The development of a computer design tool for virtual user trials: data collection methods

There are clear gains to be made by integrating the user within the design process. User trials are a commonly used technique in ergonomics evaluation, whereby users are selected to be representative of the user population. They evaluate the product, workplace, or system against a predetermined set of evaluative criteria (performance, preferences) and thus some judgement can then be made as to the suitability of the design, and recommendations made accordingly. However, user trials are expensive and efforts to involve older and disabled consumers are often hampered by a lack of understanding of their additional requirements (access, pacing, transport needs, ethical concerns). Also, many designers work by themselves and do not always feel they have the skills (or support) to work with these user groups.