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Contextual Design - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780080503042

Contextual Design

1st Edition

Defining Customer-Centered Systems

5.0 star rating 1 Review
Authors: Karen Holtzblatt Hugh Beyer
eBook ISBN: 9780080503042
Imprint: Morgan Kaufmann
Published Date: 8th December 1997
Page Count: 496
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Table of Contents

Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems
by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt

    Chapter 1 Introduction
      The challenges for design
      The challenge of fitting into everyday life
      Creating an optimal match to the work
      Keeping in touch with the customer
      The challenge of design in organizations
      Teamwork in the physical environment
      Managing face-to-face design
      The challenge of design from data
      The complexity of work
      Maintaining a coherent response
      Contextual Design
    Part 1 Understanding the Customer
    Chapter 2 Gathering Customer Data
      Marketing doesn't provide design data
      The rocky partnership between IT and its clients
      Improving communication with the business
      The role of intuition in design
      Contextual Inquiry reveals hidden work structure

    Chapter 3 Principles of Contextual Inquiry
      The master/apprentice model
      The four principles of Contextual Inquiry
      The contextual interview structure

    Chapter 4 Contextual Inquiry in Practice
      Setting project focus
      Designing the inquiry for commercial products
      Designing the inquiry for IT projects
      Designing the interviewing situation
      Deciding who to interview
      Making it work
    Part 2 Seeing Work
    Chapter 5 A Language of Work
      Using language to focus thought
      Graphical languages give a whole picture
      Work models provide a language for seeing work
      Work models reveal the important distinctions

    Chapter 6 Work Models
      The flow model
      Recognizing communication flow
      Creating a bird's-eye view of the organization
      The sequence model
      Collecting sequences during an interview
      The artifact model
      Collecting artifacts during an interview
      Inquiring into an artifact
      The cultural model
      Recognizing the influence of culture
      Making culture tangible
      The physical model
      Seeing the impact of the physical environment
      Showing what matters in the physical environment
      The five faces of work

    Chapter 7 The Interpretation Session
    Building a shared understanding
    The structure of an interpretation session
    Team makeup
    Running the session
    The sharing session
Part 3 Seeing across Customers
Chapter 8 Consolidation
    Creating one representation of a market
    A single representation is a marketing and planning tool
    Facilitate the partnership between IT and customers
    IT can be the voice for coherent business processes
    Representations of work stabilize requirements
    Seeing the whole

Chapter 9 Creating One View of the Customer
    The affinity diagram
    Consolidating flow models
    Consolidating sequence models
    Consolidating artifact models
    Consolidating physical models
    Consolidating cultural models
    The thought process of consolidation

Chapter 10 Communicating to the Organization
    Communication Techniques
    Walking the affinity
    Walking the consolidated models
    Touring the design room
    Tailoring the language to the audience
    Models manage the conversation
Part 4 Innovation from Data
Chapter 11 Work Redesign
    Customer data drives innovation
    Creative design incorporates diversity
    Contextual Design introduces a process for invention
    Work redesign as a distinct design step

Chapter 12 Using Data to Drive Design
    The consolidated flow model
    Role switching
    Role strain
    Role sharing
    Role isolation
    Process fixes
    Target the customer
    The consolidated cultural model
    Interpersonal give-and-take
    Pervasive values
    Public relations
    Process fixes
    The consolidated physical model
    The reality check
    Work structure made real
    Movement and access
    Partial automation
    Process fixes
    Consolidated sequence models
    What the user is up to
    How users approach a task
    Unnecessary steps
    What gets them started
    Process fixes
    Consolidated artifact models
    Why it matters
    What it says
    How it chunks
    What it looks like
    Using metaphors
    Using models for design

Chapter 13 Design from Data
    Walking the data
    Priming the brain
    Creating a vision
    Creating a common direction
    Making the vision real
    Process and organization design
    Marketing plans
    System design
    Redesigning work
Part 5 System Design
Chapter 14 System Design
    Keeping the user's work coherent
    Breaking up the problem breaks up the work
    A system has its own coherence
    The structure of a system
    Designing structure precedes UI design
    The User Environment Design
    Representing the system work model
    The User Environment formalism in the design process

