Understanding users in context: an investigation into designers' requirements

2014-03-19T16:24:57Z (GMT) by Julian Bowerman
In the future, as world markets become more diverse, designers will be increasingly asked to create products for people dissimilar to themselves. Human issues, such as product pleasure, will also become more important as advances in manufacturing (enabling companies to produce high quality goods more cheaply) will mean companies will look elsewhere to achieve a competitive edge. These changes will affect designers who presently work with little or no user information. This thesis investigates the attributes designers need in resources that offer them an immediate yet broad understanding of users. The research presented in the thesis has a philosophical strand and a design strand. In the design strand, two mock up resources and a prototype resource are developed. These creations are used in the philosophical strand: the mock ups are used to provide focus while collecting opinions from participants and the prototype is evaluated at the end of the research as if it were a real resource. The thesis starts with a literature review; this review reveals that designers need to understand users’ physical, psychological and social needs as well as their environments if they are to design appropriate products for them. It explains that designers find much ergonomics information too technical and not visual enough and reveals that no tools or methods exist that offer a broad and instant understanding of users at the start of the design process. Following this, the results from a set of interviews and a focus group are presented. These studies reveal that designers want both personal and general user information that is reliable, video based, contextual and authentic. The results also show that designers want a fast, online resource that allows information to be easily tagged, compared and shared. Next, the thesis describes the development of the prototype resource and its examination using a heuristic inspection. This resource is then evaluated by designers. The evaluation reveals that designers perceived that the resource would be of value to the design process and thought that the videos showing people going about their everyday lives and the virtual tours around people’s homes would be particularly useful. The thesis concludes that designers want contextual user information presented as easily navigable video in an Internet based resource. In doing so, it provides an original contribution to knowledge.