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August 2007 Contents

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UPA 2007


Chinese Home Site Visits: Tips and Hints

By Josephine Wong

Josephine Wong is the co-founder of Apogee Usability Asia Ltd. and has been in Project Management for more than 8 years. In the past 6 years, Josephine has been practicing usability and promoting customer-centered design in both HK and China. .

You may only get one opportunity in a home visit and good planning and preparation is important. Here are some tips and hints from recent home site visits in both China and Taiwan.

Local support

Work with a local researcher who speaks the language. Make sure there is someone managing participants, confirming times and briefing participants on what to expect.


When scheduling participants, consider the home location and try to schedule participants on the same day who live closer together or in similar districts.

Number of researchers

Most people in China or Taiwan live in smaller homes (apartments, flats, rooms) so do not have more than 3 researchers in total or it will be too cramped and overwhelming for the participant. Pre-arrange a “code” to communicate to other researchers if the home is too small - This way one of the researchers can leave.

Local Transportation

Major cities in China are very big and like most big cities can suffer from transportation problems, traffic congestion and difficulties organizing taxis. Street address formats and systems can be hard to follow and taxi drivers may not know how to get to homes you are visiting. Hire a car with a driver if possible. Make sure the driver knows the addresses you are visiting and more importantly knows how to get to the location in advance.

Arriving at homes

Unless the participant shakes hand with you there is no need to do it. A ‘small bow’ and ‘hello’ is adequate and always take your shoes off unless the participants say there is no need. Even if the participant is pre-warned that the session will be videoed, it helps to reassure the participant that you are videoing as part of the research. Ask which power plugs you can use and take your own extension cord.


Apart from the standard incentive and to show appreciation, give the participant a special gift for example a CD or book. Participants in China particularly like gifts that are not available in their country.

Number of visits per day

This depends on the size of the city you are visiting and the amount of time you need for debriefing. Suggest one session in the morning and one session in the afternoon or night. Make sure you schedule lunch and dinner time for the researchers, as researchers with low energy (especially in warmer or humid climates) can impact performance.

Taking Photos

It’s important to take photos as they are useful for analysis. Switch off the camera flash when taking photos during the session and practice using the camera in different lights. Make sure you know how to adjust the camera for low light and screen shots.

All part of the fun

You can get very interesting data for home visits as you get to see how people are using your and competitor products in their own environments. Some of the things you observe may be unexpected but its all part of the fun!

This article was published with the permission of Apogee Usability Asia Ltd. It was originally published in November 2005 at http://www.apogeehk.com/articles/tips_for_chinese_home_visits.html.

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