Identifying contextual factors in inclusive design

Defining the context in which a product is to be used is a fundamental part of any design process. Defining and exploring context in a meaningful way can lead to the design of more inclusive products; however, there is a tendency, especially in the early design stages, to use informal, exploratory lightweight methods, e.g., brainstorming, discussion, product searches, etc. (Goodman et al., 2006). Such methods may fail to supply designers with detailed information regarding users and the context in which products are used. The reasons designers do not probe further have been shown in some cases to be a result of limited detail within project briefs and time and budgetary constraints (Goodman et al., 2006; Chancellor of the Exchequer, 2005). A failure to consider context can lead to the development of products that place increased demand upon the user. The overall purpose of this initial study was to explore context and how it impacts upon the demands placed on the user’s capabilities during product use (Goodman and Waller, 2007). The research will ultimately lead to the development of a design resource which will raise a greater level of context awareness during the design process. At the same time, such a resource needs to be seen as supplementing, but not replacing, whatever real user research the designer’s constraints will allow.