difference, by taking the role of an apprentice, by observing the customer’s work and interpreting the work more details are revealed, which would otherwise have been skipped by the customer. Through details, the apprentice learns the structure of the work as well as what truly matters. The interviewer begins to learn the the past experiences that are similar to their ongoing work- giving them more concrete details of experience. Overall, simply observing the customer perform their work avoids summary or abstractions which might be prevalent in interview/interviewee models and focuses on concrete details from which the interviewer can draw their interpretations and facts. Despite the differences, the two models are similar in the aspect that in both the interviewer can help the customer focus on relevant topics to the discussion rather than wandering from the main information needed.

Contextual inquiry by visiting the customer’s workplace, observing his/ her daily routine, tasks and the problems faced during work and talking with the customer about the facts, interpretations or other clarifications regarding the work is more beneficial than traditional interview models, such as Interviewer/ interviewee model, ,expert/novice model and Guest/host model as it allows a more open relation with the customer, helping them exchange honest opinions and point out relevant or significant details. For instance, a situation where contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models is while interviewing a company employee that uses the software provided by the interviewer’s company.If a traditional interview model was chosen, then the users would have a more formal relationship with the interviewer, preventing an open discussion. The employee would most likely hesitate to discuss strong negative aspects of the software provided as they might feel more intimidated talking to its own designers. Viewing the designers of the software as an expert in the field, the user would especially feel unqualified to make personal suggestions regarding the product’s improvement. When asked for tasks done and problems faced while using the software, the user might simply summarize the basic steps and miss significant aspects or problems that occur during its use. Whereas by seeing the user perform their daily office work using the software, enables the interviewer to learn of some problems faced by the user that they might otherwise be reluctant to share. By creating a more partnership relation rather than a formal interview between the designers themselves and the users, the employee feels less pressure to correct the interviewer’s interpretation and understanding and gives open insights without feeling uncomfortable or reluctance. Enabling open critique enables the interviewer to gain a correct interpretation of the problems faced by the user based on the facts and then making a false assumption. By using the four principles of context, partnership, interpretation, and focus to clearly steer the customer into relevant information needed, the contextual inquiry process becomes more beneficial by avoiding the abstractions of events, over formal relations that create a divide between the interviewer and the customer and causes misinterpretations and lack of focus.


Liliana (Yuki) Chavez - 2/5/2014 14:48:21

The "master-apprentice" model is beneficial because most people tend to summarize and abstract their work into a quick descriptions (with the interview-interviewee model) which don't really get down to the important details that could be the cause of problems or be the source of great features. Without the details we might not understand why an error takes places or understand how to improve it. While master-apprentice might use some elements of the interview-interviewee (i.e. asking the user questions about their work, and why they are doing a certain action), the work itself provides the framework for the questions to take place, and without it, deep analysis of the design cannot take place.

Contextual inquiry is generally more beneficial than just the interview-interviewee model, especially with a large complicated software system (say Eclipse). If someone wanted to redesign eclipse, they would have to use contextual inquiry to try and find out exactly why users have problems with it (by actually seeing them at work, you might notice that certain button placements are inconvenient as the user might keep clicking the wrong buttons. This is something that a user might not remember to say in an interview-intervieweee model).


Everardo Barriga - 2/5/2014 14:54:54

The interview-interviewee model is really about the interviewer asking questions, the interviewee answering them in a concise and formalised manner and then the interviewer interpreting the answers. Whereas the master-apprentice model lets the interviewee be a master of his craft and in this way shows the interviewer how it is that he/she does what they do. The master teaches while doing and explains in detail what they are doing so that the apprentice can learn from them.

This article reminded me of the show Undercover Boss and how the CEO’s of large companies take up the dirty jobs that make their companies run. For example the CEO of waste management spent some time in the trash trucks and different low-level aspects of his company. He went into the context which was on the streets, built a partnership with his employees-(the trash collectors), interpreted the data(decided what was going wrong) and had a particular focus throughout his ventures.


Brian Yin - 2/5/2014 15:01:57

Both the 'master-apprentice' and 'interview-interviewee' models are both include the usage of questions in order to gather information. The 'interview-interviewee' model, in its formality, establishes a hierarchy between the interviewer and interviewee, which can prevent the interviewer and interviewee from engaging with one another, resulting in vague/incomplete answers. Moreover, a sit-down question and answer session forces the interviewer to use their own interpretations in order to create questions which makes them the 'expert' in this model. However, this is problematic because many of these interpretations may not be correct and may shift the focus of the discussion to unimportant things.

The master-apprentice model emphasizes a more-fluid approach to information gathering. Rather than only using a question-answer format, it includes observation of the users' actions and based on those observations, ask questions for clarification. In this case, the interviewee is treated as the 'expert' and the interviewer the 'apprentice'. By asking questions while the target is working, it is possible to ask more relevant questions and to get more specific details about the target's rational for doing some things.

Contextual inquiry would probably be more effective in cases where the interviewer has no experience in whatever he/she is observing. In this case, because the interviewer has no experience in the target's work, he/she cannot possibly create appropriate questions and would be prone to making incorrect interpretations. Thus, it is better to follow a master-apprentice model in order to get a better idea of what to notice or address.


Prashan Dharmasena - 2/5/2014 15:02:09

The "master-apprentice" model is designed to address the problem that people consciously summarize and abstract when they describe what they do. With the "interviewer-interviewee" model, the customer is asked to recall their work process and answer various questions about it. But, due to the aforementioned problem, the interviewer will only get a vague and partial picture of how the existing system works. By observing and interjecting while the customer is actually using the existing system, it allows the interviewer to get a far more detailed idea of how the system works and how it can be improved. For example, if you wanted to improve a piece of software, you could ask someone as many questions as you want in a questionnaire format, but they won't tell you what you really want to know. An interviewer is looking for extreme detail, but the human mind ignores these and just summarizes the experience, so it is hard for the interviewer to come to the root of the problem.


Emily Sheng - 2/5/2014 15:06:26

The "master-apprentice" interview model creates a close partnership between the interviewer and the customer. The customer, or "master," teaches the interviewer about how he does his work by actually "doing the work and talking about it while working" (Principles of Contextual Inquiry 2). This is effective because although the customer may not know how to describe his work, he will certainly be able to show how he does his work and talk the interviewer through his work. The role of the "apprentice" is also effective in questioning the "master's" actions. The traditional "interviewer-interviewee" model that has the interviewer asking a question, then the interviewee answering the question, and so on, does not show much partnership between the interviewer and the interviewee. Due to the lack of context for the interviewee, there is an opportunity for the interviewee to be general or make stuff up. While the "master-apprentice" model may give too much power to the "master", the "interviewer-interviewee" model may give too much power to the "interviewer." Interviewing a secretary in order to redesign a tool she frequently uses may be a situation when contextual inquiry is more beneficial than traditional interview models. In this situation, if the secretary is able to physically walk through the actions she takes to use the tool, she will be better able to describe her thoughts on feature details.


