Anthropology and UX

Anthropology in Industry took a look at UX, an career path that is increasingly popular for Anthropologists.

Guest speakers Casey Scott-Songin and Lucy Hughes discussed their experiences of working in UX from the perspective of both a User Researcher and a UX Designer respectively. Both Casey and Lucy offered some great practical advice for being an effective User Researcher.

Casey discussed what she has learned in her role as a UX researcher at the British Museum and the challenges of making the research useful for design teams.

Key points from Casey’s talk:

  • Anthropology helps you be more conscious of cultural differences when doing your research.
  • Get involved in projects early to have a real impact on them.
  • Spend time with stakeholders to get a thorough understanding of the project in the early stages in order to design an effective research plan.
  • A clear user research brief helps to create actionable outcomes.
  • Take a flexible approach to your research which allows you to iterate as a project progresses.
  • Involve designers in the research first hand to help elicit effective UX research learnings.
  • Observing users interact with a product in the wild helps provide a greater understanding of contextual user behaviour than experimental or design settings.
  • Prioritise who to focus the design efforts for. It’s not possible to design for every person all of the time and you will need to manage the conflict that sometimes arises between organisational goals and user goals.
  • Data science can help define user segments effectively for further qual & quant UX research.


Lucy  gave some practical advice from her experience working with user researchers as a UX designer including her time at and now Google.

Key points from Lucy’s talk:

  • Know your user – understanding the people who will use your research findings is important for delivering the right insights in the right way at the right time. Create different deliverables for different audiences.
  • Plan your research. Create a research brief template outlining hypotheses, assumptions, questions, key decisions you need to make and logistics. Lucy recommended checking out User research checklist by James Chudley at CX Partners.
  • Try to get as close as possible to the product. The better you understand the design decisions and constraints, the more relevant and useful your insights will be.
  • Encourage your stakeholders to observe research and testing sessions in real time:
    • Send calendar invites to as many people as may have an interest
    • Book space for observers, with food and conversation
    • Keep introductions brief
    • Make sure observations and notes are shared among the team
  • Keep the science brief when writing up. State what you observed, the context and why things happened. Include caveats, but keep details for the appendices if necessary.
  • Track the effects of your research. Find a way to measure it against your project’s/company’s goals and KPIs. Negative user research does not always mean a product will perform badly.
  • Test using both qual and quant methods to enrich your data and verify your findings. Where possible work with a data scientist to co-plan your research and analysis.


The event was hosted by Ostmodern.


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