Authors: Preece, Rogers & Sharp
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2 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Chapter Index
User-Centred Approaches to Interaction Design


Chapter Introduction | Web Resources | Assignment comments | Teaching Materials


As you would expect, user-centered development involves finding out a lot about the users and their tasks, and using this information to inform design. In Chapter 7 we introduced some data­gathering techniques which can be used to collect this information, including naturalistic observation. Studying people in their "natural'' surroundings as they go about their work can provide insights that other data­gathering techniques cannot, and so interaction designers are keen to use this approach where appropriate. One particular method that has been used successfully for naturalistic observation in the social sciences is ethnography. It has also been used with some success in product development but there have been some difficulties knowing how to interpret and present the data gathered this way so that it can be translated into practical design.

Another aspect of user­centered development is user involvement in the development process. There are different degrees of involvement, one of which is through evaluation studies, as discussed in Chapters 10 through 14. Another is for users to contribute actively to the design itself — to become co-designers. As Gillian Crampton Smith said in the interview at the end of Chapter 6, users are not designers, but the payoffs for allowing users to contribute to the design themselves are quite high in terms of user acceptance of the product. So techniques have been developed that engage users actively and productively in design.

In this chapter, we discuss some issues surrounding user involvement, and expand on the principles underlying a user­centered approach. Then we describe two approaches to using ethnographic data to inform design and two approaches to involving users actively in design.

The main aims of this chapter are to:

  • Explain some advantages of involving users in development.
  • Explain the main principles of a user­centered approach.
  • Describe some ethnographic­based methods aimed at understanding users'
  • Describe some participative design techniques that help users take an active
    part in design decisions.