Sang Ho Lee - 2/5/2014 15:08:27

Both models are methods of gaining information and insight from an unfamiliar territory. The interview-interviewee is the classic news reporter model. There is a series of questions from the interviewer, and the interviewee simply answers the given questions, and unless prompted for more detail, the interviewee usually falls to silence. However, the master-apprentice interview model can be said to be more of a partnership. The interviewee is the master, and the interviewer is the apprentice. In these roles, the interviewer can gain all the information that he or she needs through the active observation and on the spot question that arises from the natural workflow process of the master. Thus, whereas in the "interview-interviewee" model, the interviewee is prone to summarizing and skipping over important details, the "master" interviewee can describe the reasons for his/her actions and the thought process behind every subtle action or habit. While the interview-interviewee model is also prone to abstractions, the "master-apprentice" model is more focused on the concrete artifacts that define the use of a product. A situation in which contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models would be a user-test of a mobile application for an on-the-go user group. For example, if the interviewer goes out on a bike ride with a potential user to test a bicycle app, the issues (positive and negative) would become immediately clear, and even those subtle issues that would not be shown in a traditional sitdown interview-interviewee model would become observable and ultimately improvable.


Peter Wysinski - 2/5/2014 15:09:11

The “master-apprentice" interview model is far superior to the “interview-interviewee” model as it gives deeper insight into how one performs their tasks. In the “interview-interviewee” model users often omit parts of their routine that are triggered by actions which are not present in the interview setting. While the interviewee is being interviewed he lacks the spatial locality to be reminded of minor tasks he inadvertently performs during the day. Furthermore, most masters are not good teachers and are unable to convey their methods in a step-by-step fashion. When an apprentice observes the master he sees every part of a process as it unfolds and can ask for clarification at any point. While such question may throw the interviewee off it is far more effective than sitting down in an interview-interviewee setting as the interviewee is able to pick up where he left off once he answers the question. Unfortunately due to time constraints interviewers do not have enough time to spend with their users as an apprentice; the Contextual Inquiry tailors apprenticeship to the needs of the design team. As the term (contextual) implies we go the where the work is being performed to collect the best data that enables us to view the ongoing user experience rather than a summary of the experience. A summary is bad as the user only tells us the main things which he like and disliked; unlike observing an ongoing experience, it does not allow us to understand why the good things were important and why the bad things got in the way. In design the details are important, when a user tells you about his experience, he abstracts by grouping similar instances together. This is bad as designers abstract feedback from different users and if they have already started with abstractions, “there is little chance the the system will be useful to real people.”


Juan Pablo Hurtado - 2/5/2014 15:24:51

The master-apprentice model is more of a natural learning process, where you observe your "master" to learn how to do something or something about them. On the other hand the interview-interviewee model is more like a structured conversation where you just get the information that you planned to get and also because is just a question-answer process, it doesn't feel as natural.

For example if you would want to learn more about bus drivers, instead of arraigning an interview in a closed room with a bus driver you should go, get on a bus and observe the bus driver and talk with him about his work and why do he do somethings instead of others things. That way you could learn a lot more about bus drivers and their profession.


Cory McDowell - 2/5/2014 15:35:03

When interviewing someone, it’s best to let them be in a comfortable surrounding. With the “master-apprentice” interview model, this is achieved ideally. For the master, this doesn’t feel like an interview, like the “Interview-Interviewee” model does. Here, it’s easy and natural for the master to talk about the task he is currently carrying out, because he can just narrate his actions. For the “Interview-Interviewee” model, the interviewee must look back in their memory and try to remember what they do, which is more difficult and most-likely going to be less accurate.

One example where contextual inquiry is more beneficial than traditional interview models mentioned in the article is teaching someone how to lift weights. Many weight-lifting exercises involve strange body movements with very specific techniques. With the traditional "interview-interviewee" model, it would be extremely difficult to explain all the nuances of the body movements involved in an exercise. However, if you can show someone in person how to do the exercise, it’s much easier to describe everything you’re doing, and they will be able to learn much better.


Aayush Dawra - 2/5/2014 15:41:33

I think the master/apprentice approach is a more effective model than the interview/interviewee since it relies on the subject being in their natural environment and allows the observer to take note of the minor details of the subject as he/she engages in the activity. Furthermore, it also allows the observer to observe the subconscious patterns that might emerge from the subject's behavior that might not be glaringly obvious or stated out verbally by the 'master'. Aside from observational cues, the verbal feedback that the 'master' provides the 'apprentice' while performing the task could augment the observations gained quite effectively and though pitfalls might exist in the master/apprentice model as well, such as the interpretation of data and skewed samples, they are not the focus of this response. Contrasting this with the interviewer/interviewee model, several shortcomings become evident in the latter. Firstly, since the interviewee is not immersed in the task, the questions are not related to ongoing work and hence might miss several key aspects of the task that the interviewee might be so accustomed to performing that he/she might not even be consciously aware of them. Secondly, the communication channel in the interviewer/interviewee model would be very choppy since there would a possible silence once a question has been answered by the interviewee. Also, in the interviewer/interviewee model, a lot of the knowledge gained would be based on the interviewer's understanding of the task since it is a question oriented approach where the interviewer is not gaining any visible insight or source to direct his line of questioning and in turn the type of information gained, as opposed to the master/apprentice approach, where the apprentice will ask questions based on how he perceives the master to be performing that task, which might continuously change as the master continuous to carry on with the task.

A situation where contextual inquiry is more beneficial than an interview for instance, could be where say a designer is trying to understand how a construction worker uses a certain tool for construction. Through an interview, superficial knowledge of the operation of the machine may be attained but through contextual inquiry, where the designer actually adopts the role of an apprentice and sees the worker using he tool and asks questions alongside, a swifter and more in-depth understanding of the usage of a construction tool may be gained. This is one of many examples where contextual inquiry may prove to be a far better option than an interview.


Gregory Quan - 2/5/2014 15:42:55

The master-apprentice model gives the customer more authority than the interviewer-interviewee model. The master-apprentice model allows the customer to teach the interviewer about how they perform their tasks, and the interviewer then learns by observing and asking questions. In the interviewer-interviewee model, the interviewer asks questions, and the customer answers them, then waits for the next question. In this model, the interviewer dictates the conversation, and may miss important insights from the customer by failing to ask the right questions.

Having the customer actually perform the task is a more effective way for the interviewer to learn since the customer may not remember certain details when simply being interviewed. Humans have a tendency to summarize, and so they may leave out things that they consider insignificant, or they may be so used to the routine of the task that they don’t realize all of the steps that they are taking. Also, if they are asked about the task while they are in the middle of doing it, they can better remember their reasoning for doing it.

As an example, if an interviewer asked the customer to describe their morning routine, they might summarize with, “I shower, have coffee, get dressed, and leave for work.” A contextual inquiry could reveal much more information that the customer doesn’t even notice about possible pain points to improve, such as the fact that the customer brushes his teeth before having coffee, and that he could have fresher breath and whiter teeth by reversing the steps.


Christopher Schechter - 2/5/2014 15:44:43

The "master-apprentice" interview model is a very contextual model. It allows the interviewee to think about their actions while they're doing them, which gives them much deeper insight into the "hows" and "whys" of what they are doing than in the "interviewer-interviewee" model. Additionally, and maybe most importantly, the "master-apprentice" model allows the interviewer to watch the interviewee at work and make their own observations. Whereas in the "interviewer-interviewee" model, an interviewer may only receive abstract, high-level information from the interview, in the "master-apprentice" model they will gain lots more detailed information.

A situation where contextual inquiry would be more beneficial than traditional models is when designing a new UI for an app targeted at a technologically illiterate audience. These people would have a difficult time learning how to use an app and would demand an extremely intuitive interface to begin with. In a traditional interview with one of these people, it could be very hard for them to articulate their difficulties with using the app, as they wouldn't know appropriate terminology and might not understand what they're doing. By using a contextual interview model, the designers can see exactly where the problems are, and the customer can concretely show exactly what they're talking about when giving feedback.


