My First User Research Experience

During my time at Samsung Electronics, I had the privilege of conducting user research worldwide. But I've never forgot my first research business trip to Casablanca, Morocco. I conducted field group interviews with local users and researched telecommunication vendors for 6 days during the February of 2013.

For some unknown reason, I had the assumption that a flight from Seoul to Paris was only six hours. Eighteen hours later, a backache, and a four-hour layover at Charles de Gaulle, I finally arrived at Mohamed V airport in Casablanca.

The corporate Samsung branch in Morocco sent a driver to take us to the Kenzi Tower Hotel at 9:30pm. The soundtrack in the driver’s van was the perfect exotic backdrop to the drive into town. Moreover, it eased my nerves watching jaywalkers pop out of the sidewalks like zombies of the night. Civilians disregarded traffic regulations and crossed aimlessly into the streets. It didn’t take me long to realized that Moroccans don’t signal while they drive instead, they feel the “rhythm of the streets” and move through the traffic. I watched with nail-biting anxiety as cars zipped pass small children trying to sell napkins and old women in wheelchairs. 

I visited the black market with my team the next afternoon. We were warned to leave any valuable belongings back at the office or in the truck of the car. We talked to the local vendors about various mobile devices ranging from feature phones to smart phones. . We were told the products were “new” and unused. Immediately I took an active stance and started to interview the shop owners in English, provided my translator’s invaluable assistance. We then continue to local malls, to find sales operators for larger telecommunication companies such as Medital, and Maroc Tel.

Other than learning how to conduct my first field group interview, I fell in love with Moroccan culture and historic architecture. The rich traditions, food, and social gatherings were all vital to understanding the application of mobile technology. Technology is always about people. The business trip left me feeling uncertain about the future of mobile technology. What is mobile technology for? What happens when a country’s IT infrastructure is premature and cannot support service solutions like the “cloud”? What are the bare necessities that people need or desire to have in their mobile phones?