Know Thy Users by Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis


User experience
interaction design
user-centred design
interpretative phenomenological analysis
user research methods


One approach to getting to know a user and understanding the user experience (UX) is phenomenology. Currently, there is a lack of clearly defined methods for phenomenological analysis of user experience in design projects. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) is an approach developed in psychology, and in this article, it is adapted to the case of a pro bono design project at a UX design agency supporting a disadvantaged group of people, newly arrived immigrants to Sweden. The design project involved research on how the immigrants experienced a service that introduced them to the job market. The adapted method, UX IPA, contributed to the pro bono project with a focus on both experience and meaning, which is important in design projects that relate to major events in users’ lives. The method was considered less appropriate in UX projects for specific products with highly instrumental use. The method can, in many cases, be too costly. However, costs can possibly be reduced by top-down approaches. In commercial UX projects, the method may be appropriate for the fuzzy front-end of design and innovation, but clients may be unimpressed by the small sample size. This can potentially be alleviated by mixed-methods approaches.