Anthony Sutardja - 2/5/2014 15:51:55

The master-apprentice interview model is an interview form that is less restrictive than the interview-interviewee form of interviewing. In the interview-interviewee model, both the interviewer and the customer start to answer questions in a very restrictive form. If the interviewer has a set of questions prepared, he/she will go through them one by one while eliciting responses from the customer. This narrows what the interviewer can discover about the problems and context surrounding the customer. The interviewer already has preconceived notions of what the customer's needs are and are drawing out responses that fit towards them.

In the master-apprentice interview model, the interviewer is much more engaged in the normal routine of the customer. Unlike the interviewer-interviewee model, the master-apprentice model allows the interviewer to observe and participate in the customer's routine. This causes less restrictions on the information that the interviewer is getting out of the customer. The interviewer may still have some preconceived notions of what he/she wants to learn about, but being an apprentice allows the interviewer to also observe in detail and discover things that he/she would not have expected.

The master-apprentice model also allows the interviewer to go into much more depth. In the interviewer-interviewee model, the customer is not actively doing the tasks that he/she does and will often generalize their responses. However, the interviewer needs very detailed responses from the interviewer. Since the interviewer is passively observing what the customer is doing, he/she has much more details to work off of. Even more, while a customer is performing a task, the interviewer is able to ask extremely specific questions while the customer performs certain tasks -- allowing the interviewer to draw out even more context details.

An example of where a contextual inquiry would be better than a traditional interview model would be asking someone about how they file their tax returns. A traditional interviewer-interviewee situation may draw out generic answers about when and how an individual files his/her tax returns. However, in order to see how users really struggle with tax returns, one needs more context of what actually happens when an individual files a tax return.


Erik Bartlett - 2/5/2014 15:53:38

The main difference between "master-apprentice" and "interview-interviewee" comes from who hold the power in the conversation, and how that effects the results. With I-I the interviewer dictates the direction of the conversation, subjecting the interviewee to their questions and what they think is important. Because of this relationship the don't really get feedback from their interviewee and they could be missing important parts of the process because they do not even know they exist. The interviewee is more likely to be pulled out of the context of their work and summerize - something that is not good for the specifics needed by a designer. M-A on the other hand allows the designer to learn from their subject, putting the subject in a position where they are more comfortable and able to go over their details. Because it is as if they are teaching an apprentice they can go about work as normal and just point out things as they go. It allows the designer to get into the mind of the user as opposed to the other way around. But it can also be a bad thing for the designer to not be able to control the direction of the conversation, because of the master-apprentice dynamic it can be difficult for the designer to redirect the subject when they get off course. Both can be effective ways to get information about the user - each just has to be used in the correct context.

Contextual inquiry is more beneficially in most situations because it can adapt to be similar to each model depending on the circumstances. For example, if the subject is only comfortable about describing their job as they do it, it is similar to the M-A model - but if the subject quickly glosses over subject or summarizes them it allows the designer to ask more specific questions without the imposition of the "apprentice" title. It is generally a way to better balance the power between designer and user - allowing them to get the best results out of the process.


conan cai - 2/5/2014 15:54:11

The master/apprentice model is highly effective at being simple. It is based on observation. The master moves about doing his work which gives the interview context. The apprentice is simply allowed to watch what the master does and make notes. In this way, the master doesn't not need to create a structured and guided lesson to teach the apprentice. To teach, he just has to go about his normal work. Giving context to the interview allows to apprentice/master to stop at anytime and explain or ask why a certain action was done in such a way. Seeing the interviewee doing something allows related questions to naturally build up. The interview flows. In the interviewer/interviewee model, it is up to the interviewer to have a prepared list of questions to ask the interviewee. Often times an interviewer will ask a question to which there will be a response. There is a silence and then the interviewer will move onto the next question. It feels like less of an interview and more of an interrogation. Contextual inquiry is better when the interviewer is trying to design a product that the interviewee will use. People don't know what they want to so it is very hard to have a directed interview in which the interviewee can say exactly what they want in a product, and they may not even realize problems they have with the old product. In the contextual interview example, the interviewer can observe and see what problems and solutions that could be made as the interviewee naturally moves about the activity.


Vinit Nayak - 2/5/2014 15:55:11

The customer is the master and they explain what they are doing while they are doing it, this makes it simple and very natural for the customer (who in doing so becomes the teacher). This is also very effective since the customer is fully immersed in the work they will be doing which also gives a lot more information of the actions and subtitles of what the customer is doing even if they cannot explicitly recognize it. On the opposite hand, the apprentice also can reveal details in chronological order easily because they are physically performing those tasks, which can prove to be very effective when asked to recall in an outside the work site setting. This natural settings is contrasted when looking at the interviewer/interviewee model. This is more of a Q and A, which seems unnatural to the customer and the customer only provides an answer that fulfills the question. The interviewee needs to think extra hard to go beyond the question asked and provide the necessary relevant details that the designers are looking for. The master apprentice model is much better because the designer can see EXACTLY what the customer is doing and potentially be able to describe/observe the problem to be fixed in a way that is more clear than how the customer can articulate it. Contextual inquiry would be the most beneficial model when the requirement is to design something for safety purposes. That requires observing the customer in the environment to physically see what safety features can be implemented. This is hard to do in other models when not observing them because it most people cannot explicitly state what they are doing wrong (otherwise they probably wouldn't be doing it) or how machines properly work to provide specifics on how to improve them. Those who are affected by the problem also might be embarrassed to talk about the issue.


Gavin Chu - 2/5/2014 15:56:19

The traditional "interview/interviewee" model focuses on getting concrete answers for questions the interviewer might have. This model is very suitable if you're looking for facts, statistics, or opinions. The "interview/interviewee" model is kind if like a interactive survey.

The "master-apprentice" model on the other hand focuses more on learning. Ultimately you're still trying to get some feedback, but the process is different from the "interview/interviewee" model. Contextual inquiry focusing on maintaining the right relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee. Often times the interviewer takes the position of the master because he or she is in charged of controlling the questions and the pace of the interview. This hierarchy should be flipped because we really want the interviewee to be in control because he or she is the expert and has the answers. A interviewer can learn more by observing, especially if you want feedback about a particular task.

Contextual inquiry is more beneficial than traditional interview models when you want to learn closely about a behavior. For example interviewing a chief on how he prepare his food. Much of what a chief does are actual actions, so the interviewer will have a clearer understanding if the interview takes place while the chief is cooking. The interviewer can see for himself or herself rather than relying on the chief's words. Interviewing while the chief works also forces him to point out small details he might not have remembered during a traditional interview process.


Daphne Hsu - 2/5/2014 16:01:16

The "master-apprentice" interview model involves the designer acting as a newbie observing the customer acting as the professional user. The apprentice observes the master in his habitat, and the master teaches the apprentice by doing work and explaining it. In the "interviewer-interviewee" model, the designer asks the customer questions about previous work which is completed in a Q&A session. It is advised to go back to ongoing work, but then this model wouldn't be effective anymore. One example of a situation when contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models is if someone wants to learn how to hand-make make ravioli. For something that takes very precise handiwork, a model like interviewer-interviewee wouldn't work because it would be hard to describe to someone how exactly to make the shapes of ravioli or how to knead the dough without showing them in person. The guest-host model would be less beneficial than contextual inquiry because the guest wouldn't get up close and personal enough with the host to see exactly how the ravioli is being made. Contextual inquiry works for this situation because the learner will be taught, step by step, what to do.


