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World Usability Day

This publication is based on the Design for Usability Symposium, held on World Usability Day on November 12, 2009 in Delft.

Editor Prof Daan van Eijk Authors Symposium speakers and workshop leaders Editing Jane Szita, Sonja van Grinsven-Evers, Roger Staats Marketing & Communication Angeline Westbroek Design and layout Marieke de Roo Grafisch Ontwerp, Delft Photography Sam Rentmeester and Hans Stakelbeek (Fmax), Tim van Bentum, Sonja van Grinsven-Evers, workshop leaders Printer Deltahage, Den Haag Financial support NL Agency

IOP IPCR Design for Usability research project  Delft University of Technology - Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Landbergstraat 15, 2628 CE Delft, the Netherlands TU/Eindhoven - Department of Industrial Design, Den Dolech 2, 5612 AZ Eindhoven, The Netherlands University of Twente - Faculty of Engineering Technology and Department of Philosophy, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, the Netherlands

Š 2010 Design for Usability All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission from the publisher. ISBN 978-90-5155-063-4

Symposium Design for Usability Delft. November 12, 2009


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Introduction Prof Daan van Eijk

Prof Daan van Eijk

Project-coordinator of the IOP IPCR Design for Usability research project

The first World Usability Day was held in 2005. This new concept was introduced by the Usability Professionals’ Association to ensure that services and products important to human life are easier to access and simpler to use. Each year, on the second Thursday of November, more than 200 events are organized in over 43 countries around the world. On this day, professionals in the field engage in discussion on the tools and issues central to excellent usability research, development and practice (

plays an integral role in their research. In the afternoon, visitors to the symposium shared knowledge and experience by participating in workshops on eight usability themes.

A second aim of the day is to raise the general public’s awareness. In 2009, the three Technical Universities (Delft, Eindhoven and Twente) combined forces on World Usability Day to organize a four-day Usability Event, held from 12-15 November in Delft, the Netherlands.

As illustrations, we have used photos taken at the Workshops and Design United Exhibition.

A key part of the four day event was the Design for Usability symposium held on November 12, which attracted over 300 people from business, universities and many other organisations. This indicates the level of societal interest in the design and development of user-friendly products. The day’s main aim was to share knowledge in the field of Design for Usability. Four keynote speakers presented their experiences in this field, and research students at the three Dutch technical universities showed how user-friendliness

This book presents the main findings of the symposium and workshops, and includes presentations by the keynote speakers at the symposium. It also summarises aspects of usability research currently being conducted at the three technical universities, in cooperation with industry partners.

Our website gives you access to additional and continually updated information on Design for Usability activities, for example interesting reports, articles and results of the Design for Usability research project. We would like to thank NL Agency and the Ministry of Economic Affairs for their guidance and financial support. Read this with pleasure; we hope to meet you again at future Design for Usability events.

Let’s make the world more usable!

Design for Usability Delft. November 12-14, 2009





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Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Definition of usability: The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use [ISO 924-11]. Or in everyday language: ‘Is the user able to use the product?’

Manufacturers of electronic products and systems are increasingly confronted with complaints from both consumers and professionals that are not related to technical or functional failures, but to an unexpected mismatch between actual product use and intended use by the manufacturer. Main causes of this mismatch are: Use of products/devices by people who do not understand the product/interface due to their different mental representation of that particular product; think of the role of culture, gender, age group etc (the user perspective). User expectations about a product that do not match the possibilities that the product offers (that the manufacturer anticipated the user would expect). Unexpected use: a particular way of using a product that was not foreseen by the designer or manufacturer, and therefore not anticipated upon (the business perspective). The increasing complexity of product-systems (product + environment /connections + services). The reciprocity of the relation between product and

user: the behaviour of the user is affected by the use of the product. In case of ambient intelligent products for example, the product adapts its behaviour as well (dynamic user-product interaction). Overall, there is a big gap between the level of usability companies intend to deliver, and the numerous usability problems with which users are currently confronted. The product development practice does not seem well equipped to deal with usability issues. Result: high work load for consumer services and quality testing groups. ‘Ease of use’ issues have become increasingly important because of growing customer demands, increasing product complexity, miniaturisation and the resulting ‘black-box’ designs, but also due to the globalisation of markets. An accurate, comprehensive insight into how a product is used by its users in practice (the so-called use practice) is essential for designing products that meet user expectations. Insufficient insight into the use of a product will lead to product malfunctioning, user complaints and market loss, resulting in slowed-down innovation processes and high costs for customer service and re-design. However, obtaining


Introduction Design for Usability

insight in use practices is complicated because the behaviour of users is never static or uniform and increasingly products have become adaptive, and thus exhibit unpredictable behaviour as well. Many companies have spent years developing userfriendly products, however even they have a need for more ‘knowledge’, data, and methodologies on the subject of usability. This has already taken place in ‘loose’ projects in the three Dutch technical universities (Delft, Eindhoven and Twente). In order to stimulate knowledge sharing between these expertise centra, the Ministry of Economic Affairs together with Agency NL have initiated the IOP IPCR research programme. The Design for Usability projects is an example of one of these projects, in which the universities work together with business - Philips, Océ, Indes and T-Xchange. In the following pages you can read about developments in the Design for Usability field, illustrated by examples taken from current project, and form your own ideas.

The Design for Usability website:


Symposium Design for Usability 2009



Prof dr Gerrit van der Veer


Abbie Vanhoutte MSc and Robert Eijlander MSc


Cees van Dok MSc The challenges in interaction design for consumer and professional electronics


Jasper van Kuijk MSc


IOP IPCR research projects Design for Usability Synthetic Environments Managing Soft Reliability Smart Synthesis Tools

34 38 42 46 50

Design United student projects Jakob

54 56

Designing for the Elderly


The Philips Easy Line, a retrospective case study


Designing for a moving target - from functionality to usability to experience

Usability in a productive print environment

No silver bullet

Paula Kassenaar

Huub Mulhof

Meike Mak


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

lectures Prof dr Gerrit van der Veer


Prof dr Gerrit van der Veer President of ACM SIGCHI, Professor at Open University Netherlands and University of Sardinia

Designing for a moving target: from functionality to usability to experience From the village common to Facebook, the designer has to grow with the world

Gerrit van der Veer is Professor Emeritus at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VUA). In addition to this he works at several other universities; at the Open University of the Netherlands (School of Computer Science), at the University of Twente (Faculty Computer Science, Department HumanMedia Interaction) where he is supervising PhD students and at the University of Sassari in Alghero, Italy where he teaches Visual Design, Task Modeling and Service Design. Gerrit van der Veer is the president of the European Association of Cognitive Ergonomics (EACE), President of ACM SIGCHI and honorary Member of CHI Nederland, which has made him Godfather of the annual ‘Gerrit van der Veer Prijs’ for the best Master thesis on Human Computer Interaction.

“As a teacher, I’m inspired by my students,” said Gerrit van der Veer at the start of his presentation, stressing the importance of the human factor in design (and teaching) from the outset. Designing for use is the main point, he told the audience: and that of course means designing for people. What is unique about people, he added, is that they invent, make and use artifacts - and not only physical objects, but also immaterial ones such as stories, laws, and music. However, while artifact production is common to all human societies, in different cultures artifacts are built and used in different ways - and the differences are determined by various factors, from the regional (geographical area) to the professional (area of expertise). Similarly, artifact production and use also changes over time. Historically - and even today in certain remote societies - people used artifacts that they designed and made for themselves. We can assume that the oldest known musical instrument, a recent discovery, would have been played by the person who made it, some 20,000 years ago. So from the beginning of human artifact making, there was a strong


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

connection between the idea of an object, creating it, and using it. For much of human history, most people have lived in small communities in which they would make and use their own things, choose and grow their own crops, and create their own forms of recreation. In fact, this was still generally the case up to 50 years ago. Now, however, there is a widespread division between making and using in modern urban society, although this is actually a very recent phenomenon. Van der Veer reminded us that the first sewing machines came with own repair and maintenance kit - even into the industrial age, users were supposed to maintain and adapt their objects. Then again, from another point of view, design means considering your audience and culture. Designers must ponder what is important for the user - which means they must be aware of user values and norms. Again, these vary according to place in time. Ancient Greek art, for example, reveals that its contemporary values allowed the representation of the naked male body, but not the naked female body. The norms define the representation of the female dress.

