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Design for Usability

A cardset of UCD method collections

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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 [1]. And despite of being known by practitioners, known collections were used by no more than 10% of the questioned people [2].

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[3]. 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[4] 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
MetaMemes

 

download the method collection cardset

[1] 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.
[2] 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.
[3] 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.
[4] 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 😉

 

References:

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?

Selection tool for UCD Methods – an introduction

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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,OcéUnileverT-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:

  1. What can we learn from similar initiatives?
  2. What are the characteristics of the future users of the tool?
  3. What is the ideal procedure for selecting a method for user centred product development?
  4. What information about methods should be given to the user (for understanding and execution)?
  5. How does an interface of the tool looks like when it would support the selection procedure?
  6. With which initiatives and organisations can be collaborated?