Diana Lu - 2/5/2014 16:01:51

I think the primary difference between the "master-apprentice"interview model and the "interview- interviewee" model is that the "master- apprentice" model can often allow for a more nuanced insight to either a consumer or the craftsman. Many things that the "master" may not be aware of can be extracted from having a third party observe his work. It also allows for the apprentice to better understand the master's craft by observing as opposed to sitting down and asking questions. The master-apprentice model can also be easier to use sometimes, because while knowing the right questions to ask can take time and practice, apprenticing comes much more naturally to most people, and being interviewed can be more difficult than being observed in a natural state.

Contextual inquiry can be helpful when creating something that depends highly on a thorough knowledge of the craft. For example, if someone wanted to gain knowledge about woodworking, it might not be sufficient to use the traditional "interview-interviewee" models. Simple instructions by word may not be able to encompass the difficulty of the task, nor the environment in which it is completed. It seems that contextual inquiry tends to be more useful when the task is either very complicated or where the environment is crucial to understanding.


Ravi Punj - 2/5/2014 16:05:36

The master-apprentice model is when the interviewer (the person conducting the inquiry) acts as an apprentice to the interviewee (the customer, acting as the master). The point of this interview model, as the interviewer, is to learn the working practices of your customer as they unfold, and as narrated by the customer. On the other hand, the conventional interviewer-interviewee model of interviews in when the interviewer learns about the working practices of the by directly asking the customer a myriad of questions about the practices. The difference arises in terms of who controls revealing information that is pertinent to the inquiry. In the first model, the customer narrates what the practices are, and assumes no previous knowledge or skill of the interviewer; in the second model, the interviewer controls the questions and decided what directions of inquiry are important and what are not. This is why the contextual inquiry is more beneficial as it promotes a balance of control and responsibility between the interviewer and interviewee. For example, if you're designing an sketching application for art directors, neither interview models work as well as contextual inquiry, because, in the latter, you can learn both from the unfolding work practices, but also by interjecting a customer's narration.


Sol Han - 2/5/2014 16:10:30

The master-apprentice interview model is based on the idea that the interviewee is an expert in their field; the interviewer assumes humility and inquires the interviewer while they carry out the work, giving the interviewee an understanding of what is actually important to the interviewee. In an interview-interviewee model, however, is a more formal approach in which the interviewee answers a list of questions prepared by the interviewer (the interviewer tends to assume what is important to know about the interviewee).

A contextual inquiry is likely more beneficial than traditional interview models in many cases. For example, if a developer is trying to develop a product targeted toward a group in an unfamiliar culture, it would make more sense to be engaged in their everyday lives to understand what they find important. A person who lives without electronics will be involved in likely vastly different activities from one who uses electronics often.


Christina Guo - 2/5/2014 16:34:45

In the master-apprentice interview, the interviewer acts like an apprentice while the customer is the master. The master therefore teaches by doing, and does not need to prepare any class-like structure or materials. They can merely explain what they are doing, and these actions might remind them of previous experiences that they might've forgotten in a more formal situation. In comparison to the more traditional interview-interviewee model, the interviewee can use contextual objects to help remind them of ideas they want to convey to the interviewer, that they might have forgotten or glossed over if they are removed from the immediate situation. It also allows the interviewer to keep a more open mind through more curiosity and attention to detail.

A situation where contextual inquiry might be more beneficial is when interviewing a worker about his job, for example a gardener. If someone wanted to learn more about the activities and needs of a gardener (say, for an app), they interviewing them on the job might be more helpful than the traditional model. They have access to equipment and tools that might help in their explanations, and they might have certain details in their techniques that they do subconsciously, but are reminded about these details when they are actually doing the job. Otherwise, these details might have gotten lost if the worker was removed from his job environment.


Meghana Seshadri - 2/5/2014 16:36:02

The biggest difference between the master-apprentice and interviewer/interviewee models is that the master-apprentice model involves a lot more close communication between the customer and the interviewer. The interviewer/interviewee model hardly resonates any of that same close communication between the interviewer and interviewee since they just complete the bare minimum of asking and answering questions. The master-apprentice model focuses on watching the user actually complete whatever tasks you are studying them for. It's more efficient to gain useful information this way, as compared to the interviewer-interviewee model, where because the questions the interviewer is asking the interviewee is unrelated to ongoing work, the solution usually just falls to returning to that ongoing work, and thus further preventing any interaction between the interviewer and interviewee. Another key difference between these two models is the fact that unlike apprentices, interviewers are not actually learning about the task in order to do it, but rather in order to support it with technology.

Contextual inquiry would be very useful for a situation where a team is trying to build a better toilet. Applying the four principles of context, partnership, interpretation, and focus will really benefit interviewers and design teams in figuring out how to really construct a better model of a toilet that will suffice to a good number of users' needs (even as you get to hilarious moments of learning how exactly users operate their current toilet, and finding the benefits and pitfalls of the current design). It won't suffice to merely just ask users questions about their toilet experiences, because they'll definitely be to embarrassed to give anything more than just brief descriptions and summaries. Giving full power to theaster (in this case the user) in the master-apprentice model also doesn't adequately assist the interviewer/design team in solving the problem. The interviewer/design team has used toilets before as well, and thus can also include their own experiences and input, as well as guide the user through their questions. This way, they really obtain good insight from the users that will help improve whatever toilet the user currently operates.


Charles Park - 2/5/2014 16:46:37

The biggest difference between the two models would be that the “master-apprentice” model follows the idea of “learning about work in order to do it” while the “interview-interviewee” model follows the idea of “learning about it in order support it with technology.” The interviewers do not have the time an apprentice pours into learning a skill but they can input their own special skills. Apprentices learn a single job, but different projects may require the team to learn a variety of practices. There are few cases where contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview models. For instance, if the interviewee has an incentive to say that there is no issue, such as a person’s worth or in order to keep face, then the interviewee might not say the truth. For instance, a simple question such as “are you able to open that door?” may make the interviewee feel inadequate about themselves when answers because it may make them look stupid. Or perhaps, the issue pertains to having pride in the product which would cause the interviewee to not say the particular issues they face. Another example of this would be that the interviewee themselves do not know the issue pertaining to the product and may not be able to give comprehensive details concerning the matter. In such cases, only through contextual inquiry would one be able to gather accurate data.


Sangeetha Alagappan - 2/5/2014 16:52:03

The article describes the “interview-interviewee” model as a formal conversation, like a verbal questionnaire. It contrasts to the “master-apprentice” model that encourages “partnership” and tries to make the interviewee feel comfortable as well as participate as the larger contributor to the conversation. While both models involve the interviewer asking questions, the kind of questions being asked is different; in the interviewer-interviewee model, the questions are structured and planned while in the “master-apprentice” model, the interviewer plays the role of the apprentice, intently observing and asking probing questions to understand why the interviewee is doing what he/she is doing (though this can work up to a partnership level where the interviewer and the interviewee collaborate as they step through a process with the interviewer helps bring attention to things the interviewee didn’t previously consider, suggesting a different structure in which the interviewee might see his/her work and offering alternative design ideas for opinion, all the while having the interviewee shape the interviewer’s understanding of the work being done). Therefore, the relationship modelled in the “master-apprentice” model is a “mutual relationship of a shared inquiry and discovery” of the work being done guided by context, partnership, interpretation and focus while the “interview-interviewee” model is a Q&A, structured relationship where lots of information might become lost in abstraction (due to the interviewee not actually doing the work while describing it) and basic inhibitions that might come into play in such a formal setting (awkward silences, summarising, short responses).

