Innovating with Rapid Contextual Design - a field report

In order to share our experiences with the Rapid Contextual Design process with you, we (Anja and Josef) decided to do a short interview and summarize it in this article.

Both of us have already dealt with conducting the interviews with the users, their habits and requirements and collected these in individual interpretation sessions and catalogued them in so-called affinitynotes. Josef then prepared and conducted the affinity diagramming and visioning sessions for the role of moderator and Anja participated in these as part of the team.

Can you briefly explain what was particularly important in the preparation? How elaborate do you think the necessary preparations were?

Josef: The preparation is very time-consuming, especially if you are only doing the process for the second time, as I was. The most important thing is to create very precise briefings that have to take place before each team process step. Each process step requires a certain mindset to which the team must be prepared. Often several steps follow each other in a session. This means that you should have the entire briefing in your head.

What was particularly challenging for you?

Josef: A special challenge was to maintain and motivate the concentration and mood of the team positively in longer sessions, such as Affinitiy Diagramming or Visioning. But also the required culture of being creative - in the sense of dealing loosely with inaccuracies or mistakes must be invoked again and again so that the process does not come to a standstill.

What positive experiences have you had during the implementation?

Josef: The best thing I found was that they all worked together as a team. That made the whole process very lively and exciting. The team was excited about what came next and what the result would be. It was also great to see that the entire process is actually "foolproof". You can hardly do anything wrong, because inaccuracies were ironed out in a subsequent process step. That way you don't get stuck on details all the time.
And you simply get a feeling for what is really important for the user. By permanently restructuring, evaluating and selecting during the procedure, the core topics crystallize automatically without the need for a formal, criteria-based evaluation. The spontaneous gut feeling of each individual plays an important role. Thanks to the cooperation of many, the results nevertheless achieve a certain objectivity.
Maxi and Felix in structuring the user requirements

Anja: Since the process steps can be carried out again and again by other participants, the process can be easily integrated into the everyday life of an agency. In addition, we can involve clients and/or other disciplines in almost every step of the process that will later be involved in product development. This not only broadens the range of solutions, but also creates a high level of attention for the topic of user experience at all levels and puts the user and his or her requirements even more in the center of attention.

Where do you see the special advantage of the method?

Josef: By structuring and gradually abstracting the individual statements of the various users in affinity diagrams, a clear picture is created of where the major problems lie at the core. On this basis, really new, comprehensive approaches to solutions can be developed.
Anja: Yes, and that means that not just a collection of features is generated here, but a marketable product is created. Aspects such as marketing strategy and integration of the product into the users' living environment are always taken into account.
Result section Affinity Diagram

Are there also disadvantages?

Josef: The process is adaptable in its scope, in that individual steps can be left out. However, even in its minimal configuration it remains quite complex. To reach a result, it must be carried out to the end, partial steps often serve for better understanding, but no solutions can be derived from it.
Anja: But to get to know and understand the requirements of a product from the user's point of view, you can go a long way with the interviews and the affinity diagrams.

For which projects/topics would you use the process in the future?

Josef: In my opinion, the method is suitable for tasks where real innovation is expected (as opposed to evolutionary improvements) and where the users' working practices are not yet clearly tangible. This means, for example, that consumer scenarios, such as in our case "Life in the Smart Home", are just too predestined, because the results of the Rapid Contextual Design process are true-to-life use cases that would have been inconceivable without a new product idea.

Anja Stork

UX Consultant


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