Chapter 15 The User Environment Design
    The reverse User Environment Design
    Building the User Environment from storyboards
    Defining a system with the User Environment Design
    User Environment Design walkthroughs
    Probing User Environment Design structure

Chapter 16 Project Planning and Strategy
    Planning a series of releases
    Partitioning a system for implementation
    Coordinating a product strategy
    Driving concurrent implementation
Part 6 Prototyping
Chapter 17 Prototyping as a Design Tool
    The difficulty of communicating a design
    Including customers in the design process
    Using paper prototypes to drive design
    Prototyping as a communication tool

Chapter 18 From Structure to User Interface
    Using the User Environment Design to drive the UI
    Mapping to a windowing UI
    Mapping to a command-line UI
    Mapping to UI controls
    A process to design the UI

Chapter 19 Iterating with a Prototype
    Building a paper prototype
    Running a prototype interview
    The structure of an interview
    The interview
    The interpretation session
    Completing a design
Chapter 20 Putting It into Practice
    The principles of Contextual Design
    The principle of data
    The principle of the team
    The principle of design thinking
    Breaking up design responsibilities across groups
    Addressing different design problems
    Team structure
    Maintaining a strategic customer focus
    Handling organizational change
    Designing the design process
Readings and Resources


This book introduces a customer-centered approach to business by showing how data gathered from people while they work can drive the definition of a product or process while supporting the needs of teams and their organizations. This is a practical, hands-on guide for anyone trying to design systems that reflect the way customers want to do their work. The authors developed Contextual Design, the method discussed here, through their work with teams struggling to design products and internal systems. In this book, you'll find the underlying principles of the method and how to apply them to different problems, constraints, and organizational situations.

Contextual Design enables you to

  • gather detailed data about how people work and use systems
  • develop a coherent picture of a whole customer population
  • generate systems designs from a knowledge of customer work
  • diagram a set of existing systems, showing their relationships, inconsistencies, redundancies, and omissions


No. of pages:
© Morgan Kaufmann 1997
8th December 1997
Morgan Kaufmann
eBook ISBN:


"If necessity is the mother of invention, then if you don't know what the users need you can't invent. Karen and Hugh present a step-by-step way to uncover, understand, and use those needs. If developers are not already using techniques like those presented here, they should read this book carefully to see what they are missing." —-Dan Bricklin, co-creator of VisiCalc "Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt are widely recognized as the foremost experts on contextual inquiry, and they have packed what they know into a book of both substance and intelligence. It has been a long wait but worth it. The book lucidly shows how to capture the real requirements of customers and how to tailor designs to fit their needs. If you care about your customers and want to create products they as well as want, then you need to understand contextual inquiry and contextual design. You need this book." --Larry Constantine, Principal Consultant, Constantine & Locwood, Ltd.; Professor of Computing Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney (Australia); Author of Constantine on Peopleware and Software for User "For many years, Beyer and Holtzblatt have been pioneers in the field of human-computer interaction, showing how the context of computer use can be (and needs to be) the central focus of analysis and design. This book conveys the understanding and wisdom that they have gained from their experience in contextual design in a form that is accessible to students and design practitioners. It will serve as a guide and handbook for the next generation of interaction designers, and as a result we can expect the usability and appropriateness of computer systems to be greatly improved." --Terry Winograd, Stanford University

Ratings and Reviews

About the Authors

Karen Holtzblatt

Karen Holtzblatt is a co-founder of InContext Enterprises, Inc., a firm that works with companies, coaching teams to design products, product strategies, and information systems from customer data. Karen Holtzblatt developed the Contextual Inquiry field data gathering technique that forms the core of Contextual Design and is now taught and used world-wide.

Affiliations and Expertise

InContext Enterprises, Inc., Concord, MA, USA

Hugh Beyer

Hugh Beyer is a co-founder of InContext Enterprises, Inc., a firm that works with companies, coaching teams to design products, product strategies, and information systems from customer data. Hugh Beyer has pioneered the link between the customer-centered front end and object-oriented design.

Affiliations and Expertise

InContext Enterprises, Inc., Concord, MA, USA