Prep Time:
Time to run:
1-3 hours

Contextual inquiry template

An approach to interviewing and observing people in their own environment

Courtesy of our friends at

Contextual inquiry is a method of observation that involves studying people in their real-world environment and inquiring about their experiences.

Use this template to better understand not only what users say but also what actions they take in order to get a comprehensive and accurate understanding of the situation.

A contextual inquiry is a powerful tool for UX design research: A successful contextual inquiry requires a combination of active listening, thoughtful questioning, and careful observation to gain meaningful insights that can be applied to the design challenge.

The contextual inquiry template helps you:

  • Gain a better understanding of user motivation and reasoning
  • Understand the actions that users take
  • Analyze the differences between stated needs and desires versus behavior
  • Gather meaningful insights from user feedback and actions and apply them to your solutions

How to use the contextual inquiry template

The Mural contextual inquiry template offers a framework to define goals, interview users, and observe behavior in order to get an accurate overview of user experience in a given situation or scenario.

1. Define what you want to learn

The first step is to clearly define the problem you’re trying to solve, as well as outline what it is you’re trying to learn.

2. Think through the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘where’

The next step is to complete your pre-work. Use the ‘plan and prepare’ section of the template to think through each aspect of the investigation (who, where, what, etc.).

3. Brainstorm questions to ask with your team

Once you’ve established the context, it’s time to brainstorm what questions you’ll want to ask the users participating in your inquiry. Gather your team and have them place their suggestions into the template using sticky notes — one question per sticky note helps keep things organized and prevent any repetitive suggestions.

4. Set expectations for participants

Use the ‘Talking Points’ section of the template to help guide you through setting expectations for the participants in your inquiry. Think of this as a preamble and outline for your session.

5. Define roles and responsibilities for your inquiry

Once you have all the above pieces in place, it’s time to delegate responsibility to team members who’ll conduct their interviews with participants. You’ll need to assign a primary interviewer, a and note-taker for each interview session.

6. Conduct your interview sessions

Have your team conduct interviews and gather any and all observations from participants. To collect feedback, encourage them to use any form of media that suits — you can add images, GIFs, links, videos, drawings, and (of course) sticky notes to your observations in Mural.

7. Analyze your feedback

After each interview, discuss and analyze the feedback you’ve collected. You can use tools like find & filter to group elements together, and organize the content into themes using tags for sticky notes, or color coding.

Tips for running a contextual inquiry template workshop

To get the most out of the Mural contextual inquiry template, you should:

  • Make sure everyone on your team has time to understand the context and contribute by assigning pre-work or gathering feedback asynchronously
  • Use tools like private mode and anonymous voting to avoid groupthink and democratically determine the most important feedback or next steps
  • Use the themes that emerge from your inquiry to better define actionable next steps as you collaboratively build solutions

How to create a Contextual inquiry template

Mural's collaborative tools help turn research into action

Define goals, brainstorm questions, gather feedback and context, and create action items together in a shared, digital space
Asynchronous collaboration

Asynchronous collaboration

Innovate and collaborate effectively together without booking time on calendars.

Sticky notes & text

Sticky notes & text

Add ideas, action items, and more as a sticky note or text box — then change the colors and cluster to identify patterns and new solutions.



Add comments and tag collaborators for smooth asynchronous communication.

Easy sharing

Easy sharing

There’s no barriers to collaboration with unlimited workspace members on the Free plan.

Icons, GIFs, & images

Icons, GIFs, & images

Express complex ideas visually or lead an engaging team-building activity with Noun Project, GIPHY, and Unsplash integrations.

Find & filter

Find & filter

Search and filter by color, last edited by, and more to unlock patterns and enhance visual collaboration.

Contextual inquiry template frequently asked questions

How do I write a contextual inquiry?

What should I ask in contextual inquiry?

LUMA Institute

Template by LUMA Institute


LUMA offers acclaimed in-person training, custom innovation programs, and a unique digital platform (LUMA Workplace), used by innovators in over 70 countries. Leading organizations around the globe rely on the LUMA System of Innovation — a practical, flexible, and scalable approach to Human-Centered Design.