During the last six months, I have been working on a method selection tool for user centred product development (link opens an introduction into the project). In this process, I investigated why, when and how product designers search for a method, such as focus groups or paper prototyping sessions. The results of this project will be presented at Wednesday August 31 from 15.30 at the Delft University of Technology, and.. you are invited!
Wow, thanks! .. But how do I get there?
By car: Please follow the directions that our friends at Google will give you to the University Campus. Try to find a spot at the 3mE or Aula parking lots. From there you can walk to building number 32 on the parking lot map and follow the directions on the beautiful map at the bottom of this page.
We start at 15.30, so please be on time.
I’ll be there… any plans afterwards?
Glad you asked! There are small drinks afterwards. Here is the complete agenda:
- 15.30 Opening
- 15.45 Start presentation
- 16.15 Questions en comments (please do ask, I like to be challenged!)
- 16.30 I will be questioned about my work by my mentors
- 17.15 Diploma (hopefully)
- 17.30 Start drinks
- 18.30 End of drinks (as I will leave with family for diner)
Wayfinding in the variety of methods for user centred design
“We are using user centred design methods in product development processes to create valuable, usable and successful products. We use many of these methods over and over again because we are familiar with them and can easily ‘tweak’ them a little to our situation. But what if there is a method that could be a better fit with the problem that you are facing? Or what if you are not that much experienced with methods and you do not have a clue which methods you could use?”
That were the questions that we discussed at the Chi Sparks conference on Thursday June 23 in Arnhem, the Netherlands. In a 1.5 hour workshop with 20 HCI-professionals, we discussed a very first prototype of the method selection tool that I develop during my graduation project. The prototype was developed based on Microsoft Silverlight PivotViewer, a platform to visualize large amounts of data. The platform was found as an interesting candidate to develop the method selection tool in; it matched with about 90% of the initial requirements. However, we also discovered a number of issues in both the data handling and the interface (will be described in an upcoming post).
The workshop intended to find out whether 1) the selection procedure that was developed actually works and 2) to give an indication to what degree this selection procedure was supported by the PivotViewer platform. Resulting from this workshop were a lot of flip-over sheets with clear preferences and proposed changes to the current selection procedure and interface. From that, we made changes to the selection procedure and developed two final interface design proposals.
- Design ‘Pivot’ is directly related to the capabilities of the PivotViewer platform. The developed functions and style elements are seen as a necessary addition to the standard platform to make Pivot useful for the intended purpose.
- Design proposal ‘Tovip’ can be seen as the counterpart of Pivot (how creative); it holds the functions and interface design elements of which it was uncertain 1) whether this would be possible in Pivot and 2) which interface design element would be better in general use.
Although I am working on the project for about six months now, the workshop really gave a boost to the definition of the selection procedure and the interface. Within a week time I got a lot of user input and was able to translate that into improved designs. Both designs will be tested in July after which I will recommend a final design and technical development plan before graduation.
Note: Unfortunately we cannot give public access to the prototype at this time. The current state is not mature enough to go public; a lot of basic elements in the selection procedure still need attention. Please stay tuned via this website or our upcoming LinkedIn group for more news.
During the Chi-Sparks conference, I got in touch with Frederick Van Amstel, a Brazilian Phd who has just started at the Twente University. In Brazil, he started a project together with colleagues that intents to result in the first Portuguese UX card set; Brazilian people in general are not well English spoken. However, the cardset has a number of very unique features included that I was very enthusiastic about when Frederick gave a demo at Chi-Sparks:
- The UX Cards are divided in three categories: methods, deliverables and supplements;
- Cards can be connected to each other (top is input, bottom is output);
- A QR code leads to the website;
- The cards are made of PVC material, so that people can write and easily erase text with a whiteboard marker;
- There are blank cards so that people can easily add methods, deliverables and supplements (‘you cannot anticipate on every possible situation and want to give user control as well’)
Some possible future additions:
- Color coding
- Explanatory Images
- Taking a photo of connected UX cards with all QR codes on top, a webpage can be loaded that automatically results in a personal method timeline
More information about this UX card set can be found at http://corais.org/cards/, where Frederick says: “I showed UX Cards to some colleagues who give lessons in the course of Industrial Design at the University Twente and here they found it so interesting that they were willing to apply the next class which starts in September. Commented that when the methods are focused on UX for them but that would be more useful if it had methods of design in other areas.” The project is a work in progress and that all information is in Portuguese, but Google Translate is a very helpful friend. Below, a video (in Portuguese) that shows some of the interaction elements that the team built into the card set.