If a designer is working on a better cashier user interface, it’d be beneficial to conduct a contextual inquiry rather than a traditional interview with cashiers at checkout counters at supermarkets so that the interviewer can see how cashiers use the system in context, the problems they run into (bar code missing or cannot be scanned, duplicated entries, discount cards and coupons) and how they deal with these problems. Interviewers can get real time feedback on their designs and design for cashiers so that the product is user-centric. With a traditional interview, most people would not remember the intricacies of their usage or specific problems and ultimately, the interview would not provide useful information.

Max Dougherty - 2/5/2014 16:54:17

The “master-apprentice” interview model provides specific advantages over the standard “interview-interviewee” model. As stated in the reading, the “interview-interviewee” model is an unnatural form of information exchange. Generally conducted in a location separate from the customer/interviewee’s work place, the interviewer generally provides a number of pre-determined questions and waits for an answer. Often these answers will be sufficient, but fail to generate a discussion. This format puts interviewees into an exposed position as they are “tested” for information. To remedy such symptoms, the “master-apprentice” model puts the interviewer and interviewee into roles which natural produce a transfer of information. Interviews conducted with this model provide context as the interviewer watches the customer in their place of work and allows them to go about their business. Like a master, the customer provides a narration and reasoning for the actions they take. As a result, the pressure to answer contrived questions is removed and the required information naturally emerges through action. While the “interview-interviewee” is the most logistically simple approach, if the interviewer is unaware of the environment and conditions of a customer’s requirements, the development of effective questions can be very difficult. By putting the interviewer in the customer/interviewees environment, for example in a hospital to observe doctors working with computer equipment, a natural dialog of observation, narration, and questioning can occur.


Seyedshahin Ashrafzadeh - 2/5/2014 16:57:39

As the article describes, in "interview-interviewee" model the process is like the interviewer asks questions and the customer answers the question and falls silence until the interviewer asks a question again. In this model, both parts act as if there is a questionnaire to be filled. Also, the questions asked are not about the ongoing work because the ongoing work is usually ceased in order for the interview to happen. However, in the "master-apprentice" model the interviewer acts as a apprentice and the customer teaches by doing the work and talking about it while doing the job. Teaching in the context of working helps the customer to give more details about his/her experiences. Comparing this with the "interview-interviewee" model, the interviewer does not need to memorize and come up with interview questions/techniques. In the process of "master-apprentice" interview model, as the master teaches by going over his/her work, the job of the master unfolds for the apprentice, and they can discuss any issues/situations that the apprentice has problem. Therefore, the apprentice would get more focused, detailed information about the master work. Also, the relationship between the master and apprentice creates an effective environment for the apprentice to collect data. Also, the interviewers are very familiar with this relationship that it is easier for them to act it out.

For the first assignment, I wanted to interview some taxi drivers to understand their problems of using their cell phone on the go with the traditional interview models. However, the interview was not successful because I felt like that there was no partnership and the interviewee did not felt comfortable to talk about his work. I think that the contextual inquiry model is a better model to create this comfortable environment for both parts to collaborate on the interviewee's work. It creates a sense of partnership between them to collaborate in understanding the interviewee's work and perspective. Also, it is better at involving the interviewer in the work that the interviewee does and makes it very easy to collect data. Also, in the contextual inquiry model, the interviewer can tell his/her interpretations to the interviewee and confirm them, or come up with a prototype and get the interviewee's feedback. However, in the traditional interview models, these are very limited.


Emily Reinhold - 2/5/2014 16:59:20

In the master-apprentice interview model, the power lies in the hands of the master (customer). That is, the apprentice (designer) allows the customer to act in their natural habitat, while the designer observes. A partnership forms between the customer and the designer, where both parties end up encouraging analysis of the structure of work.

By contrast, no partnership is formed in the interview-interviewee model. Rather, the interviewer has a set list of questions that he/she is prepared to ask the customer. The conversation is not fluid, and the customer only offers up information that is directly asked for by the designer.

In both models, the designer asks questions of the customer. However, in the master-apprentice model, the questions arise from observing the customer in his/her familiar setting. In the interviewer-interviewee model, the designer likely came up with the questions beforehand, and probably forgot/didn't think of several very important questions that would have become apparent if the designer had experienced the customer working.

Contextual inquiry, as its name suggests, involves asking questions that arise directly from context. Traditional interview models typically necessitate that the interviewer predict what questions will be interesting to ask of the interviewee. However, sometimes this method is ineffective, since the interviewer does not know what questions will have interesting answers.

For example, suppose an interviewer wanted to interview a chef about how exactly to make his/her signature dish. Typical questions that the interviewer might come up with include what ingredients, how long to cook for, etc. However, there may be a very specific step that involves an advanced cooking technique (say, "folding" ingredients in). Since the interviewer does not know the steps required to make the dish beforehand, he/she could not predict to ask the question "what is folding? how do you fold in this ingredient to get the right texture?". If the interviewer instead observed as the chef prepared the dish, the chef would likely say "Now I am going to fold in the flour" and the interviewer would be immediately triggered to ask "what is folding? do you have tips to successfully fold in the flour?". In this case, contextual inquiry is much more valuable and would yield a much more informative and interesting interview.


Emon Motamedi - 2/5/2014 17:00:46

The "master-apprentice" interview model centers around the researcher (apprentice) observing the customer (master) as they work. This work-based approach is ideal because oftentimes it is difficult for the master to simply discuss the steps they are taking and the nuances involved without actually taking those specific steps. And, in taking those specific work steps, the master can be reminded of and point out anything they feel is relevant for the apprentice to know. In turn, the apprentice can ask specific questions as they occur in the steps taken an do not have to rely on a predetermined list of questions that may or may not be relevant.

The "interviewer-interviewee" model is similar in that the interviewee once again is asked questions, but other than this fact is largely different. The interviewer comes prepared with a list of questions which he asks the interviewee. The interviewee responses remain within the confines of the question and do not expand into the nuances of the role. Oftentimes, the interviewee cannot even describe these nuances because they arise from from doing the actual work itself. The interviewee also has no independent opportunity to provide insights on what he feels is important independent of the question.

A specific example of where contextual inquiry is more effective than traditional interview models comes from the video on the shopping cart redesign which was shown in class. In going to a grocery store and actually observing customers and asking them questions as they did their shopping allowed customers to experience the aspects they were commenting on and led to specifics related to the matter at hand. Furthermore, it allowed the researchers to watch the customers interact with the cart in a way that would not have been possible in a traditional interview. Had the researchers just relied on a traditional interview, they would no have been able to glean the same insights both because the customer would not have the same perspective and the setting would not be in the correct context.


Sol Park - 2/5/2014 17:02:30

master-apprentice is an effective relationship model where a design team plays apprentice role and customer plays master role. Just like master and apprentice relationship, the design team learns from customer about their work. When a design team is not familiar with customer's work environment and hence not sure how to interview them, they will naturally know how they should behave under those roles if they use this model. A master teaches by working and talking about it. During this relationship model interview, a master and apprentice both observe the work and discuss about it. A design team may not know what they should ask before they watch customer's work but while observing the work, they naturally come up with ideas and questions. They can see the details and structure they have not thought about it. These help the design team gain a better understanding of their customer. Interview-interviewee model is very different from the master-apprentice model. Interviewer has a questionnaire for interviewee. This model is based on question and answer interaction. Interviewer asks a question from the questionnaire and interviewee answers. Typically, interviewer does not learn much from this model interviews. Contextual inquiry is more beneficial than traditional interview models when the design team does not know much of interviewee' work environment. If they are not familiar with work environment, it is really hard to ask questions and come up with effective design. Therefore, whenever a design team is not familiar with the customers' work field, it will be effective to use contextual inquiry model, which makes them to observe and discuss during the interview.


