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Artifact Analysis

Artifact Analysis is a field test in which a researcher studies the tools people use to solve problems, particularly items that they’ve made or repurposed themselves. This helps the researcher better understand users’ problem solving needs, and can help with ideation and prioritization of brainstormed ideas. An example of an artifact is a post-it note with the steps to perform a task stuck to a user’s monitor.


Schedule Time

Time Needed: 3-4 Hours

Gather Materials

  • A notebook & pen for each researcher

  • At least one video or still camera


  1. Determine your user base and select the sites to observe.

  2. To reduce bias, recruit a group of researchers to observe the same users and artifacts.

  3. Observe users’ self-created tools and job aids, and items used in ways that they were not expressly designed for. These may be applications, desk supplies, folders, custom-created forms, rubber bands, post-it notes, etc.

  4. With any makeshift tools or systems, ask how they are made. Ask about any problems this item solves, and what is doesn’t solve.

  5. With any repurposed items, ask how this new purpose came about. This will reveal any otherwise unaddressed problems, as well as the processes within which your user must work.

  6. Ask users if they are aware of any existing tools which would solve the problem that resulted in the use of these artifacts. If they are, ask why such tools have not been purchased. It could be the cost, no tool available from a trusted brand, tools don’t meet the need, or the user may not have input regarding office purchases.

  7. After the observation session is complete, collect the results from your team of researchers and look for commonalities.


Try these tips

  • Using video may help you get more precise quotes about artifacts. It may also illustrate the use of an artifact if it has any moving components.

  • This method can also be used as a Brainstorming method if a product concept has not been finalized yet.

Explore more resources

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