Shadowing is a UX research method that involves a researcher accompanying a subject in their natural environment to conduct non-participatory observation of their activities and behavior without interfering.


Shadowing is a research method where researchers closely observe individuals as they go about their daily activities, work, or interactions. By following participants and witnessing their experiences firsthand, Shadowing provides in-depth insights into behaviors, contexts, and implicit needs. It's used in ethnography, user research, and organizational studies, where immersive observation uncovers nuanced understanding and empathy, guiding authentic and user-centered design.

Suitable for

  • In-depth mapping of activities, relationships, emotions, environment, and context.
  • Mediating the experience of a service from the user's perspective.
  • Situations and environments where the researcher does not disrupt normal operations with their presence.


Research Plan

A detailed document outlining the objectives, methodology, participant recruitment strategy, and timeline for the shadowing study.

Participant Consent Forms

Signed documents from all participants, acknowledging their understanding of the study and granting permission for researchers to observe and document their interactions with the product or service.

Observation Notes

Raw data consisting of the documented observations, thoughts, and insights gathered during the shadowing sessions with each participant.

Time-stamped Video Recordings

Video recordings of the entire shadowing sessions, capturing participants' interactions, non-verbal cues, and verbal feedback in context with timestamps to mark important moments and comments.

Contextual Inquiries

A set of documented in-depth, open-ended questions that researchers ask participants throughout or after the shadowing session to better understand their tasks, motivations, pain points, and successes.

Affinity Diagrams

Visual representation of key findings and insights, organized into related themes and groups, to help in discovering patterns and understanding the underlying conditions affecting users' behaviors and experiences.

User Journeys Map

A visual representation of users' interactions with the product or service, highlighting their goals, actions, emotions, and pain points at different stages of their experiences.

Usability Issues and Recommendations

A compiled list of identified usability problems, ranked by severity, and accompanied by evidence-based design recommendations to address these issues.

Shadowing Report

A comprehensive account of the study's objectives, methods, findings, and recommendations, including context from observation notes, video recordings, and other relevant data sources.

Presentation of Findings

A concise, visually compelling presentation summarizing the research insights and key recommendations, tailored to the audience of stakeholders, designers, or product teams.



Define Research Objectives

Identify the goals you want to achieve through shadowing. What specific information do you need to gather and which aspects of user experience are you trying to understand?


Identify Participants

Determine the target users who will be a part of the shadowing process. Participants should represent your user base and perform tasks relevant to your research objectives.


Plan and Design Shadowing Session

Develop a detailed plan for the shadowing session, including the location, setting, and context for the observation. Decide on the tasks users will be performing and the equipment needed (note-taking tools, recording devices, etc.).


Establish Trust with Participants

Contact participants and explain the purpose and process of shadowing. Make sure they are comfortable being observed and understand that their actions are the focus, not their performance. Obtain informed consent for documenting and using their data.


Conduct the Shadowing Session

Follow the users while they perform their tasks in their environment. Observe and document their actions, behaviors, and interactions with the product or service. Refrain from intervening or influencing their behavior. Record the session if possible, while keeping the participants' privacy in mind.


Debrief Participants

At the end of the shadowing session, discuss the experience with the participants. Ask them to share any feedback or insights, and address any questions or concerns they may have.


Analyze and Synthesize Data

Sort, organize, and analyze the data gathered during the shadowing session. Look for patterns, themes, and insights related to your research objectives. Synthesize your findings into a cohesive understanding of user behavior and experience.


Report Findings

Present the results of the shadowing session to stakeholders and team members. Highlight key insights, suggest improvements, and discuss any follow-up studies or actions. Ensure the findings are actionable and relevant to your project or product development.

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