Creating a Cultural Fit by Peter Morville
Perhaps best known for his book, Ambient Findability, author and UX thought leader Peter Morville brings the human to human factors. In this excerpt from his book, Intertwingled, Morville writes, “Being exposed to diverse ways of knowing and doing is one of the best parts of my work. But my interest runs deeper than cultural tourism. Over the years, I’ve realized that understanding culture is central to what I do.”
First Morville strives to understand the user’s culture. When running a usability test, for example, evaluating the UI is only half of the job. The other half is uncovering the user’s beliefs, values, and behavior. Understanding the user’s behavior is not a new idea. What distinguishes Morville’s work is his effort to probe in order to understand the user’s worldview, sources they trust, and why they behave in certain ways.
Second, Morville aims to understand his client’s culture. This understanding includes but also extends beyond stakeholder interviews. Morville explains the importance of reading between the lines to avoid mistaking surface for substance. Think about it this way. As UX researchers, we don’t simply take users at their word; we examine their performance and behavior. I take Morville to mean that we should do precisely the same with stakeholders.
“In short, the right design is one that fits the company and its customers. A mismatch on either side results in fatal error. We must use ethnography with our users and stakeholders to search for a bi-cultural fit.”
In other words, as UX researchers we must investigate our client’s culture as well as user’s needs and culture.