‘We have to educate designers, who are themselves in motion, to design for a moving world.’ Culture also includes aspects of aesthetics and experience: objects must fit into the context of their users in both of these aspects. This was eloquently illustrated by two paintings of amateur musical performances, showing a fiddle fitting perfectly into its 17th-century tavern environment, and an elegant harp looking equally at home in a 17th-century salon.

Although interaction design is certainly not as old as the artifacts previously considered, it reflects the same lines of development. Before the 1980s, computer users had to develop their programmes themselves and manage their own hardware. Essentially, they had to have expertise in mathematics, and information technology tools could only be created with the participation of their actual users. In the 1980s, with the first office PCs and desktop applications, the element of user participation fell rapidly away. And by the 1990s ICT was for everyone, so designers took over the work of making applications that were accessible to everyone. Experience Now, in the Noughties, the new buzzword is experience. So something major has changed in our culture. Prior to the 1980s, users needed knowledge of a strong command language, and didn’t care about the user interface at all. Now, there is a predominance of ‘plug and play’ thinking people don’t need or want to know how computers work, and they certainly don’t care if there’s Intel inside. The iPod is a wonderfully apt illustration of this, with 220 million users (latest figures November 2009), it is a phenomenal success with users who no longer want to be in control: ‘Enjoy Uncertainty’ is the appropriate slogan of the iPod Shuffle. Now, said Van der Veer, the designer has to be aware of user needs in four principal areas: functionality (does the object do what it should?); ease of use; learnability (how readily can it be adopted?); and intended and lived experience (how does it fit with the user’s culture?). To complicate matters for the designer, the world - especially the world of technology - is changing continuously. And

lectures Prof dr Gerrit van der Veer


cultures too are continuously evolving. By way of example, he reminded us that 20 years ago he’d have been lecturing in Dutch; now, thanks to increasing globalisation, lecturing in English in essential. Youth culture Furthermore, observation of students, and media applications such as Twitter, indicates that there is a complete change of youth culture every five years. “Every generation of students represents a new culture,” Van der Veer said. “We have to educate designers, who are themselves in motion, to design for a moving world.” He pointed out that this form of education can fortunately follow some very simple principles: “What I teach can fit onto the back of an envelope,” he insisted. Essentially, this is task analysis, with the students encouraged to consider stakeholders, semantics, design space and analysis, plus rapid scenario building and very early feedback from users. While this teaching formula has ‘stabilised,’ he added, “The students always surprise me.” Example one Three examples of student ‘surprises’ follow. The first concerned students in the Faculty of Architecture in Alghero, Sardinia. Inspired by their tutor’s encouragement to “always find their own client, a real client,” one group decided to redesign Facebook - which they found indispensable, yet had lots of complaints about. In their research, they investigated the goals of Facebook founder and designer Mark Zuckerberg. In 2004, the site had been intended only for students within an academic culture. Today, it is intended not just for students but for everyone over 13. The goal has changed, in other words, as the students were able to discover.

Next, they identified Facebook goals (to make friends, foster business contacts, advertise their skills), as well as primary tasks (chatting, etc) and secondary tasks (passwords, email addresses, etc). They carried out a role analysis of a ‘lonely student’, which identified various options for finding friends, and a design space analysis - which revealed a confusing interface, a process involving too many steps, and the need to remember a password. With these aspects identified, they could redesign Facebook for their local peer group, making it multilingual, simplifying the interface, and reducing the number of steps involved. Along the way they made various other findings - for example, they discovered that while expert knowledge is needed to operate within Facebook, so is implicit expert knowledge, which manifests as an awareness of identity theft.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

The computer is back and the hands keep changing

The universal acceptable idea that could be used: people meeting

What was perhaps most remarkable about this first example is that these were architecture students, yet they chose a redesign a social network site.

race. This design then had to be adopted both to paper media and to a physical environment - yet these were computer science students.

Example two The second example similarly crossed disciplinary boundaries, as it involved computer science students (at the Free University example of Amsterdam) designing an identity for the CHI conference, 2005. As with the Facebook example, again this project involved something of a collision between North American cultural values and norms (70% of participants at the time were American), and European ones.

Example three This fluidity between different media emerged again in the final example, a Dutch Open University student design for a website and newsletter for IFIP TC13, which deals with human-computer interaction designs. The leaflet design that some developed contained many hypertext features, using ‘paths’ and ‘links’ to connect small screen-like boxes of text.

One student groups CHI proposal involved a shaking hands logo which was repeatedly remodelled. The hands were felt to be too male; then computers needed to be added. The winning proposal used shadowy ambiguous figures that were not recognisably male or female, or of any particular

But the client decided, rather surprisingly, to abandon the idea of the website and instead featured the leaflet in a single colour. Despite all the good design ideas, the client ended up with a plain leaflet. “It happens sometimes,” said Van der Veer. In conclusion, he stressed that usability is related to the

lectures Prof dr Gerrit van der Veer


context and the culture of the designer, maker and user. Each student culture brings its own focus, together with the restricted understanding of its own values and norms: “But using the simple design process that I teach, they develop their own unique understanding, and that inspires a new generation and it inspires teaching.” A brief question and answer session revealed the audience fascination with the iPod, a single product yet one so adaptable to context and culture as to be able to sell 220 million. What was the secret of its success? Van der Veer remarked that its seemingly universal appeal could be ascribed to its designers “leaving things out” - the things that would label it as North American or European, or as belonging to a particular time. “It’s simple, with not too many buttons. It does what you want it to do. And it’s built on the idea of surprise,” he said.

Another topic raised during the discussion concerned flexible systems, and whether they would return. While referring to the continuity of self-made computer design via the open source community, Van der Veer noted that the amount of expert knowledge needed by computer science graduates is decreasing, and that students in other disciplines are often just as able to use the latest applications when it comes to technology - which more or less summed up the argument of his presentation.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

lectures Abbie Vanhoutte MSc and Robert Eijlander MSc


Abbie Vanhoutte MSc and Robert Eijlander MSc Usability engineer and interaction designer at Océ Design, Océ-Technologies BV

Usability in a productive print environment Linking technology and users through user-experience design for high-production printers

Abbie Vanhoutte and Robert Eijlander both work at Océ Design, which is embedded within R&D, meaning that the designers are actively involved and integrated within the development teams, directed strongly to both the products and the business strategy. Océ has a long design history and an acclaimed reputation, resulting in numerous international design awards, eg the 2008 Norman Nielsen Group award for one of the ten best designed applications. As an interaction designer, Robert focuses on optimal task support for the user and a pleasant user experience with increasingly complex systems. As a usability engineer, Abbie validates the usability of Océ’s products through usability tests, expert reviews and other user research methods. This is done in all the phases of the development process, to enable early user feedback and to put products in a user perspective. By gathering and effectively transferring user knowledge, she supports designers and engineers to develop better, more user-friendly products.

As two graduates of Delft University of Technology now active in applying their academic knowledge to the commercial world, Abbie Vanhoutte and Robert Eijlander represent a practical perspective on designing for usability at OcéTechnologies BV. As Eijlander works as an interaction designer in the company, while Vanhoutte is a usability engineer, they offered two different - but dovetailed - angles on the process. Océ, based in Venlo, the Netherlands, but operating internationally, makes print products for professionals. Its product portfolio ranges from office systems to machines for print rooms and copyshops, and its solutions naturally encompass both hardware and software. Vanhoutte and Eijlander focused their presentation around the development of one particular product, the Océ VarioPrint® 6250 - a high-production printer, that, in keeping with the company philosophy, was required to be easy to use, as well as a high-performance machine.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

‘It takes lots of testing to get to this stage, but it saves investing in the wrong concept.’