PS. This project is unrelated to my graduation project but I thought it was worth sharing 😉 I hope they will develop an English version as well!
[slideshow id=18]Direct download to the method collection cardset
In 2005, Stanton et al. identified more than 200 human factors tools and methods, and I am sure that a lot of (sub-)methods have been created since. Many of these mostly general methods are available through one of the 40 collections for User Centred Design (UCD) methods have been distinguished by Tidball et al. (awaiting publication), where sometimes over 88 methods are being outlined.
There is a wide variety between method collections in the mechanisms behind method selection and the ways methods are explained. Examples of selection mechanisms are on categories like project phase, alphabet and actions or on constraints such as budget, time, staffing and expertise. Examples of common explanations given by the various collections are a basic description, a how-to, considerations, (dis)advantages and references.
Although this shows that there is a lot of information available, one of my studies showed that that the uptake of method collections among industrial designers, interaction designers and usability specialists is very low. On average, 8% of the collections were known . And despite of being known by practitioners, known collections were used by no more than 10% of the questioned people .
All three points, number of collections, information in collections and uptake of collection, indicate that the need for information on UCD methods in my graduation project is more in quality of the information than on the offered quantity. Because it will take until the end of 2011 before the Design for Usability Method Selection Tool is available for use, I developed a set of cards about nine practical method collections and an additional card with several other useful sources for developing usable products. On each card, the quality and scope, categorization, selection, explanation detail and background information is shown together with an image of the website, poster, cardset or any other form the method collection is presented. You can use the collections in your own product development processes or professional education.
|Method collections in the cardset
(quality and scope, categorization, selection, explanation detail and background information is available on each card)
|Other useful resources for user centred design
(only name and link are provided on the card)
|Usability Body of Knowledge||Inclusive Design toolkit|
|UsabilityPlanner||Human Factors ROI Calculators|
|UsabilityNET||Ideo Human Centered design toolkit|
|Usability.gov||Human-Centered Design of Digital Interactions poster|
|Generic Work Process||Selecting a remote research method|
|The Methods Lab booklet||Global User Research book|
|UPA Designing the User Experience Poster||Recommendations for usability card set|
|Ideo method cards||Mental Notes card set|
|KAIST UCD methods||Design with Intent card set|
|Creative Whack Pack card set|
|Oblique Strategies card set|
|UX Trading Cards|
download the method collection cardset
 The Ideo method cards were known best (75%), UsabilityNet, Usability.gov and the Ideo HCD book share a second place (known by 33%). The other eight collections were known by maximum 15% of the participants.
 Although the use of percentages seems that this was a large study, there were no more than 14 participants involved in a qualitative study with an additional questionnaire.
 This cardset was initially developed as a present for the participants of a study during my graduation project to increase awareness about the variety of method collections that they can use already. Also note that the cardset is a ‘snapshot’ and subject of developments in the field. Some cards state upcoming developments for the collections.
 Indeed, there is one cardset discussed in this cardset (Ideo method cards). Sounds weird? Not really, because this cardset is about current collections for UCD methods, so the shape in which it is delivered doesn’t really matter 😉
Stanton, N. A., Salmon, P.m., Walker, G.H., Chris Baber, C., Jenkins D.P. (2005). Human Factors Methods: A Practical Guide for Engineering and Design. Burlington Ashgate Publishing Company.
Tidball, B., Stappers, P.J., Mulder, I. (awaiting publication). Models, Collections and Toolkits for Human Computer Interaction: What Can We Learn?
We are using user centred design methods in product development processes to create valuable, usable and successful products. We use many of these methods over and over again because we are familiar with them and can easily ‘tweak’ them a little to our situation. But what if there is a method that could be a better fit with the problem that you are facing? Or what if you are not that much experienced with methods and you do not have a clue which methods you could use?
If you ever wondered how you could find user problems, needs or other kind of user related information, you were probably looking for a method. With over 200 methods being currently available through various collections (e.g. UsabilityBOK.org, Usability.gov and UsabilityNet.org), selecting the right one can be a difficult and time consuming job. This is especially the case because most of the current collections categorize methods on alphabet instead of practical criteria such as time, budget and research goal. In addition, each collection explains methods from a different perspective and the provided information is often not detailed and complete enough to enable product developers to apply the (new) method in practice.
