Contextual inquiry is a semi-structured interview method to obtain information about the context of use, where users are first asked a set of standard questions and then observed and questioned while they work in their own environments.
Because users are interviewed in their own environments, the analysis data is more realistic than laboratory data. Contextual inquiry is based on a set of principles that allow it to be molded to different situations. This technique is generally used at the beginning of the design process and is good for getting rich information about work practices, the social, technical, and physical environments, and user tools.
The four principles of contextual inquiry are:
The results of contextual inquiry can be used to define requirements, improve a process, learn what is important to users and customers, and just learn more about a new domain to inform future projects.