Océ VarioPrint® 6250 - a high-production printer

Describing the Océ Design department in which he and Vanhoutte work, Eijlander noted that its focus on usability is embedded in the company’s R&D, and that he and his colleagues make up part of a multidisciplinary team. Unusually, they stay involved throughout the process of product development, rather than handing over their designs to engineers somewhere down the line. Multidisciplinary team A crucial element of the department, he added, is that its 25 employees come from different disciplines. They include product designers, who focus on the 3D, physical aspects of development, visual designers, whose remit include 2D design aspects and branding, and interaction designers working on the dialogue between machine, software and users. There is, Eijlander stressed, plenty of overlap between all three. Prototypes are made early on in the design process, so that models of both hardware and software can be tested extensively together with users. “During the product development process, ‘proof of concept’ marks an important milestone,” said Eijlander. “It takes lots of testing to get to this stage, but it saves investing in the wrong

concept.” He went on with Vanhoutte to illustrate this process with the Océ VarioPrint® 6250 and 6320 - a new product range with productivity and speed as its starting points, with a new technology - Gemini - allowing for simultaneous printing of both sides of a sheet of paper. From the point of view of Eijlander and Vanhoutte’s Océ Design department, the first priority before starting development was to establish who would be using the machine. “The user is the key for designing,” said Eijlander. To establish a profile of the user, and the user’s tools and tasks, the department initially visited some clients to observe them in their everyday environment. Vanhoutte explained how contextual interviews were carried out with printer operators, in which they could talk about their job while actually doing it. For the researchers, she said, observing workers in their roles gives a deeper understanding of their verbal descriptions of tasks. “The contextual interviews led to some interesting insights,” said Vanhoutte. “We learned that the operators’ work is fairly unstructured, so it’s hard for them to plan. We also realised that they are juggling lots of small jobs, which require

lectures Abbie Vanhoutte MSc and Robert Eijlander MSc


different paper types.” Added to this, they have to spend time on administration, client liaison and other tasks, so they need to use their time effectively and plan ahead, she continued.

added new functionality, with a line to indicate how much paper was needed, and an indication of which paper trays were already loaded.

From these findings, Eijlander described how a design concept emerged. “If we can tell the operator how much paper, of which type, is needed and when, then he or she can keep the printer running,” was the basic premise. The result of this concept was a timeline model, indicating all the factors (how much paper, which type, and when). It was immediately tested internally. “The focus was on the basic operation, using a wooden dummy,” explained Vanhoutte. Recorded printer sounds added to the illusion of reality. Participants - who were all Océ employees, but not necessarily from a technical background - were required to process print jobs, keeping the printer running, which involved loading the right paper in the right tray at the right time.

With their own eyes The next test went a step further with the improved model, by using real operators in the Venlo R&D usability lab, which is complete with cameras and microphones to record

The test was positively received by the participants, which strengthened the team’s belief in the concept. It also indicated where improvements were needed: the participants wanted more feedback to work ahead, and they wanted to know how much paper to load. So the designers


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

‘This gives designers and others the chance to see what happens with their own eyes - and that has more impact than reading about it in a report.’

everything for later analysis. The participants were asked to perform a selection of tasks while “thinking aloud and giving honest feedback.” The space had the further advantage of being linked to the observation lab, “where people can observe without disturbing the test session,” said Vanhoutte. “This gives designers and others the chance to see what happens with their own eyes - and that has more impact than reading about it in a report.” The Océ pair then showed the audience clips from the recording of the test, which revealed, tellingly, how convincing some of the test group found the dummy. “Does it really print?” asked one. “I wish I had a machine as quiet as this one.” The clips showed that the tests gave valid feedback - feedback which, moreover, was different from that collected during the internal tests. “The source of the difference is that the experience of real operators influences the way that they think about a new prototype,” said Vanhoutte. The operators were positive about the model, but found that the information it gave them was too abundant and too complex - and therefore too difficult to interpret. The designers responded by putting some of the information a layer deeper, to make a simpler interface. Graphically, it was given a bolder look so as to be easier to grasp. It was

time for a third usability test. This time, the Océ group visited clients with their “mobile usability lab” - a laptop complete with camera, because, as Vanhoutte put it, “people’s facial expressions are really important.” After a short intro to the schedule component of the prototype printer, the operators were asked various questions. People need training The results were better than expected because, as the

lectures Abbie Vanhoutte MSc and Robert Eijlander MSc


speakers admitted, the focus was on a small part of the interface. They added that they learned from it that the concept of the timeline or schedule was viable, but that “as it is innovative, people need training.” With this in mind, the product was now detailed regarding its appearance, dynamics, and terminology, but before the final market introduction, the team tested the whole workflow - after training the operators two weeks before the test, in order to see beyond the first impression to the eventual learning curve. Ultimately, said the Océ pair, the timeline concept did show the added value that the designers had predicted: it freed up time for the operators and ensured that the machine was used to its full potential. But feedback would also continue after the market introduction, thanks to customer visits - longer-term efficiency (for users who might use the product for several years) being naturally harder to test during the development cycle. Nevertheless, the presentation indicated that Océ Design’s iterative process of usability testing had genuinely influenced the product and the way it was used - as Eijlander said, saving money later along the line by avoiding engineering the wrong solution.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

lectures Cees van Dok MSc


Cees van Dok MSc

Executive Creative Director of Frog Design

Challenges in interaction design for consumer and professional electronics Being prepared to fail, and fail early, is essential for success

As Executive Creative Director, Cees van Dok is responsible for the creative direction and project management of Frog Design’s work throughout Europe, including Digital Media Design, Product Design and Technology. Major clients include HP, Lawson, Nero, Phonak, SAP, and Vodafone. Cees has over twelve years of experience in the software industry, with a focus on user experience design. Prior to joining Frog Design, he worked at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, as product designer on the consumer software applications MSN Messenger and MSN Explorer. In 2003, he moved on to become design manager in the Microsoft Windows User Experience design team, focusing primarily on concept development and product design of Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7. Cees holds a Master of Science degree from the Delft University of Technology, faculty of Industrial Design Engineering.

Himself a former student of Delft, Cees van Dok had left before the construction of the current building in which the symposium was held - which explains why he opened his speech with a surprised anecdote about the badly designed bathroom he’d just visited. He would have expected better things from an establishment dedicated to usability, he said. His observation underlined the ubiquitous nature of design in which usability has not been adequately considered (in the case of the bathroom, where the hand-drier had been awkwardly and inconveniently placed). Such poorly thought out design, Van Dok’s presentation went on to elaborate, is still a notable risk today, notwithstanding the growth of understanding regarding usability. Meanwhile the greater emphasis on the user experience, coupled with the greater complexity of objects, is complicating the modern role of design, and confronting the designer with a range of unfamiliar issues.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Frog Design, the company where Van Dok works, is a product of this evolution in design, as emerged with Van Dok ‘skipping through the obligatory corporate slides’, as he put it, to illustrate its history and ethos. Today Frog is a ‘global innovation’ company, consulting on design to some of the world’s major corporations. But it began life 40 years ago, as an industrial design business based in the Black Forest, Germany. Among its claims to fame is that it produced the ‘first industrial design language for Apple.’ But today the

company focus has moved beyond 3D object design, and into the end-to-end user experience of projects. “Essentially we are toolmakers,” said Van Dok and his PowerPoint presentation simultaneously - and Frog’s tools have the aim of ‘making life easier and better.’ However, tools like the ones Frog designs are becoming more and more complex, versatile and multi-functional. The mobile phone is an obvious example, having rapidly evolved over the last decade into a handheld computer with a range of functions that have little to do with its primary purpose of making phone calls. “Our challenge as designers is to make this (changed scenario) work for the users,” said Van Dok. What has to work for the users is the physical object’s loss of functional identity, and its homogenous appearance as something of a ‘white box’ with its value focused more on its function and user interface than its material dimension. “A product no longer conveys its own truth: the truth is in the software experience,” summed up the Delft alumnus. Converging worlds Meanwhile, the real and virtual worlds are converging


lectures Cees van Dok MSc

Massive Passives

in augmented reality and (more) natural interfaces, he continued. Designers will increasingly have to contend not only with touch interfaces, but also with gestural and voice interfaces, and even with embedded functionality in the human body. Even objects that are valued for their design beauty - such as Jonathan Ive’s Apple products (which are physically based on the one-function electronics of Dieter Rams for Braun) - are actually grounded in the intangible. Apple, despite its highquality physical design, sees itself as a software company. It is software that largely determines the changing behaviour and identity of a device - with a little help from ubiquitous connectivity. Convergent system The biggest success factor for Apple in the end is not its great object design, nor its elegant software solutions, but what Van Dok called its ‘end-to-end focus’: “It’s not about the iPod, but about the ecosystem behind the iPod,” he said. Apple is a ‘convergent system’ in which iTunes, iPhones, computers, ads, Apple stores and even Steve Jobs himself are all

carefully positioned elements in the mix. A comparison of two e-readers, Sony’s and Amazon’s, reveals that they are almost identical. What makes Amazon’s much more successful is not how it looks, or even what it does, but the fact that it has a vast digital library behind it. “Designers have to think of the entire ecosystem,” said Van Dok, “No new product can be random anymore. They all have to plug into a system.” Massive Passives Naturally, there are huge challenges associated with this. Designers have to answer a range of questions before they can begin the process of developing a new product. “What is driving user behaviour, what are user motivations, what are the users’ unmet needs?” asked Cees van Dok, whose company Frog researches extensively into just these issues. He pointed out that the answers to such questions are far from straightforward: the picture of media consumption in the home, for example, produces an extraordinary variation, even a contradiction, with ‘massive passives’ (who are passively entertained by watching TV) sharing the same sofa with the laptop toting ‘tragically equipped’ and their compulsive, snack-sized media consumption habits. “They


