Artifact Analysis is the study of how people use and conceptualize objects. It is an examination of the object's qualities to better understand its users and the culture in which it typically exists.

Artifact Analysis is Day 4 of 100 Days of UX, an exploratory effort to survey the 100 methods of design outlined in Martin and Hannington's Universal Methods of Design. For 100 consecutive days, I learn one new method a day and write about it.

The components of an artifact analysis are the:

  • Material analysis which queries physical characteristic such as material composition, durability, wear patterns, disposability, etc, and asks questions like: What material is this made of? How was this constructed? and How easy would it be to repair this?
  • Aesthetic analysis which includes a subjective visual assessment as well as questions about historical references and emotional meaning. Questions like: How valuable is this? Could this be currently trendy? Could this ever have been trendy? are appropriate here.
  • An interactive analysis which addresses the object's affordances and operational use: Is/was the object ever functional, instrumental, shared, individual, and so on. Questions like: Could this object be customized by its owner? What else could this object be used for? and so on.

As we can see, artifact analysis involves asking a lot of how, why, and what questions. Some of these are available in this Artifact Questionnaire by Noah Litvin of Design Led Research Toolkit. Other less involved questionnaires are available depending on the researcher's needs.

Some advantages of artifact analysis are that it does not require human participants, can yield unexpected insights, and it may be used to study people/cultures across both time and space.

Some disadvantages are that ones findings are not always as easy or feasible to confirm, one is limited to available artifacts, and one runs the distinct risk of applying their cultural biases.

  1. Martin, B., & Hanington, B. (2012). Universal Methods of Design: 100 ways to research complex problems, develop innovative ideas & Design effective solutions. Rockport
  2. Litvin, N. (n.d.). Artifact Analysis - Design Led Research Toolkit. Retrieved June 06, 2017
  3. Foraker Labs (n.d.). Glossary - Artifact Analysis. Retrieved June 06, 2017

Day 3 - Affinity Diagramming 100 Methods Day 5 - Automated Remote Research