the hci process


research overview

We conducted both domain knowledge and onsite field research in parallel, with each component informing the direction of the other.

36 journals reviewed
13 tools analyzed

domain knowledge

We familiarized ourselves with the current landscape of collaboration through literature review and comparative tool analysis. We leveraged this background research when gathering participant data, synthesizing research findings, and finally developing suggestions for potential solutions.

36 journals reviewed
13 outside tools analyzed

literature review

For our literature review, we reviewed academic papers about knowledge sharing, expert finding, tool configuration, and virtual teams. The goal of was to inform our design choices by developing an understanding of what researchers already know about the topics related to our scope.

Our literature review shows that open work environments can affect work productivity.
It is common to be interrupted during a work day. People tend to work in short bursts.

collaborative tool
landscape analysis

We identified eight major goals in collaborative work and examined the current best-in-class tools for accomplishing each goal. We used our landscape analysis to evaluate how well these tools achieve these goals, what common challenges remain, and what opportunities exist in this space.

27 employee participants

field research

Our field research consisted of various interview and observation techniques with individual employees from a diversity of roles and experiences. We also led a group design session with six employees, during which they participated in several interactive activities.

27 employee participants

guided storytelling

Guided storytelling is a type of semi-structured interview method we employed to gather data based on participants’ recounting of specific stories and experiences. In keeping with our research goals, we focused our questions on collaborative themes and asked participants to tell us stories about working with other people, accomplishing tasks, and challenges they faced.

This is an example of participatory design using business origami.

contextual inquiry

Contextual inquiry is a form of observation that takes place in the context of the participant’s daily workflow. We observed participants work as they normally would and interrupted on occasion to ask clarification questions. These contextual inquiries highlighted collaborative processes employees used, many of which may never have surfaced in a more structured interview.

business origami

Business Origami is a method we employed to physically model a complex system and how people and things flow between areas as a result of various actions. Participants and researchers both gained insight into how a system is structured by seeing it represented in this new visual way.

Asking participants to express their emotions is not only cathartic, but also allow us to understand what is important to them.

i like / i wish

The I Like, I Wish method is a way to quickly generate a large amount of data on how a group of people feels towards a certain product or design. We asked participants to write down on Post-It notes as many statements as they could that began with “I like...” or “I wish....” The group then worked together with our team to facilitate a conversation about the trends that emerged.

love / breakup letter

Our team asked participants to write a love letter or a breakup letter to a particular product, describing their feelings towards it. We used this method to move away from concrete facts of how people interacted with their products, and tried to uncover the human side of using a product.

relationship mapping

We asked participants to map out their office relationships in order to identify the networks that exist between teams and employees at Bloomberg. On a sheet of paper, they drew themselves in the middle, and then connected themselves to various other groups within their workplace.



After completing our on-site field research, we synthesized and analyzed our data through a variety of methods. From this consolidation, we came up with overall findings and identified a number of design opportunities.

Jiaye thinks about the emerging patterns from the affinity notes.


From our contextual inquiry data, we modeled overall interactions as well as isolated instances of collaborative activity in flow and sequence models. Flow models visually presented a high-level picture of how Bloomberg employees interacted with other people, their tools, and their environments. Sequence models listed actions step-by-step as they occurred from the perspective of the participant. These models allowed us to actually see where and how breakdowns occurred for the participants we observed.

affinity diagramming

Affinity diagramming is an organizational method we used to group captured data notes into a hierarchy of key points. We parsed over 750 of these notes from our various research activities and arranged them into similar categories that capture actions, thoughts, or feelings from the perspective of our study participants.


Based on our findings and insights, we generated over 100 different visions, or high-level conceptual design solutions. We narrowed down these visions through a process of iterative creative brainstorming and evaluation. Finally, we illustrated our top seven ideas into a series of scenarios in order to explore different functionality, features, and potential use cases.

Lowell and Anna discuss the major findings that emerged from modelling and affinity diagramming.