Participant observation is an ethnographic method which consists of observing user environment from the user perspective. It’s a natural starting point for a user-centred design process. Initial observation of a Home Hardware superstore indicated that the advantage of the superstores is also its weakness; the size of the store make product location difficult and physically demanding exercise especially for those customers with trolleys laden with others products. Product use or compatibility is not easy to understand for the inexperienced DIY customer, uninitiated in the jargon on the product packages. More shop floor staff would easily remedy the situation but they are few and far between and overworked. The check-out lines are and time consuming either because they are long or some customers buy products in bulk that require measuring different lengths, sizes and weights.
After observations, the researcher decided to conduct an ethnographic study of stratified but randomly selected customers of the Home Hardware superstore. The research instrument selected was the questionnaire which combined quantitative and qualitative methods of research i.e. closed ended and open- ended questions. The two methods complement each other (Neuman, 1997), in that it improves the objectivity of the findings and improves the analysis.
The initial participant observations established that they are three parameters necessary in designing user-centred solutions to the problems observed. There are three questionnaires each is divided into two parts; scaled closed-ended questions and opened-ended questions.
The first questionnaire was to investigate the in-store experience of customers before and during check out. The objective was to elicit perceptions on how store size affects ease of navigation, speed of product location, and advisability of the product. Focus was on floor