In order to solve this issue, I am developing an interactive selection tool for user centred design methods that supports product development teams in their search for a suitable method. Therefore, the goals are to develop a selection procedure and an interface design of this tool. I will also look into the types of information that practitioners need at which stage of the selection procedure, but I will not be writing this information myself.
This project is part of the Design for Usability (DfU) project, which aims to reduce usability problems with electronic products by developing and offering companies a coherent product development methodology to anticipate expectations and needs of users on the one hand, and product influences on use practices on the other. This methodology should, among others, support product development teams to obtain an accurate, reliable and complete overview of the future use practice of a product and offer procedures for evaluating the design. The project is a collaboration of the Dutch Delft University of Technology, University of Twente and University of Technology Eindhoven together with the companies Philips,Océ, Unilever, T-Xchange and Indes.
Tristan is graduating on August 31 and will continue to work on the selection tool until the end of the Design for Usability project in December 2011.
The research questions:
- What can we learn from similar initiatives?
- What are the characteristics of the future users of the tool?
- What is the ideal procedure for selecting a method for user centred product development?
- What information about methods should be given to the user (for understanding and execution)?
- How does an interface of the tool looks like when it would support the selection procedure?
- With which initiatives and organisations can be collaborated?
The current website is built with WordPress, using the Arras Theme, and contains a lot of plugins and widgets. I listed all plugins that I used below. Many thanks to everyone who developed these plugins and widgets!
- Akismet by Automattic: Protects me from spam
- Breadcrumb NavXT by John Havlik: Placed in widgets on the top right and bottom right
- Contact Form by ContactMe: Contact menu
- dTabs by David Burton: Used in the Work section
- Get Custom Field Values by Scott Reilly: Used in my Work section, to display the metadata of each project (Created with, -during and -for)`
- Highlighter by ANNOtype, Inc.: Gives the ability to engage with you on specific words, sentences, and images by simply highlighting (as shown in the example right here).
- Netlife’s Tag Cloud by Neil E. Pearson: Shows a nice flash tag cloud in the footer of this website
- NextGEN Gallery by Alex Rabe: Used most of the pages in the Work section
- NextGen Resize byManoj Sachwani: Used to minimize traffic on this heavy website
- No Comments On Pages by Jaka Jancar: Used to disable comments where I did not wanted you guys to comment
- Share and Follow by Andy Killen: Visible on every page on the right hand, so that you can share my writings
- Wickett Twitter Widget by Automattic Inc: Shows my latest tweets everywhere except in the Work section
- Widget Logic by Alan Trewartha: Made it possible to (not) show certain widgets (such as my latest Tweets and the projects’ metadata) where I wanted
- WP to Twitter by Joseph Dolson: Tweeting the latest headlines from this website
I am aware of the fact that not everything works perfectly. There might be problems with links or correct visualizations on this site. Do you see a flaw? Please mention it to me and I’ll fix it 🙂 Thanks!
The purpose of the project was to facilitate new formed groups (of students in English language schools) with an enhanced social connectedness within the group so that they would feel more secure and relaxed during the first and following lessons.
Research goal and used methods:
First I needed to find out how people feel, do and what the causes are for people to open up in new groups. This was researched in study1 with interviews (psychologist and English teacher), an observation and a workshop.
A concept was developed with testing during study2. It consisted of an observation, questionnaires, interviews and an expert review. Every study focussed on details of the design that needed further development of which the direction was still uncertain.
An evaluation study (longitudinal use, observation and questionnaire) tried to find an answer whether the product would melt the ice for social contact.
Research results and implications:
The evaluation study showed that students were pleasantly surprised with the elements of the booklet and gifts. They were open in communicating with each other, so the ice was melted. This study also showed that the booklet needs optimization with the first lessons’ schedule. More striking is the exclusion of the gift assignment (students were given an English item). Students were already comfortable after the introduction with a personal item and postcard discussion so there was no added value for the gift at that point. The gift remains available as an option, but was excluded as a standard item
The final design is a booklet that is sent to students who are starting with an English course. The booklet contains basic information about the course (how many students and their background but also the course structure) and contains some assignments. Students will make a postcard and send it to another student to get in contact before the course. The next day they will receive a postcard themselves and try to find interesting elements that they like. One day before the course, they are asked to find a personal item that tells something about them. In this way it is easier for students to introduce themselves.
A typical English product can be added by the teacher as a gift if that fits with the course objectives and the students characters. The booklet and gifts are run by a service that the teacher applied to.