When at all possible it’s most informative to actually go to where a real, live user performs the task you are researching. When you are actually in the space where the tasks is done and can follow the user around, you learn so much about the many factors that make users do what they do.
I’ve done lots of field research. On one project, I was asked to visit local stores who used a client’s Ipad-based Point of Sale system to find out how they handled inventory. Did they just know when to order more inventory or did they have systems in place to alert them when they needed more inventory or if something wasn’t selling well?
For these visits, I showed up unexpected, and observed how the workers used the system and how the stores functioned and how they were set up.
After observing, I waited for a quiet moment to ask some questions (which I prepared beforehand).
Here are two reports from these site visits.
The Winey Wench – A fun, small chain of wine stores/art class/wine & art parties!
Cellaris – A chain of mall kiosks that sells cell phone accessories.
Note that although the two stores used the same Point of Sale system, they did so in drastically different environments.
Here is a UX Orlando presentation I did on site visits.