Interface Design

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?