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Methods for researching human behaviour

Immersion tours

Participatory design

are in completely different worlds,” he said. “And they are very hard to target.” What’s more, he continued, although there’s a wide array of methodologies suitable for researching human behaviour - from immersion tools to day-in-the-life studies - many products are not designed with such ordinary routines in mind. The mobile phone and the car, for example, are created with no thought for the fact that many drivers will be making phone calls from their cars. Designing with, rather than simply for, and mixing the input of clients, domain experts and end users, is vital in order to prevent such huge oversights. Beyond the ordinary “The first moment of interaction with users is usually an enormous eye opener,” said Van Dok, for whom ‘trying out designs with real people’ and ‘rapidly creating prototypes is essential’ as ‘not just a way to test results but an intrinsic part of designing… “Seeing your designs fail is very painful, but very helpful.” Later, in the brief question and answer session that followed, he emphasised that the value of user studies was increased by ‘focussing beyond the ordinary users, and on extraordinary ones - the ones with six mobile phones, or whatever. This is where you often get the most interesting insights.’ If users constitute one large challenge, technology is an even bigger one, however: “Technology is all over the map. For every product, piece of software, or industry, there is a wide array of software platforms for advanced user scenarios. It takes more than just engineers to go from design to realworld use.” Van Dok pointing out that mapping activities quickly shows that there’s a huge range of disciplines and connections involved in successfully making a design a reality.


Lost in translation Design delivery, he argued, needs both designers and


lectures Cees van Dok MSc

engineers, artists and scientists. “Engineers and designers need to cooperate,” he said. “But their languages are completely different - linear versus holistic thinking, and so on.” Yet overcoming such communication obstacles is vital, otherwise the perfect design is likely to be seriously flawed by the time it enters the production phase or the marketplace - ‘lost in translation’ between the different disciplines. Avoiding these difficulties means ensuring that a ‘concurrent model’ is used, with all the different disciples involved in a simultaneous and overlapping design and software development process. He summed up this approach as ‘build tangible deliverables - learn about what the product is supposed to do’ and ‘build early, fail fast, and learn.’ Great technologies have great stamina, he pointed out illustrating the argument with a recording of a Jay Leno show in which two marconists, using the 170-year-old technology of Morse code, transmit a message faster than world champion text messagers. Bridging the gap Next, Van Dok turned his attention to another challenge, the client - who can be an even bigger challenge. “In large corporations,” he explained, “you usually get conflicting briefings and goals. The key to the role of the consulting designer is to bring these worlds together - and that’s the hardest thing to do. In Delft, though, students learn that well, that bridging function.” To illustrate the pitfalls of the client relationship, he showed a successful case study: a new cash register application, created for a client who wanted to create something ‘five to ten years ahead, thinking outside the box’. “The result in this case was a genuine augmentation of the shopping experience,” he said, “incorporating the web shopping experience into the register and then showing customers

where to find the products in the physical store. But in contrast, so often ‘people just bolt on new functions’, and it’s a challenge to ‘get clients out of the comfort zone’ to take a risk” - a dilemma he called the ‘tyranny of good enough’. To create impact, you need to leapfrog and take risks. Another problem frequently encountered is that clients often ‘want to add everything’ to a product (the Swiss army knife approach) and so tend to lose sight of the main value. “We ask, what’s really key here? How do we bring that value to life? We try to get clients to focus on key issues,” said Cees van Dok. Accept the cost of failure With time running out for his presentation, he quickly turned his attention to a few more guidelines. “A good toolkit is vital,” he said. “You need formalised methods of solving problems, and structured tools for review - not just freeform brainstorming.” He also emphasised that the design process is unlikely to be the smooth linear progression that we often expect it to be: “The foundations of the idea change, and there are disruptions. It turns out to be a coarser process, so designers need to be flexible.” Finally he stressed again the main message of his presentation, the need to accept the cost of failure. If you don’t take risks, you are bound to fail, as a company and as designer.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

lectures Jasper van Kuijk MSc


Jasper van Kuijk MSc

PhD student at Delft University of Technology

No silver bullet Why making usable consumer electronics requires organisational change

Jasper van Kuijk is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering (Delft University of Technology), studying usability in the development of electronic consumer products. The aim of his study is to determine what factors in product development practice determine the usability of electronic consumer products. Jasper is also the author of ‘the product usability weblog’ (www. where he writes about consumer product usability. Jasper van Kuijk was educated as an Industrial Design Engineer at Delft University of Technology, where he specialized in human-product interaction. He did an internship at the usability group of Ericsson Mobile Communications and he graduated on the Ambient Intelligent Lighting project at Philips Research Media Interaction Group. After graduation Jasper joined PARK advanced design management, a design management consultancy. After two years he returned to IDE to start his PhD.

“About five years ago, I started a research project based on the question: why are consumer electronics still so hard to use?” So Jasper van Kuijk introduced a dense and detailed presentation, based on his work studying the practice of various consumer electronics brands - where, apparently, there is at least a considerable need to employ usability techniques. “Among the companies where I’ve conducted case studies, the most common question is, what one thing should we do?” the Delft University of Technology researcher explained. But, he quickly added, there is no single thing - ‘no silver bullet’ or simple solution. Change, he stressed, requires aligning the whole company to usability. “Even if you are doing user research at the start of the product development process, it’s already too late,” as he stated later. That’s because consumer electronics are becoming increasingly complex. Everything from washing machines to mp3 players are getting more and more elaborate in functionality, while simultaneously shrinking in size. Even the humblest gadgets are increasingly networked, yet display less and less ‘guessability’ - those clues that suggest to users what they do, as well as how they might be used.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Training Van Kuijk highlighted the problems of the status quo by referencing the work of the Soft Reliability Project, which has revealed that more and more products are being returned not because they are defective, but because customers are not satisfied with them, can’t use them, and even think they are broken when they are not. He recounted how, in the USA, mobile service provider Sprint now offers training for the users of its mobile phones, who otherwise struggle to use them. The crucial issue, said the Delft University of Technology researcher, is “who is paying for it?” Currently, Sprint is paying, but if this type of training becomes the norm, then in the future service providers may well take to charging suppliers for “delivering crappy phones,” he predicted.

‘Even if you are doing user research at the start of the product development process, it’s already too late.’

This kind of scenario, amply illustrating that products not only remain hard to use but have even become more difficult to understand, ironically exists against a backdrop of years of usability theory, research and methodology. The gap between academia and reality, said Van Kuijk, suggests that “something is happening in practice.” To investigate this, he decided on conducting case study research in several consumer electronics companies. While the basic design cycle can still be represented by a five-step process from analysis to decision making, human-product interaction has become far more complex than the familiar one-to-one process, he continued. Users now interact with other users, and appliances with other appliances. The greater complexity requires that usercentred design is involved throughout the design process not just for two or three of the different steps. Six product-development roles Similarly, product development is multi-disciplinary, and ideally each discipline should be in touch with user-centred methods. In his own research, Van Kuijk described focussing

lectures Jasper van Kuijk MSc


Six product-development roles

Lifecycle model

on six particular product-development roles: those of the product manager, market intelligence manager, industrial designer, interaction designer (ie, maker of the user interface), development engineer, and usability specialist.

User-centred product design If all the conditions of the models can be met, then it’s possible to ‘do’ user-centred product design, explained Van Kuijk. In other words, user-centred design requires knowledge, mutability, resources, and prioritisation. Knowledge ensures access to potential design solutions, and allows for greater design freedom through awareness of the technological possibilities, user habits, and usability issues. Mutability - in this context, the extent to which designers can change the design during the development process - is another key factor, but is often limited by conditions such as multiple products having to share the same remote, or having a predefined software platform. Obviously mutability decreases as you get further into the development process. Development choices can preserve mutability, however: modular software, for example, can be easier to change.

Van Kuijk examined these roles in the course of four case studies, one of which he proceeded to describe in some detail. This involved a large, Asia-based company that makes home audio products. This particular case study looked at three products developed within the same company. The research first analysed the products, then created check cards that outlined issues for analysis, and then came up with a model of how they work in practice, which was then checked. This procedure was repeated for each of the 35 usability problems across the three projects. Then the underlying variables were identified in all 35. Ultimately (after some 18 months of work) the research was used to create two usability issue lifecycle models. These address the questions: what causes usability issues to arise; how can they be detected; and how can they be solved.

