Defining ‘Smart’: Using Video to Explore Smartphone Usage

Do people in different countries have different ideas as to what a smartphone can do for them? In the latest of a series of projects conducted for a major telecoms company, STBY have just finished an in-depth international study that used video to explore what role smartphones have in peoples everyday lives. We constructed a series of design documentaries that provide vivid insights into the various things people do – or at least try to do – using their phones.

Conducted as a series of discrete studies within particular time-constraints, this project was an excellent example of how an agile approach can deliver results both quickly and consistently. Our long-standing relationship with this company allowed us to get the project up and running within a very short lead-in period. We first designed an initial structure, that was then prototyped and refined in the field through various iterations of the approach in multiple locations.

We first conducted a pilot phase and initial study in the UK. The fieldwork consisted of a series of in-depth of ethnographic immersions with a diverse range of smartphone users. Through the use of video we captured many ‘live’ situations of smartphones usage in the lives of our participants, while they reflected on their experiences, preferences, frustrations and motivations. After presenting the initial insights gathered in a workshop with client stakeholders, these were subsequently refined into a series of edited design documentaries that could be used to inform and inspire future development with a wider group of stakeholders in the organisation.

The approach developed was well received, and the client team subsequently asked us to conduct a second, international phase of the research. Together with our Reach partners in China and India we then conducted additional fieldwork in India and China. Again ‘live’ situations of smartphone usage were captured on video, and edited into a series of short films to inform and inspire design and strategy teams. In the final stage of the project we facilitated an international two-day workshop with a wide range of stakeholders in the organisation. We used the edited films and the insights from the research to further elaborate on strategic opportunities and to co-create initial ideas for service innovation.

This project was testament to the benefits of both agile working, and long-term collaborations. Our agile approach allowed us to quickly design a project that could still deliver a consistently high-level of insights, whilst our long-term partnership with this company meant we could work directly with key stakeholders to ensure the project was intimately (and efficiently) tailored around the needs of their design teams.