Research and Design Methodologies(Draft)

16 Feb

Recent HCI research shows that the way we interact and receive information should be at the centre of the design process. Because the project aims to develop an artefact(s) within the realms of HCI then its important that this is considered and a User-Centered design approach is conducted. Typically this would follow an iterative cycle with four stages; Study, design, build and evaluate. Research suggests that we need to join with experts of other disciplines such as philosophers and social scientists and a meeting held by Microsoft Research in 2008 proposes that in future development we should include a fifth stage that they named ‘Understand’. The aim of this stage is to keep Human values at the core of design. “They need to start with an understanding of people: user needs first, technology second” (Norman, 1998). The proposed project will adhere to this extended strategy and because of the research aim the project will follow a qualitative approach rather than a quantitative. A qualitative approach will help gain a better understanding of the effects of the artifact(s) and a person’s experience throughout the process of interaction. The next section will outline the objective and methods of each stage of the development process (Harper et al., 2008; Dourish, 2004).


The aim at this satge is to gain an understanding of the user needs. What do people want to be able to do? How will technology support their activities, goals, aspirations and tasks in the home? In order to find an answer to these questions I must investigate what are peoples interests, needs and motives. I will use literature, books, journals, online publications and blogs to investigate how AK will fit their needs and how it will be of value to the end-user. This stage is an exploration of the role of AK to help gain an understanding of the users needs and identify the tasks that AK will support. This stage involves investigating the social impact and identifying any ethical, moral and cultural effects AK may have. It will involve researching the market and other products identifying who will use AK, where and why? A user requiremnets analysis will be carried out using usage scenarios to help identify the functionality and purpose of the device. The scenarious will then be analysed using a method such as Qusetions, Options and Criteria (QOC). By questioning the scenario key issues will be identified. The options and design criteria will be the solutions developed in answering the questions. The criteria are the user and technological needs and the options will then be evaluated on the basis of this criteria.


This stage is to gain a deeper understanding of how people will interact with AK on a personal and interpersonal level. The project will not just have to look at how the user will interact with AK but the effects it will have on how they then interact with their environment and other people. This stage will draw on methods of rapid ethnography, emphatic and contextual design through the use of cultural probes and interviews to help focus on the quality of the user experience. A method of rapid prototyping will be conducted and cultural probes will be conducted on a small group of potential users interacting with the experimental prototypes while performing everyday tasks within the domestic environment. The cultural probe will allow the information to be collected within the interaction setting, to identify the reactions of the users, the effects of the artifact and hopefully help come to a conclusion whether it supports values in the home and the tasks the user is completing. A small sample of  a wide range of participants will give the opportunity to a more detailed analyse and ensure reliable and relevant results. The cultural probes and interviews will be conducted within in the subjects home, because not only is this the environment in which they would be using the final artifact(s) but this will also make the subject more comfortable and encourage them to talk freely in the interview. An interview with people from the cultural probe will then allow the participants to talk at length and help gain a deeper understanding of their experience. This will help support the cultural probe providing the opportunity to ask not only the topics and issues decided in advance but also certain informal questions that may arise through the cultural probe. Questions about certain aspects of the results of the cultural probe will be asked to help prompt an explanation. This method will be used to ask more open-ended style questions giving the user the opportunity to decide on the direction and flow of the conversation and to explain the process of interacting with the prototype. If the subject feels comfortable and agrees a voice recorder will be used to record the interview rather than taking notes. This will help engage in conversation and allow the participant to talk at length. An interview summary will be completed immediately after the interview to add any information that could be useful when analysing the data. A transcript from the voice recording will be documented and attached to the interview summary to allow an easier format to analyse the data. Because the questions are open-ended I will conduct a content analysis to help quantify the data, identify characteristics and list them into categories. The results will then be compiled to help define the final artifact. This analysis will form a document reporting the user experience of the prototype and whether it supports values and tasks in the home or not.


By revising what was learned from the previous stages design goals can be identified. At this stage in the process the project needs to focus on the aesthetics of AK and try to make it playful and creative. AK must consider Human values and emotional design and try to provide the user with an enjoyable, valuable, fun experience. In addition with prepared questions, prototypes and illustrations will be used in a focus group with potential users. Baseline data with regard to the participants will be gathered to help identify any preferences among certain types of users. The focus group will be video recorded to document and help get a better understanding of peoples judgement and thoughts towards the illustrations and prototype. Firstly the participants will gain an understanding of AK then they will be asked to critique the design and prototypes. They will be shown high fidelity illustrations of the design to prompt discussion while the prototype will be used to help gain an understanding of development needs and future potential problems. This will help provide substantial user feedback before deciding on and putting effort into the final implementation of the artifact.

In order to provide the knowledge needed to develop AK so that it fits and satisfies user needs the final design will draw on methods of co-creation or participatory design(PD). This will attempt to involve users more actively in the design process. If there are particular participants contributing more than others in the focus group conducting an informal group interview along with a PD workshop involving these particpants will be considered to allow a deeper discussion and to develop and investigate varied opinions using affinity diagrams.


Literature, books, journals, online publications and blogs will be used to help research the appropriate tools and equipment for building AK. All the necessary materials will then need to be gathered. Taking into consideration what was learned in the previous stages a final working prototype(s) will be produced, ready for evaluation within a domestic environment before final implementation.


The proposed solution will then be tested within the domestic environment to engage in primary user testing and gather feedback on functionality and usability. Because AK is aimed at improving the experience of receiving information a think-aloud protocol will be video recorded to allow analysis of the experience and process of interaction as it is happening. The user will be asked to describe their actions and thoughts as they are interacting with the prototype and performing an everyday task. This will allow the users thought process and experience of working through the task while at the same time receiving ambient information to be analysed. By analysing a number of users conducting a think aloud protocol it will allow patterns to be identified. It will identify whether a person can conduct a task and at the same time receive and process the information that is being provided by the artifact. It will also help identify if the artifact is intrusive and distracting the user from the task at hand. A test run will have to be organised to ensure the task being completed by the user is a rather simple everyday task that does not distract them from interacting with the artifact and talking through the process at the same time. Traditional metrics that have been guiding HCI such as performance, speed and efficiency are not as relevant to this particular method as metrics such as satisfaction and enjoyability. From the think aloud protocol the user’s experience will be recorded and it will help determine whether the prototype not only functions well but is also a more pleasurable and convenient experience of receiving information. All this information will then be applied to the artifact before the final implementation of AK.


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