Resource allocation is another important factor: the respective amounts of time and money spent on problemsolving, design, and implementation will obviously impact functionality and usability. A company’s priorities will have an enormous influence on how resources are allocated. A


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

business may regard its most important goal as getting its product to market on time, or having it look good. Van Kuijk recounted a telling anecdote from his field research, in which a product manager explained how his bonus sheet was based on sales (40%) and time to market (40%), with only 20% determined by product returns - which, he said, were “hard to influence, so I concentrate on the other two.” Usability is often undervalued since it hasn’t featured in people’s professional backgrounds, the researcher concluded: “Usability is never at the top of the list, whether at the beginning of a project or at its end.” 10 recommendations To counter this, he offered 10 recommendations for improvement. The first was ‘knowing about usability issues early on - that means good inspection methods, early prototyping and testing, accepting that you can’t quantify everything, and the transfer of information from earlier projects.’ The result of these efforts would be a higher knowledge level - a prerequisite for progress. Secondly, every member of the (typically segregated) development team needs to be involved in usability testing, ‘because designers need detailed information, and it provokes engagement and ends discussions.’ That requires either having team members present in the testing phase, or involving them remotely via video links. As a third recommendation, Van Kuijk stressed that “the interaction specialist should be involved throughout the project - which usually doesn’t happen.” He pointed out that such early involvement has many benefits, including a higher level of design freedom and the addition of a genuine ‘interaction perspective.’ Again, this is an opportunity to glean expertise from previous projects.

The fourth essential, he continued, is that usability must be prioritised - which means team members and management must know why it is important. “Team members have to see the results of their design decisions,” said the researcher. “They must be in contact with users.” Customer satisfaction should be seen as a key requirement, and a stable technological platform should be used. Unfortunately, Van Kuijk added, “upper management tend to prioritise deadlines, because they don’t understand their own projects.” Upper management tends to monopolise the company’s goal finding (as he later elaborated in the question and answer session), and this is an opaque process - rather unfortunately, given that ‘goal finding is where you can prevent a lot of the problems.’ The next two points (five and six in the sequence) were firm don’ts. “Don’t innovate the user interface,” he warned, citing Nokia as an example of a company that has got it right: “Use the same paradigm for a series of products, then incorporate the feedback, revise the paradigm and then apply it to more products.” The other prohibition was ‘don’t let designers do their thing. Design is not art. And it can have a huge impact on usability.’

lectures Jasper van Kuijk MSc

The recommendations seven, eight and nine were to increase design freedom by using flexible hardware and software, and through ownership of the user interface (where possible); and to ensure that the product development team can physically work together. Sitting in the same room facilitates informal communication, which is more efficient and effective than the official version. Still on the subject of the team, it is vital, said Kuijk, “to get and keep experienced people. The problem with companies is that people are put into management because of the lack of career opportunities in their own domain of expertise.” Therefore companies should strive to maximise domain expertise by ensuring


career chances in these areas, and by keeping teams intact to facilitate knowledge transfer. Finally - and perhaps, most importantly - the tenth recommendation is ‘to align the organisation with user needs.’ Van Kuijk recounted an experience of one company changing its orientation entirely, shifting its focus from software to hardware in response to a new market need. No wonder that, summarising his approach, and the necessity of ‘a visionary perspective plus product development in one location,’ he added one other vital ingredient: ‘guts.’


Symposium Design for Usability - November 12, 2009

IOP IPCR research projects

The Virtual Reality Lab of the Universiteit of Twente Photography: Gijs van Ouwerkerk


The link between industrial designers and the industry is central to the Innovative Research Programme (IOP) ‘Integral Product Creation and Achievability’ (IPCR). One of the most noticeable features of the modern design process is that it is characterised by continuous and ever- increasing complexity. This complexity is associated with the unprecedented dynamics resulting from the availability of new technology, the ever-increasing time-to-market pressure, and the continually changing business models that affect the way designers work together with industry partners. The IOP-IPCR programme was initiated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. NL Agency is responsible for the programme management. More information about IOP IPCR: NL Agency


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

lectures introduction IOP IPCR



research projects

As a result of the increasing complexity and ever-growing cooperation between companies, the development risks increase with a corresponding decreasing chance of successful product innovation. This forces companies to make the most important choices in the design process as early as possible, as this is when flexibility is maximal and the investments are minimal. It is precisely this phase of the design process which provides industry in Western European - especially the Netherlands - with excellent new opportunities, given that in this phase the added value of the partners is optimal. There is still a big gap in our knowledge, methodologies, techniques and insights with respect to the limitations and management of industrial risks in this phase. The IOP IPCR aims to contribute to knowledge development in this field. The approach is to study design methodologies which lead to successful new products or product up-dates incorporating new technology developed elsewhere. Userdemands and design are central in this approach. The IOP research field is well structured. The main focus is

on the industrial design programmes of the three technical universities in Delft, Eindhoven and Twente, with the addition of a number of expertise centres at the universities of applied science. This has led to cooperation between the faculties at both management and research levels. In addition, many companies have also become associated with the IOP IPCR projects. These projects have been successful as a result of the selection of well-chosen cases provided by Industry. This process leads to ‘high risk, high pay off’ projects. Industry partners have to be involved by providing support and guidance for these long-term and risky projects. This means that during the execution of these projects, if they are successful, the results are directly of value to industrypartners. Senior researchers, PhD students and associated researchers work together on projects with staff from industry-partners. Valorisation is an important aspect of the project tender; researchers are actively involved in valorisation activities throughout the project. Research findings are made available so that they can be used by companies inside and outside the project.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

lectures IOP IPCR Design for Usability


IOP IPCR Design for Usability Methodology for designing user-friendly products

Objective: to reduce usability problems with electronic products by means of a coherent system of methods and techniques for product development Possible application: throughout the design process for a broad range of electronic (semi-) professional and consumer products Research period: January 2007 - December 2011 PhD students: Jasper van Kuijk (TUD), Christelle Harkema (TU/e), Cha Joong Kim (TUD), Frederik Hoolhorst (UT), Steven Dorrestijn (UT) Research institutes: Delft University of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Twente Industry involved: Indes, OcĂŠ-Technologies BV, Philips Applied Technologies, T-Xchange Project coordinator: Prof. ir. Daan van Eijk (TUD), +31 15 278 36 19, or

Consumers are increasingly encountering problems when using complex electronic products. Such products are tested for user-friendliness relatively late in the design process, which leaves few opportunities for making any changes. The PhD candidates and researchers of the IOP IPCR Design for Usability project are therefore developing a coherent system of methods and techniques that can support product development teams early on in the design process. This methodology will be applied and evaluated at a number of companies throughout the project. Suppliers of electronic products such as hard disk recorders or semi-professional medical equipment are increasingly confronted with complaints from users. The product shows no technical or functional flaws, and yet it fails to meet expectations. That is because the customer uses it in a way that is different from what the designer had anticipated. And despite designers’ efforts to develop user-friendly products, users still encounter problems. Product developers seem ill-equipped to include user-friendliness in the design process from the very start.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Design for Usability Any set of design requirements will obviously state that a product must be user-friendly, but it is unclear just how a designer is supposed to achieve this. This IOP IPCR project aims to develop a methodology that will help designers develop better products that are easier to understand and easier to use. That methodology will need to be applicable from the very beginning of the design process, enabling the designer to do things right from the start - even during the initial generation of ideas, before there are any physical models or products. Along the lines of other methods such as Design for Sustainability or Design for Assembly, we call this Design for Usability. Collaboration The project is a collaborative effort between the three Dutch technical universities, with each one adding its own particular expertise. Eleven researchers are involved, including five PhD students. There are several important aspects. First of all there is the interaction between the user and the product: What goes wrong during use and where do things go wrong in the process? With which techniques

can things be improved? This is the focus of Christelle Harkema - PhD student in Business Process Design at Eindhoven University of Technology - The second aspect is the user, since users differ widely in terms of their capacities, background, age, etc. Cha Joong Kim - PhD student in Applied Ergonomics at Delft - is creating user profiles using these characteristics. A third aspect is the product itself, which influences the user’s behaviour. Designing products aimed at influencing user behaviour raises ethical questions, and those are what Steven Dorrestijn - PhD student in Philosophy at the University of Twente - is studying. And since it is also important to know about the current practice at companies and design firms, Jasper van Kuijk - PhD student in Applied Ergonomics at Delft - is investigating what works in the existing methods and where potential barriers lie. All these things come together in the research of the fifth PhD student, Frederik Hoolhorst, who works at the Laboratory of Design, Production and Management at Twente. He is studying different design methodologies and will develop a basis for the new methodology that the other studies can use as a framework.

lectures IOP IPCR Design for Usability

Indispensable Four companies are partners in the project: they provide information and cases from their daily practice and they serve as a sounding board for the project members, who are doing some of their research within those companies. There is also an industrial user group that other companies can join. The widely different backgrounds of the five PhD students will enable them to arrive at solutions that usability experts alone could not achieve. The methodology they are developing is ‘indispensable’ - not only because products now appearing on the market could have been better, but also because more and more products are adapting intelligently to the user’s behaviour. For example, there are hard disk recorders that make suggestions about what to record based on the user’s viewing behaviour. However, as viewing behaviour is a highly personal matter which differs widely between different people, it is difficult to test whether the product’s suggestions are actually appreciated. The greatest benefit of this study will be to give designers and industry insight into how such products can be better designed and tested.


