Digital ethnography, or naming miracle

About project

The product owner (PO) had an idea to make the new product for accountants. To get approval from high management, she had to provide the scope of accountants' problems, which this new product could solve. So she asked me to make several interviews with some accountants, to get this scope. She didn’t have a team for this product, so I worked as a one-man team.

The first and main objective was to understand typical accountant problems. But, there was a problem with time - we had only 1 week to provide the results. The second problem lied in the budget field - we didn’t have any money to recruit respondents.

My work

Usually, you either don’t have time to recruit or don’t have money to hire a recruitment agency. Lack of both brings up the need for some creative solution. I found the solution by choosing a different way to get the needed information. The objective was just to get the initial information. In this case, you can get by without interviews.

Crawling some accountant’s forums and groups on Facebook, I parsed 400 posts, containing questions or issues. Then I tagged each post and found several dozens of problematic themes.

I solved the problem, but there happened to be one more obstacle. PO needed to present it as a research result, and management had some mistrust in the desktop research. So we needed to present the research design from the best side.

And here come some naming trick. I wrote about how parsing posts count as a “digital-powered non-participant ethnographic observation”, or just Digital Ethnography.


The presentation was successful, high-management was glad. PO got approval, some ideas for the product, and resources to make a more thorough research. After that case, our research team adopted this approach.


On the one hand, it was not a great case for serious research. On the other, I solved the time and money dilemma. The research brought the needed information and got accepted by high-management. The second option for this project was to make several expert interviews with accountants in our company. But it was riskier - I could screw up and waste all my time in search of respondents. So I still think it was the best way to get results fast.

Rozum Sergey
Rozum Sergey
UX-researcher and strategist