User Shadowing

Published on February 15, 2019 by

Themes: , , , , ,


To gather information about real users’ needs. To understand how people interact with the world around them.


Observation of a user during his service experience.


One Hour


Notebook, pen, video or digital camera, dictaphone


Individually, In Small Groups

Image courtesy of Service Design Tools, click here to visit site


The user is asked to think out loud while performing a given set of tasks, so that the evaluators can listen to and record his thoughts. If this kind of evaluation takes place with two users interacting with the system simultaneously, the observers would gain a more natural thought narrative and process and therefore potentially more effective results. Arrange to observe users while they use a service. Shadow the person as they use a service, observing their experience. During the observations try to answer the following questions: “What are the users doing and why?; What objects do they use or people do they interact with?; What space(s) does the service take place in?; What information is available to people?; What did they not like doing?; What else did you notice?; What needs/wishes do you think this person has?”


  • DO try to be unobtrusive while you record as much detail as possible (for example, if they are pressing the wrong button or are making shortcuts because something is difficult to use).
  • DO try taking photos, video or audio recordings, If the user doesn’t mind (ask first).


Constructive Interaction, Service Design Tools, access at

Methods – Observation & Shadowing, Designing with People. Org, access at

Eating, Design and Dementia: Improving Dining in Care Homes, Timlin, G. Royal, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, access at

Shadowing, Gimmy, G., Sennse, access at

User Shadowing, Keeping Connected Design Challenge, access at

Benedikte S. Als, Janne J. Jensen, Mikael B. Skov, (2005) Comparison of Think-aloud and Constructive Interaction in Usability Testing with Children, in Proceedings IDC 2005, Boulder, Colorado, USA

MJ Van den Haak, PJ Schellens, (2004) Employing think-aloud protocols and constructive interaction to test the usability of online library catalogues: a methodological comparison, in: Interacting with Computers, Vol. 16, No. 6.

McDonald, S. (2005), Studying actions in context: a qualitative shadowing method for organizational research, in: Qualitative Research, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 455-473

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