PhD students and their focus  Jasper van Kuijk Usability in product development practice: What are the barriers and enablers in product development practice for the usability of electronic consumer products?

Christelle Harkema Use Problems: How to estimate in the new product development process the risk of usability problems in the field?

Cha Joong Kim User characteristics: Which user characteristics are deeply involved in user-product interactions that lead to either a satisfactory or dissatisfactory usability?

Frederik Hoolhorst) Design methodology: What should a design method, which is at least applicable to the development of electronic products, look like in order to minimize usability problems?

Steven Dorrestijn Product impact: How can the influence of products on the behavior and attitudes of users be taken into consideration in the design process?


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

lectures IOP IPCR Synthetic Environments


IOP IPCR Synthetic Environments Testing product ideas in a virtual environment

Objective: to design an affordable synthetic design environment to be able to study the interaction between designers, users and products at an early stage of product development Possible application: applicable to all possible products: machines, consumer products, appliances, user interfaces Research period: June 2005 - Dec 2009 PhD students: Jan Miedema (UT), Frank Meijer (UT), Huaxin Wang (TUD) Research institutes: University of Twente, Delft University of Technology Industry involved: PANalytical, Indes, Thales Project manager: Prof.dr. Fred van Houten (UT), +31 (0)53 489 25 49,

An effective way to increase usability is to involve the enduser in the design process. However the average end-user is not trained as a designer. Therefore his or her ability to access design information will be poorly developed. Enabling users to experience design information instead of imagining it, will help to solve this problem. Synthetic Environments (SE) are an effective tool, in particular in the early design stages when physical prototypes are not yet available. With synthetic environment we mean a design environment that consists of real and virtual elements that is dedicated to a specific design process. The aim of the Synthetic Environments project is to support companies, in particular small and medium enterprises (SMEs), in determining if and how the use of a synthetic environment has an added value to their product design process. The project was performed by the Laboratory of Design, Production and Management and the Department of Cognitive Psychology and Ergonomics at the University of Twente and the Department of Computer Aided Design Engineering at Delft University of Technology. In addition,


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

PANalytical, Thales and Indes were involved as industry partners. Multidisciplinary approach This type of research demands a multidisciplinary approach. The areas of expertise of the three PhD students complement each other perfectly. Mechanical engineer Jan Miedema mainly focuses on how small and medium-sized enterprises can select the right type of Synthetic Environment for a given development project at hand. Behavioural scientist Frank Meijer focuses on which features of a Synthetic Environment are or are not essential for a particular practical purpose. Industrial designer Huaxin Wang researches how to provide, to the stakeholders, easy design modification during the use of a Synthetic Environment. The research questions were answered with the help of 3 case studies. The first was on the design of the lid of an x-ray machine together with Panalytical, the second on the influence of the use of texture in virtual environments together with Thales and the third on the design of a new catering concept together with Indes.

Jan Miedema addressed the question regarding the added value of an Synthetic Environment. His work resulted in a detailed procedure that includes a series of workshops with designers as well as an easily accessible database containing worldwide experiences and examples. Industry benefits from his work through a workbook for a consultant or consultancy. This consultant can help companies to go through the procedure and determine whether to use a Synthetic Environment in their design process. The role of the consultant can be extended by supplying the required infrastructure to the company. Frank Meijer investigated the required attributes and quality of an Synthetic Environment in order for users to behave naturally and to ensure that the results found in the Synthetic Environment are reliable. He found that human performance in Synthetic Environment is comparable to that in the real world. In addition he discovered the level of quality needed to evoke natural behavior based on the characteristics of the participants. He developed a series of guidelines for industry describing the required level of visual realism and interactivity within the Synthetic Environment in order to achieve maximum results with minimal effort.

lectures IOP IPCR Synthetic Environments

Huaxin Wang focused on the system architecture and intuitive interface. He analysed the support non-designers need to express the design changes they would like to propose. Based on this he developed a new concept for an intuitive interface for design modifications. Furthermore, he proposed guidelines for an optimal system architecture. Through the intuitive interface industry benefits from improved communication among stakeholders during design meetings. The ICT-industry can use the guidelines for system architecture to provide concepts of Synthetic Environment to design companies. Real-life innovation projects In summary, a Synthetic Environment supports the communication and negotiation phases of a development project, involving all possible stakeholders. The Synthetic Environment can take many forms but it should be adapted to each particular project and is based on existing ICT. The approach has been evaluated within real-life innovation projects. We found strong indications that companies will profit from a Synthetic Environment, if it is well chosen and well organized. The Synthetic Environment can remain low-cost and still provide presentations (visual and/or


haptic and/or acoustical etc) about the product (or service) under development to different stakeholders. In this way typical development problems can be avoided, such as misunderstanding about early design concepts, product usability and performance, and customer acceptance.

PhD students and their focus

Jan Miedema Determination of the added value of a Synthetic Environment. Frank Meijer Influence of Synthetic Environment attributes and quality on experience, credibility and effectiveness.

Huaxin Wang System architecture and intuitive interface.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

lectures IOP IPCR Managing Soft reliability


Managing soft reliability Meeting the customer’s expectations

Subject: Managing soft reliability in innovative product creation processes Objective: developing (management) methods to control soft reliability problems during the product creation process Possible application: for the development of hightech products with unclear customer specifications, such as (professional) consumer products and medical equipment for home use Research period: September 2005 - August 2009 PhD students: Aylin Koca (TU/e), Evangelos Karapanos (TU/e), Anne Rozinat (TU/e), Mathias Funk (TU/e) Research institutes: Eindhoven University of Technology, departments Technology Management, Industrial Design and Electronic Engineering Industry involved: OcĂŠ-Technologies B.V., Philips Applied Technologies Project manager: Aarnout Brombacher, (TU/e) +31 (0)40 247 23 90,, design/

During the development of a complex innovative product, a great amount of uncertainty exists as to whether it will meet the requirements of future users. It is impossible to specify exactly what the customer wants or how the product will be used. Nevertheless, it is very important that people are able to predict whether it will meet the expectations at an early stage. Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology are developing management methods for soft reliability problems. This project uses the basic assumption that in highly dynamic and uncertain new product development processes, existing reliability prediction and management techniques have only limited value, especially for managing Soft Reliability. Therefore, the project focuses on very fast and efficient information feedback and information deployment techniques. This project assumes that managing reliability in future products will not only require very fast feedback systems, but also systems that are very flexible (because the nature of the user-product mismatch may be unknown up to the moment where complaints are found) and very detailed (because considerable information on the product, the user