Tristan Jones - 2/5/2014 17:03:02

The interview/interviewee model is where the researcher observing the asks questions to the target user about how they use product X. The problem is that what they say about how they use it isn't how they actually use it. Users will say what the interviewer wants to hear (this is typical in normal interviews) and hearing constant reinforcement on why your product does exactly as you're supposed to isn't very helpful as someone seeking to improve their product. The master/apprentice model has similar issues where the interviewer is the one who spends so much time on the product and knows all its features and the novice is just a user who knows nothing about the system internals. The problem here is that the interviewer will start criticizing what the user is doing and the negative feedback will discourage the user from trying features they're not good at and will also act more carefully when doing actions. You're less likely to see mistakes and you're more likely to see why your product is so awesome. The biggest issue with both these models is that they just reinforce your existing opinions and you don't get to hear or see the actual behaviors of your users that may improve your product design.

An example where contextual inquiry is better than interviewing is when you're asking people how they ride their bike. To them, riding a bike is kind of intuitive so they will not discuss the fleeting issues they have while they are riding their bike. During an interview, you're more likely to get superficial feedback on how the bike design could be more colorful or the bike is a bit hard to re-rack but you don't get to notice spots where the bike is almost tipping over down steep hills or upwards curves. Contextual inquiry wins in many of these cases.


Chirag Mahapatra - 2/5/2014 17:03:38

In the interviewer-interviewee, the interviewer asks a question and the customer answers it. However, he does not build upon it and falls silent. The interviewee focuses more on getting a list of questions answered rather than learning more about the customer. Both the interviewer and customer are not able to build on the interview because they have ceased doing actual work.

Contrast this with the master-apprenticeship model where the interviewer learns about the customer in his natural environment. This ensures that the customer is comfortable and it is easier to ask relevant questions. Also, as the customer is doing his work, the interviewer can pick up on his actions and and ask leading questions.

The open ended nature of contextual inquiry helps the interviewer to learn processes which users are not consciously aware of. This is seen where a secretary is interviewed. Contextual inquiry is also highly detailed. This is especially seen when the customer is walking through a retrospective account.


Hao-Wei Lin - 2/5/2014 17:04:05

Master apprentice interview model is a model where the interviewer is the "apprentice" in the power dynamics, who treat his/her customer as the master of the subject he/she is trying to design a solution for. It is good for collecting data (especially in an area where the interviewer is not familiar with. The interviewer extract data through the interviewee's (the master's) doing. The interview-interviewee model involve an interviewer and an interviewee facing each other, with the interviewer asking one question after another. It is like something you would see in a television interview show. It is not very useful in designing UI because it is similar to filling out a questionnaire. The interviewer cannot actually grasp the context of the problem the interviewee might be presenting, and the interviewee might not be a good answerer; therefore, important and valuable data may be missed in the process.

Contextual inquiry can be more beneficial because it is easier for the interviewer to spot potential problem that the interviewee is facing when the interviewee him/herself might not even notice. An example is a cook grabbing a wok on its rim while cooking rather than using the handle (even though the wok does have handles) because he/she is used to it. In contextual inquiry, the interviewee can notice this fact by observing the cook's action. On the other hand, an interviewer cannot extract this information in a traditional interview model.


Insuk Lee - 2/5/2014 17:08:06

Master-apprentice relationship model is by far the most familiar relationship model. Taking the role of a pupil, go in with a enthusiastic attitude and inquisitive mind, and the master will impart all the details, tips and know-how on the way he does his work. Conversation will flow and the person in the position of an expert will be more often than not help you get the necessary data and insight. On the other hand, the interview-interviewee model is not quite appropriate because of the pre-existing notions of an "interview" people have, and will make things more rigid and uncomfortable for the customer to provide feedback and discuss. It is more efficient to be in the context of doing the work to garner relevant data than to be tossing questions and answers back and forth.

An example of a situation when the contextual inquiry is better than the traditional interview models is when you ask a designer who uses the Powerpoint software a lot. When I ask him what are some things you like and dislike about Powerpoint, he will most of the time give answers that just touch the surface or does not give much insight. Following with and conversing while he is working on one of his projects, for example, will make it easier for him to pronounce problems that he has that did not arise in a interview setting.


Bryan Sieber - 2/5/2014 17:09:29

This article was extremely interesting, I wouldn’t have thought that the way the interview is conducted would be detrimental to the information received. There were a few different interview model types that the article went over, some brief and others in length, a few mentioned were: “master/apprentice” (MA), “interviewer/interviewee” (II), “expert/novice”, and “guest/host.” The latter three are pitfalls that prevent the extraction of required data through the means of gaining context. When an MA interview model is used the designer acts as the apprentice, and the customer as the master craftsman. The craftsman teaches by doing the work and talking about it while working, providing the apprentice with context and visual cues as to when or how an action is performed. When an apprentice asks a question to the master while the work is ongoing, the master gets an opportunity to think about it to answer (this act of stopping while mid-working may be unnatural to the master without an apprentice). When a designer role-plays the part of the apprentice, he has the ability to learn the strategies and techniques of a craft through observations on multiple instances, allowing him to formulate his own understanding of the underlying structure of the work. This model is the most important to gain all the necessary information to provide an adequate design or understanding of how the customer works. Whereas in the II model, the outcome of the interview could provide the designer with a minimal understanding of the work process. In the II model the designer plays the part of the interviewer and the customer the part of the interviewee. The designer asks questions to the customer, but after a question has been answered the customer is likely to fall silent. Thus limiting communication and causing ongoing work to be ceased. The designer can quickly become a “questionnaire to be filled out.” The II model is a less contextual and provides less of an understanding on the material/process by the customer than the MA model provides through the act of watching the customer work and communicate at the same time, with the occasional interjection.

I feel as if the contextual inquiry model is more beneficial to every other model (given the adequate amount of time). One situation that comes to mind that this is true, is actually the first design assignment. I had conducted it in a very interviewer/interviewee fashion. In the way I had also been limited with the interaction and understanding of why or how the user used a specific app. If given more time (and being able to find adequate “on the go” volunteers), the ability to watch them as their work was ongoing would have provided me with more context to the whole usability and situational usage of the particular apps they had chosen to use. Following a user with the MA model, asking them to do their normal routine (or demo) to show the usability of their favorite app with some possible interjections, would be much more useful than just asking questions about their favorite app.


Steven Wu - 2/5/2014 17:11:06

Observing is the key aspect of the master-apprentice interview model. It places precedence since it allows the apprentice to observe and pick out the finer details from the past that could provide more background to a customer's routine. In this case, the master is the customer and the apprentice is the interviewer. But observing isn't the only component of this interview model, setting the ground rules about the interview when something interesting can lead to another discussion is crucial to maintaining a working contextual interview. There is an 'observe-and-report' aspect of this model, but the importance of knowing when to dive deeper into the master's habits would provide more information that something that is at the surface like a relationship that is solely tied as interviewer-interviewee. Without defining the strict difference of setting up a partnership between the interviewer and the customer, the questions that follow would drift off and become more forced ultimately leaving gaps in the interview. It is in the master-apprentice model that one does not act as if a task of asking as many questions as possible must be completed, but instead the ability to work alongside and learn from the customer as well as to focus on the triggers that they many reveal.

