Notice – Shadowing


Shadowing involves researchers immersing themselves in the lives of customers, front-line staff, or people behind the scenes in order to observe their behaviour and experiences. 

Why is it used?

Shadowing allows researchers to spot the moments at which problems occur. By observing such moments at first-hand, they can document problems, which the staff or customers involved may not even recognise as such. Spending time within the service environment is often the only way to develop a truly holistic view of how the service is operating’ as it provides an intimate understanding of the real-time interactions that take place between the various groups and touch points involved’. Shadowing is also a useful technique for identifying those moments where people may say one thing, and yet do another. 

When is it helpful? 

Advantages of Shadowing

1. Real-time data collection
Shadowing is a very effective and real-time data collection method in research.

2. Rich behavioural insight
As the researcher observes user behaviour firsthand or experiences it, it leads to rich and meaningful insights, which would have otherwise gone undiscovered

3. User-centred
A greater stress is laid on the user than the product or service

4. Greater Empathy
Can create a greater empathy for the user in the researcher.

Disadvantages of Shadowing

1. Time-consuming
As individual participants perform or simulate a trail, the time taken for shadowing is high per user.

2. Complex Analysis
As all users may have their own way of performing an action, the data collection, organisation and specifically analysis is more complex than other methods.

How is it applied?

Though the researcher will often try and remain as unobtrusive as possible, they may still employ a range of different methods to document their findings. Text, video, and photographs can all be used here, though a key consideration is always how to manage the “”observer effect”” – the influence the researcher may be exerting on the behaviour they’re observing simply by being present.

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