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

and the environment may be required). The ultimate purpose is to gain a better understanding in (the backgrounds of-) Soft Reliability and to develop adequate methods to handle it in (industrial) product creation processes. It is not that difficult to develop a complex product. It is, however, difficult to introduce a product within a short period of time that exactly meets the expectations of the customer. This is easy for simple products such as a light bulb. The number of functions is limited: electricity flows and the lamp provides light. But for a modern television or a computer with millions of transistors and a comparable number of lines of software, it is impossible to specify all the functions. This will sometimes lead to products behaving in an undesired manner, which the customer may then not accept. On the basis of the complaint, it may then appear that the developers had never anticipated that it would be used in this manner. Add to this the fact that products have to be developed and introduced in ever shorter periods of time and the fact that an ever increasing number of parties are involved in this all over the world. Today’s question is no longer: once I have specified the product, how can it meet these specifications but: if I make the product, what is the chance that it will meet the customer’s expectations? And how can I maximise this so-called soft reliability as much as possible? This is because complaints about products often result in expensive interventions, such as product modifications or even withdrawal from the market. It is therefore important to identify any problems at an early stage in order to allow manufacturers to respond to these in a quick and flexible manner. Multidisciplinary project To improve the understanding of the backgrounds of soft reliability problems and to develop suitable management methods, the researchers are following two pathways for this project. On the one hand, they gather as much detailed

information as possible to identify the most important causes. On the other hand, they study the development of the design process: how does a developer use customer requirements to draw up specifications and come to a product that provides the customer with a maximum of functionality and what information is required for this? You need a number of disciplines to study this. To gather user information, an industrial designer studies how the user handles the product in this project. An electrical engineer does the same by having the product ‘tell’ how it is being used. At the same time, a specialist in the field of Quality and Reliability Engineering and an information system analyst analyse the use of information in the design process. Where does which information come from, how is it incorporated in the following steps and how can it be used for new products or for improvements to existing products? The researchers use this information to draw up models of the product creation process. Eventually, this should result in new management methods. Medical equipment and high-end consumer products The aim of this project is to develop high-tech industrial products with many unclear boundary conditions, as for example, is the case with (professional) consumer products. It is important to make complex products accessible to a wide audience. An example of this is the fact that we are seeing a shift from intramural to extramural care, which means that more and more medical equipment is being used at home, such as defibrillators or dialysis equipment. It is therefore of the utmost importance to identify at an early stage how people will use a product, what may go wrong and how this can be prevented. Two industrial cases form the basis of this research. The four PhD students will first gain knowledge and experience using design information and the design processes of complex

lectures IOP IPCR Managing Soft Reliability

office and consumer products. The experience gained and the management methods developed to identify and handle unforeseen customer problems at an early stage will then, for example, be used for a care-related case. The PhDs are mainly looking for a way in which to identify critical factors at a much earlier stage. This is because, instead of using ‘wait, react’ which is now common in product development, people will be able to achieve the desired situation of ‘identify, act’.

PhD students and their focus

Evangelos Karapanos Understanding of the (dominant) causes of Soft Reliability in terms of customer (dis-)satisfaction. Aylin Koca Methods to translate this data into models that describe (causes of ) Soft Reliability issues in terms that can be used in actual product creation processes. Mathias Funk Methods to gather the related field data via the embedded intelligence in the product itself. Anne Rozinat Processes that can be used to manage (information relating to) Soft Reliablity in a business context.



Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Lectures IOP IPCR Smart Synthesis Tools


Smart Synthesis Tools Synthesis-based support for (technical) designers

Objective: considerably shorter design time and higher level of quality due to a tool that designers can use as early as the draft phase to assess a large number of solutions Possible application: wide range of complex design problems with a large number of degrees of freedom and expertise rules Research period: June 2005 - May 2009 PhD students: Valentina d’Amelio (TUD), Juan Manuel Jauregui-Becker (UT), Matthijs Bomhoff (UT), Wouter Schotborgh (UT) research institutes: Twente University, Delft University of Technology Industry involved: Philips DAP, PANalytical, OcÊTechnologies B.V., Vanderlande Industries Project manager: Hans Tragter (UT), +31 (0)53 489 25 96, engineering/synthesis/ProjectSmartSynthesisTools. doc/index.html

The goal of the project is to research the next generation design support tools and to fill in the blank areas of knowledge and understanding. To this end, four core questions have been formulated. How to handle knowledge that cannot be quantified? How to reduce a (complex) design problem into manageable chunks, and solve these efficiently? How to find an optimal design in the multidimensional solution spaces? How to use design knowledge and experience in the software? Each PhD student works on one core area and an industrial case, but a consistent whole is being created by discussions and meetings. The most important phase of the design of almost any product is the first one: the success of a product stands or falls with a good concept. The right choices may improve the price-performance ratio by many tens of percentage points. Finding the best concept, however, is labour-intensive and increasingly difficult to perform as a result of increasing product complexity. Two universities are therefore developing a new computer tool for designers which generates optimised concepts up to a high level of detail.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Original situation

Smart Synthesis Tools situation

The current analysis tools can be used to determine that a design does not meet the specifications, but they don’t provide alternatives. This means that you must always come up with new solutions yourself, only to be told by the tool that they don’t work. This costs a lot of time. Experienced designers can do it faster as they have experience and use rules of thumb, but it is not an ideal situation. This is because the tool does not go further than providing a statement about behaviour. The aim is to develop a program that proposes a number of feasible solutions as early as the draft phase on the basis of the desired behaviour of a product, in other words, a synthesis tool.

heavily influence each other. This means that several specialists are required to find a solution together, which is a time-consuming process. This is because the integration of partial solutions does not always result in a working system, not to mention an ideal system.

Four subjects For decades, the Twente department of OPM has been conducting research into computerbased tools that support designers and engineers. Recently, prototypes were built for various areas of expertise which show the feasibility and positive effects of a synthesis tool, like the design of a pick-and-place robot. This is an issue whereby mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and process control

A synthesis tool is used to specify the desired behaviour of the product as a whole. The tool provides a number of solutions, ordered by quality level. To increase the application possibilities of the synthesis technology that has already been developed, this project involves research in four subareas. The first one is domain integration, which is required for design pathways whereby knowledge from various areas of expertise has to be integrated in the draft phase. The second subject is support for design structuring. A complex problem is first solved roughly as a whole, after which detailed solutions are generated for each of the partial problems. The system must be able to specify partial problems automatically and integrate the partial solutions. The third subarea is aimed at the use of expert knowledge to generate solutions in a targeted manner and have the

lectures IOP IPCR Smart Synthesis Tools

optimisation of designs performed more quickly. The fourth and final area is optimisation itself: finding the best solution in situations with a large number of design parameters. Four applications For this project, four PhD students are working together on a generic software toolkit. It should be possible to use this in the future to build synthesis tools for specific industrial applications. To make sure that this will be possible, each PhD student is building a prototype. The industrial cases are highly relevant to the four problem areas. For domain integration, a typical mechatronic design problem has been found: the paper flow in a high-volume printer. Design structuring is applied to the design of equipment for X-ray analysis. Experience-based decision-making plays an important role in the design of the cooling system of a diecasting mould. Finally, the optimisation of a situation with a large number of parameter is a typical problem in the design of a system for luggage handling at an airport. As the subareas are highly diverse, the project has been set up as a collaboration between three departments of two universities of technology. The areas of expertise of the PhDs complement each other nicely. To have all partial projects benefit from this in the best possible manner, the PhD students work in the same location several days a week. In this way, they can act as the expert in their problem area, not just for their own prototype, but for the other three as well. ‘Industry has shown a great deal of interest in the project. The application possibilities for synthesis tools are very clear,’ explains Hans Tragter. ‘In the case of a die-casting mould, a smart cooling system will cut seconds off production times. That does not seem to be a lot, but it does generate a huge amount of money during the entire service life of a mould. In this case, you shouldn’t be satisfied too quickly as a designer. You don’t just want a solution, you want the best one.’


PhD students and their focus

Valentina d’Amelio Predict a products behaviour with qualitative knowledge.

Juan Manuel Jauregui-Becker Reducing a problems complexity and finding solution strategies.

Matthijs Bomhoff Multi-objective optimisation in design problems.

Wouter Schotborgh Using expert knowledge in software tools.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Design United Delft. November 12-14, 2009


Xx For the 4th year running, the faculties of Industrial Design Engineering of the three Universities of Technology in Delft, Eindhoven and Twente have shown how cooperation between industry and universities leads to valuable products and services for tomorrow’s society. Good, innovative design contributes to prosperity and well-being. This year the exhibition consists of 32 high quality Bachelor and Master Graduation projects and PhD (research) projects, all designed for usability! Three of these projects were selected for presentation at the morning programme. You can find an overview of the exhibition on pages 96-97.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

lectures Design United Paula Kassenaar


Jakob Paula Kassenaar Improving home communication: leaving a personal message behind in your sofa

Many ‘connected’ people have more social activities on the internet than they have with family members living in the same house. To make ‘off-line’ socialising more easy, fun and appealing, Paula Kassenaar designed Jakob. Jakob is a creative and easy-to-use addition to the armrest of your sofa. With Jakob you can play, share and communicate with your family or other household members.

