Ethnographic Study

The best way to understand users is to meet them in their native environment and observe how they behave and interact. The goal for a good designer should be to capture qualitative data about the users at the site. When you understand the users' culture and pair that with the essential user task, you end up with a deeper understanding of how they inhabit their work.

A good ethnographic study will have the following characteristics:

The final product should be a narrative report that includes observations, interviews, photos/videos and artifacts - all organized in a way reveals the qualitative nature of the site and users.

Wikipedia provides a good starting point for ideas about how and why to conduct an ethnographic study: Ethnographic Study Features

An excerpt of that article includes the follow guidelines: