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Managing user knowledge across boundaries: the case for software startups to adopt user-centred design

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posted on 2023-06-02, 13:11 authored by Yasemin Canik

Since the introduction of user-centred design (UCD), organisations have engaged with users to identify their needs and test key features to develop successful products. Software startups especially benefit from tacit user knowledge to create and validate their products in a resource-efficient way. However, tacit user knowledge can also cause challenges in undertaking UCD as it leads to syntactic (lack of information), semantic (lack of understanding) and pragmatic (lack of interest) boundaries between users, startups and their collaborators. The objective of the research is to explore how UCD Leads who work for startups could benefit from user knowledge across boundaries by adopting UCD with the aim of uncovering how software startups can succeed in new product development (NPD) in a resource-efficient way. To achieve the research objective and aim, the conceptual framework was abductively built to identify UCD Leads’ approach to manage current knowledge boundaries and boundary-crossing activities and to explore how they could adopt UCD to cross these boundaries. Qualitative data was collected in three phases via exploratory methods including participatory observations, semi-structured interviews, LEGO play sessions and document collection. The findings have revealed three key insights for software startups to succeed in NPD in resource-efficient, sustainable and less-biased ways. Firstly, products could be designed for, with and by users. To do this, software startups could pay attention to user experience, build user communities and undertake co-creation & co-design activities. Secondly, they could adopt an open innovation approach by acquiring expert knowledge via training & workshops and building partnerships, networks and intermediaries. Lastly, they could undertake adaptive planning of UCD: UCD processes could be automated and tailored, where resource capabilities for UCD could also be assessed. 



  • Loughborough University London


Loughborough University

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© Yasemin Canik

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A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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Ida Telalbasic ; Mikko Koria

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  • PhD

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  • Doctoral

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