Hardware, Software & the Internet of Things
June 23–25, 2015 • San Francisco, CA

User research for the Internet of Things

Kate Benson (af83), Aurélia Lacombe (af83)
2:55pm–3:35pm Wednesday, 06/24/2015
Location: Cowell Theater (Herbst Pavilion)
Average rating: **...
(2.31, 13 ratings)
Slides:   1-PDF 

Prerequisite Knowledge

Our topic is geared toward user experience designers with little or some experience in conducting user research.


How to conduct research regarding the integration of connected products in our users’ daily lives? From learning to use these sets of objects dispersed in the home environment, to assimilating them into a daily routine, and to their disuse, the adoption of the Internet of Things is characterized by a multitude of contact points of which users are often ignorant.

What is the best way to organize a study over a period of time? Our method was to “follow” users over a one-week period, by means of a diary in which they made entries every morning and evening, and by photos they took of their environment.

What difficulties did we encounter?

  • Recruiting well: Seeking candid and verbally expressive people
  • Designing a diary: Mixing qualitative with quantitative
  • Coaching your users in order to obtain what you need: Reminders, instructions, structuring the diary
  • Encouraging your users to reveal their inner self: The “Show and Tell” method

Despite diaries full of observations, how to fill in the gaps of missing information? How to deal with a large quantity of raw material? We collaborated with an anthropologist in order to:

  • Understand behaviors: Opting for “How” instead of the “Five Whys” during interviews with users
  • Segment users into personas: Evaluating behaviors and attitudes
  • Establish hypotheses and working assumptions
Photo of Kate Benson

Kate Benson


Bilingual English-French, born American naturalized French, fine arts background with specialization in art history from the Sorbonne and Columbia University, Kate Benson organized contemporary art exhibitions before changing careers to design multi-device and connected product user experiences.

Photo of Aurélia Lacombe

Aurélia Lacombe


Aurélia obtained her master’s in design at ENSCI les Ateliers, Paris. As a UX designer, she has worked for Air France and SEB, and has carried out research and development projects with CNAM and EDF (major electricity company in France) to conceive an interactive pedagogical system.