One situation that comes to mind is when I did some contextual inquiry for my Berkeley Innovation project in Spring 2013. I observed how individuals would wash their hands in a college dormitory bathroom and followed up with particular questions that I found unique with people's washing routines. In the end, I realized this was more beneficial as it would provide more substance in my findings than if I were to simply hold an abstract sit-down interview with an interviewee. Simply doing the actions helped me, the interviewer, figure out more than what can provided verbally.


Cheng Sima - 2/5/2014 17:15:28

1) Compare & contrast the two interview models

Firstly, there is a difference in power dynamic between the two models. In the traditional "interview-interviewee" model, most of the power is tilted towards the interviewer/designer. The interviewer controls what questions are asked and the interviewee simply answers these questions. In the "master-apprentice" interview model, most of the power is given to the customer (master) although the interviewer (apprentice) still steers the conversations so that there is a focus.

Secondly, the type of information that is gathered is very different for the two. The "master-apprentice" model gathers ongoing experience as questions are asked throughout observing the flow of the work details, whereas the "interview-interviewee" model gathers summary experience because there is no contextual cue for the interviewee to describe his or her ongoing work flow.

Lastly, because of the aforementioned difference in style and structure, the "master-apprentice" model gathers concrete data relevant for design purposes whereas the "interview-interviewee" model gathers abstract data that conceals important details.

2) Example when contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview model.

Contextual inquiry is most effective when the users/customers are not self-conscious or self-aware of how exactly they use something or how they work. They simply do it. One specific example can be driving. Experienced drivers usually do not think too much about how they drive. The driving process is almost "automated" and is incorporated in muscle memory. If you interview a driver when he/she is not driving and you don't provide contextual cues for the driver, you will not get concrete, useful information.


Robin Sylvan - 2/5/2014 17:21:32

The “master-apprentice” and “interviewer-interviewee” model are different in the mindset of the interviewer and types of questions they ask. In “master-apprentice”, the interviewer treats the interviewee as a master at using their program. They have the interviewee teach them how to use it as their “apprentice”. The interviewee carries the conversation for the interviewer, who is lead through how a user naturally interacts with their program without instruction. In the “interviewer-interviewee” model, the interview is lead in question-answer format, with the interviewer leading the conversation. This brings into account the interviewer's preconceptions about how the application should be used. It's helpful to use contextual inquiry to see how a user interacts with a program without being given rules of how to use it, and to not be influenced by the interviewers preconceptions. The questions an interviewer ask might change the way an interviewee interacts with the program, or they may want to give answers the interviewer is looking for over how they naturally use the problem.


Qianyun Li - 2/5/2014 17:23:57

"Master-apprentice" interview model is the designer goes to the user's workplace and act like an apprentice. In this way, the designer can have a full experience of a user and gain insights about how his design is used in the workplace. "Interview-interviewee" model is the designer interview the user and ask them very detailed questions about their user experience and try to understand the user's intention of each of their move.

I think in most cases, contextual inquiry would be more beneficial. Especially, if the designer is not familiar with the user's daily routine or their work responsibility. Or the designer is not familiar with the user's habits, such as designing educational products for little kid, contextual inquiry should be very helpful.


Justin Chan - 2/5/2014 17:27:19

The master-apprentice interview model has a strict, (somewhat) non-negotiable power structure where the master calls all the shots, while in the "interview-interviewee" model, there is a more balanced sharing of power. As the name implies, contextual inquiry is more beneficial when you are looking for nuances and specifics issues because you are given context. Consequently, you are better equipped the tools to find an explanation as to why a user does the thing he or she does. As this is a passive process, the person being interviewed doesn't feel a need to rapidly spit out answers -- they can "be normal" and do what they normally do.


Stephanie Ku - 2/5/2014 17:27:56

There are several differences between the master-apprentice interview model and the interview-interviewee model. Firstly, the master-apprentice model relies on a relationship of master/apprentice. On the other hand, in the interview-interviewee model, the interviewer has most control over the questions asked. In addition, the master-apprentice model is much more time consuming than the interview-interviewee model.

A situation when contextual inquiry could be more beneficial (take for example, interviewing someone straight out of a store), than the traditional interview model as the interviewee is being asked in context. If the interviewee is inquired at that very moment in time, there may be fewer discrepancies between what he or she is really feeling/his or her thoughts to what he or she tells the interviewer. If asked in context, the interviewee may be able to gather up and remember answers to questions that may have to do with emotional response.


Andrew Lee - 2/5/2014 17:29:23

The master-apprentice model has sort of the reverse authority compared to the interviewer-interviewee model. Also, the former may yield only a narrower facet of the observed activity, but at a greater depth.

A situation where the contextual inquiry is more beneficial than traditional interview models is drawing. I find that it's one of the kinds of tasks where it's difficult to talk about it generally. Rather, it's a task where many decisions are made on the fly and are heavily based on the current scenario, such as what has already been drawn, what's the deadline, what materials are available, etc.


Patrick Lin - 2/5/2014 17:29:33

In the master/apprentice model, team members go to the customers’ workplaces and have them explain what they are doing as their work unfolds. This helps them remember the concrete steps they take and provide detail, and shows the team member firsthand how work is done even if the customer isn’t a good teacher. Designers, after seeing work done several times, will discover patterns the customers are using and realize the underlying pattern of their work structure. The interviewer/interviewee model doesn’t have the customer engaged in his work the entire time, and while not structured around a list of questions and responses instead a traditional interview, still has formal phases. A contextual interview requires the designer state his focus or purpose outright in the beginning, then transitions into an observation mode, where the designer notes what the person does and occasionally asks questions as a tag-along. It ends with him trying to summarize his understanding of the customer’s work to the customer. This first model requires partnership, as power is more shifted to the master, who basically determines what to talk about as apprentices are assumed to bring no useful skills to the relationship. It also involves more humility, requires partnership to work because it is more interactive, but allows designers contribute own knowledge. Both force the interviewer to observe the customer and identify patterns without having the customers explicitly pointing them out, but the first requires more participation in conversation. Contextual inquiry is more useful than formal interviews in situations where customers have worked for a long time and developed a routine where they may not explicitly remember all the steps. The designer experiences in depth with contextual inquiry what the customer does, almost firsthand, and is able pick up patterns a customer may not know exists.


Brenton Dano - 2/5/2014 17:31:03

The "master-apprentice" interview model is a more natural way to interview than the "interview-interviewee" model. Since in the MA model the interviewer simply observes the "master" at work, the situations that arise are more representative of the actual day to day work. Small details that the "master" does without thinking about can be noted by the "apprentice" who can then enquire for more info. All the parts of the "master's" work will be covered in the interview because the interview will cover the work from start to finish. The weakness of the "interview-interviewee" model is that it is not natural. In the master's every day work he doesn't get asked questions and has to answer them followed by an awkward silence. He isn't able to obtain "flow" in his work. Instead, his flow is interrupted by the interviewers questions (most of them might not even be the right questions to ask!). In the MA model, the apprentices questions are always relevant and the master will have no trouble explaining what he is up to while he is in a state of flow and rhythm in his craft whatever it may be.

An example of where contextual inquiry would be more beneficial than traditional interview models is if you want to interview an aircraft pilot. Is it really possible to get the details of what it's like to fly a plane just based on questions? As an interviewer where would you start? There are just so many gadgets on the flight deck its sort of hard to figure out what goes on in the pilot's brain by just asking him questions. Furthermore, he might have trouble remembering where everything is because he doesn't have the context of being in the flight cabin that he is so used too. If you really want to get a good interview, you have to be able to fly with him as a co-pilot to get the full experience. This is a perfect situation of when we'd want to use contextual inquiry!


Romi Phadte - 2/5/2014 17:31:47

Both models require asking an interviewee questions to get information about their work. However, they differ in the context of how you ask the questions. The master apprentice model is the situation when you are asking questions while your interviewee is doing the work. For example, if you are interviewing store front owners, it would be while the store front owners are conducting their transactions or doing work. In contrast, the traditional model will require you interviewing the store owners in a secluded environment without proper context. The master apprentice model allows the user to think about and explain their actions as they happen and thus give much more detail vs the summary seen in the other model. This also results in concrete data rather than abstract ones since the interviewee's actions can be analyzed in context to exactly find out what the problem is.

An example given by the article is the advantage of trying to determine how to sort through mails. When asked out of context, one may summarize and won't give as detailed explanations as he would when he is in the process and has a specific mail in his hand that he is considering on trashing or opening.

Another example is for when the user is driving a car. If I tell you how to drive a car, I might say hit the gas pedal and move forward, and move the wheels left or right. However, while in the process of driving such car, I might mention checking your mirrors or lightly tapping the gas pedal when coming to a stop to prevent a jerk.


Aman Sufi - 2/5/2014 17:32:27

The “master-apprentice interview” model and the “interview-interviewee” model both convey methods of gaining knowledge on product use and learning what problems the customer has in using the product. However, their styles of approaching the customer are very different, despite the master-apprentice view typically starting off as a typical interview-interviewee type interview and then transitioning into the more familiar master-apprentice view later.

The interview-interviewee model relies more on interview-based skills such as knowing a list of common questions or discovering; this leads to more or less generic answers as well, and the customer will find it harder to remember the answers to the usage questions posed to them without being in the flow of their work at the time. In contrast, the master-apprentice model attempts to capture the customer in their natural habitat, doing the work that they are used to doing and simply facilitating the interview by noticing where the employee has difficulty or is performing a new, unknown-to-the-designer behavior and supplementing that by asking relevant questions to foster discussion on the subject. The flow of such an interview is much more organic and natural as the customer, even when incapable of explaining their actions and usage upfront, will be able to go through their own customary motions very easily while you observe. Of course, even a master-apprentice interview needs to be carefully guided to make sure it remains in character and does not veer off focus – most of the time, this can be solved by asking questions based on your interview's focus whenever it seems relevant while the customer is performing a task and, if necessary, providing a little help to the customer if they actually do get stuck on one of their tasks.

Contextual inquiry is not necessarily as effective in a job interview setting as it's unlikely that you can actually realistically simulate a job environment for the interviewee, but when asking users for their input and feedback on a product of yours that they have been using, it really shines. For example, you notice that on your website, most people go to the search function to navigate your site rather than using the provided breadcrumbs. In a traditional interview, you may be frustrated with the customer for an explanation of why they don't use the breadcrumbs instead, but they will most likely respond defensively or be unsure of why they weren't using it. It's better to ask in a contextual way as to what difficulties they find when using the search tool to navigate and suggesting to them whether using breadcrumbs might be easier. This will obtain a much more natural response from the customer.


Derrick Mar - 2/5/2014 17:32:50

The differences and similarities between the two are quite numerous from a design perspective, but I will summarize the main points. First the similarities. Both models are utilized to try to get information from the customer. To a designer, this means understanding the customer's behavior and the problems he/she is facing in order to find a solution with design. Both models allow the designer to ask questions to the customer, but the manner of doing so is very different. The biggest difference is context. In an interview model, the customer need not be doing the actual work in the real environment where the problem is occurring. They could be sitting getting coffee for all we care. However, in a contextual inquiry, the designer take an apprenticeship role and both are “working and probing” to identify why the customer does what he does. Another large difference, is the power dynamic between the designer and customer. In the interview model, it is the designer who asks the questions and decides what to talk about next. However, in the apprentice model, the designer builds off what the customer says and does trying to fill in the gaps.

A situation that I find particularly beneficial for using the contextual inquiry is identifying problems that coaches have in practice (e.g. a possible idea is how a mobile application can help a coach improve his ability to coach in practice). Sports is something that is very hard to describe if you are actually not in the current context doing it. If you ask a coach to recall what he does in practice and why he does it, it will be much more abstract and unclear if designer does not follow the master-apprentice model during practice.


Opal Kale - 2/5/2014 18:34:22

The master-apprentice interview model is similar to the interview-interviewee model because both deal with interacting with a user. In the master-apprentice model, one learns by watching multiple users--in the interview model you also talk to multiple users. For both, you need an "ongoing experience." Also, in both models, the users/ interviewees are the expert on design, technology, and job. They are different because in the master-apprentice model, one is not supposed to talk because it prevents generalizations-- it is purely unbiased observation. When you interview someone, you need to direct the conversation from abstract to concrete. A situation where contextual inquiry is more beneficial than the traditional interview model is a surgeon in an operating room.


Maya Rosecrance - 2/5/2014 19:08:41

In a master apprentice model the designer takes a more passive role as he can watch the user work with a system and observe interactions or ask specific questions about difficulties whereas with the interview-interviewee model a much more formal question and answer format takes place and often the user will not be interacting with the system but instead answering short questions about past interactions with it.

An example where contextual inquiry would be more valuable would be something like the IDEO shopping cart project where the team went to supermarkets and observed people using shopping carts. If interviewed traditionally most people wouldn't have much to say about using a cart but once the interviewer is there watching them in person, the little difficulties and the priorities of the shopper become more obvious. For example, do they leave the cart alone or take it everywhere they go, how do children interact with the cart, etc.


Nahush Bhanage - 2/6/2014 4:52:17

In the master/apprentice model, the interviewer assumes the role of an apprentice who is eager to learn about the customer's work. Watching the customer at work makes it a lot easier for the interviewer to learn about the entire process in detail - if interviewed while working, the customer is likely to explain intricacies which he wouldn't have thought of mentioning otherwise. He might think of related experiences that could shed light on useful information. This model helps the interviewer understand the work structure, while it gives the customer food for thought on improving his work methodology. Also, the interviewer can get his understanding and interpretation validated from the customer. Acting like an apprentice keeps the interviewer humble and inquisitive and makes the customer happy as he enjoys the positive attention. This leads to a free flowing conversation which is important for gathering useful data.

In the interviewer/interviewee model, the interviewer is focused on getting specific questions answered by the customer. These questions are framed on the basis of his preconceived notion of the customer's work, which may be different than the reality. Also, the customer would tend to summarize things and answer questions to the point without going into specific details. With this model, the interviewer may never know which part of the customer's work really matters and such an interview may not yield anything useful.

A situation in which contextual inquiry would be more beneficial than the traditional interview models - many customers are confused while using the self-checkout counter at any retail grocery store and they end up queuing up for one of the regular counters. Probably there is a design issue here that needs to be taken care of and watching how the customers actually operate the counter would be beneficial in figuring out what the issue is.


Zhiyuan Xu - 2/6/2014 10:32:08

Different relationship models that interviews can fall into are: master-apprentice, interview-interviewee model.

In the master-apprentice model, the designer takes on the role of the apprentice and the client is the master. Through observation of the client's work, the designer can observe the details to the client's work. This reduces the chances of the client summarizing their work and leaving out important details. Through this model, the designer gains a deeper understanding of how the client performs his or her specialized task, and a thought model of how to approach this task in different situations. In contrast, the interview-interviewee is cited as a terrible approach for designers. In the interview-interviewee model, the designer poses a set of questionnaire-like inquiries to the client, who will answer them in not much detail, before moving on to another question.