The goal of this final Bachelor project was to stimulate social interaction within a household. The result is Jakob; a piece of intelligent furniture that incorporates smart textiles. Jakob is a creative addition to the armrest of a sofa which gives people on the sofa the ability to record a sound message. Jakob incorporates basic everyday technology connected through electronic yarn in a clever and innovative way. The conductive yarns and embedded electronic modules allow bending, twisting and toying around. The main function of

the technology is recording messages for family members who can listen to it when the ‘recorder’ is not around. But Jakob also forms a platform for a wide variety of social and nonsocial interactions. Playing games together, leaving messages for each other, teasing each other or reminiscing by finding back sound snippets of memorable moments are all examples of the possibilities Jakob facilitates. With Jakob’s attraction for ‘slow messaging’ (non-urgent, more emotional communication) it forms a counter balance for all the ‘hot information’ (requiring constant attention, directed towards action) present in the house, such as television, computer and practical messaging. Jakob was initially designed for use inside a family home, but Jakob immediately inspires people to see it in different settings; museums, public spaces, playgrounds and waiting rooms for instance. Jakob is a good example of the cooperation between TU/e ID students and a business partner, in this case: design label ATTRACKZ from Eindhoven.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

lectures Design United Huub Mulhof


Designing for the Elderly Huub Mulhof Development of a design tool to improve design for the Elderly

The ageing of the Dutch population is and will remain an important theme for designers. This social trend is expected to continue until 2038. By then more than a third of the Dutch population will be aged over 55. In the same period the income of this group will grow 25 percent faster than that of an average household. This makes the elderly a major target group for (product) designers. However all of these elderly people are too often still addressed as one uniform group, while in fact it is a very diverse group. The effects of ageing were investigated by D’Andrea & Evers Design (Enter, The Netherlands) in cooperation with the University of Twente. The goal is to offer product designers a tool to design products that match the needs of the elderly.

Social studies show that generational diversity is caused by the circumstances that people grow up in (formative years), their current age (age effect) and the present time (social and technological developments). The effects of the formative years (age 15-25) are known as the cohort effect. This shows that people who share a formative period also share certain values and preferences. With this in mind it is important to emphasise the fact that the group of elderly people ranges from 55 year olds to those over 90. By clarifying these three effects in a design tool, designers get a good starting point to design products that match the needs of their elderly target groups, regarding the emotional needs as well as the physical and cognitive needs (a.o. usability). In the tool designers will find a collection of images and stories that can inspire and inform the designer about the three effects. This makes it possible to combine aspects of the three effects. During a design study for radios the tool was tested for six different groups of the elderly. The results show that the designer is now able to get a better understanding of the diversity of the elderly target groups, which makes it possible to create meaningful designs.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

lectures Design United Meike Mak


The Philips Easy Line, a retrospective case study Meike Mak A study into the Philips Easy Line and design of an exhibition

Usability, simplicity and ease of use are ‘hot topics’ in product design. To illustrate how important the user has become in product design, Philips introduced Sense and Simplicity as their brand promise in 2004. However, in the early 1990s Philips had already launched a product line that aimed to be specifically easy to use. The line was named the Easy Line and consisted of four audio products: an analogue clock radio, a portable radio, a radio cassette recorder and a hifi set. Although the line was intended to be THE solution to difficult to operate audio equipment, it didn’t sell well. The question which arose was: why? The desire to find the answer to this question formed the basis for this study.

Fierce competition in the consumer electronics market from Japan (Sony in particular) made it necessary for Philips to react and innovate to maintain a profitable market share. The combination of the growing dislike of complex products, the ageing of the population and the (then) recent successful segmentation of the audio market into target groups was seen as an opportunity for Philips to develop easy-to-use products. The initial target group that was chosen, the elderly, was adjusted to ‘almost everyone’ at the start of the project. Although the idea for an Easy Line seemed, and still seems, promising, the Easy Line itself cannot be labelled successful due to low sales. A number of reasons can be given; the high prices in combination with the small feature lists, little marketing, the focus on a combination of selling-points and the resulting ‘diluted’ message to consumers. In addition, the project suffered from organisational changes in Philips’ management, shifting priorities and pressure on time-tomarket. The results of the research and the answers to the ‘Why’ question were communicated to the public by a transportable exhibition which also formed part of the Design United exhibition.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009



workshop 1 The user-centered experience


workshop 2 How to manage design for usability in practice


workshop 3 Advanced user research and evaluation


workshop 4 Design for behaviour


workshop 5 The usability runway


workshop 6 Small usability techniques


workshop 7 A toolbox for usability


workshop 8 Barriers and enablers for usability in practice



Symposium Design for Usability 2009

workshop 1 The user-centred experience


workshop 1 The user-centered experience

Quick prototypes, involving users early in the design process, can provide designers with important insights. Facilitated by Abbie Vanhoutte and Robert Eijlander, usability engineer and interaction designer at Océ Design, Océ-Technologies B.V.

This interactive workshop illustrated the benefits of using quick prototypes to involve users in the early phases of the design process. Getting early user feedback by evaluating a practical prototype is more useful than theoretical discussions about which design decisions to take. A prototype, even when very lowtech, can give great insights in a usability test. With limited effort, time and resources, designers can get valid user feedback that sets the design process off in the right direction. In a morning lecture at the Design for Usability symposium, Robert Eijlander and Abbie Vanhoutte presented insightst into how iterative usability testing with different prototypes contributed to designing the right solution for the Océ VarioPrint® 6250. In the afternoon workshop, different design teams were challenged to design an interface for an e-reader. Quick prototypes allowed each design to be evaluated in a usability test by the other teams.

The participants The workshop was targeted towards (design) students and professionals wanting to increase their skills and knowledge of user-centred design. The Design Challenges The participants were divided into two design teams to work on a design assignment for the user interface of an e-reader. The e-reader was chosen because it is easy to build an image of its context and use without doing much prior user research, making it a suitable subject for a short design process. In this context, the design teams were presented with a choice of three design challenges: 1 Managing bookmarks: design an interface that allows users to add bookmarks while using an e-reader. Make sure it is possible to get an overview of the bookmarks and manage them. 2 Adding notes/highlights: design an interface that allows users to add notes or highlight certain parts of a document while using an e-reader.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

3 Browsing your library: design an interface that allows users to browse through all the books downloaded to the e-reader and choose the specific book they are looking for. Think of options like reading a summary, looking for ratings, etc. Each team chose one of these challenges. Context and functional requirements In the first part of the workshop, the teams were asked to define the context of use and functional requirements for which the design would be made. As context, the target group, the place of use and a specific goal were defined. The functional requirements were given in the form ‘it should be possible to…’ which made it easier to define the test scenarios during the validation. Example 1: A man is reading a thrilling novel while travelling by train. At a certain moment, he has to change trains. It should be possible to add a bookmark that indicates where

he stopped reading. The same bookmark should enable him to easily find the place he left off and start reading again. Example 2: A woman is using a travel guide of Paris to plan a weekend away with her boyfriend. Whenever she comes across something interesting, it should be possible for her to add a bookmark, so she can easily find it again when she is in Paris (a post-it function). Thinking in scenarios like these revealed different functions for bookmarks. Ideation In the next step, the design teams started generating ideas for their specific e-reader functionality. The idea creation was neither steered nor influenced by the facilitators. It was interesting to see how difficult it is to separate discussions about functionality and design solutions. This also happens in ‘real’ design practice. Having the context and functionality defined before starting ideation helps focus on design solutions. As always, different design solutions were possible for the same functions and context. This resulted in discussions and ‘agreement’ by discussion. In this workshop, there was not a lot of time for ideation, so decisions about what to build had to be made quickly. The ‘Browsing your library’ team came up with a concept whereby a magnifying tool was used to focus on details of thumbnail views of the covers of all the books in the library. Design challenges were, for example, the navigation between the summarised information of a book and the series of thumbnails, and the manner of ‘opening’ the information about a book. The ‘Bookmark’ team chose a solution whereby flipping a corner of the e-reader (integrated into the hardware), added a bookmark. The items to bookmark could be selected by

workshop 1 The user-centred experience

touching the screen. The user could add textual information to the bookmark, by means of a pop-up keyboard in the interface. Prototyping In the next phase, both teams developed a paper prototype. For this, they were given a mock-up of an e-reader, made out of MDF. In this mock-up, sketches of the interface could be placed, presented and browsed through. According to the user scenario they developed in the ideation phase, the design teams made sketches for each screen of their user interface. Hardware buttons or text could also be added to the mock-up, by means of tape, drawings, stickers, cardboard, etc. The participants came up with smart and simple ideas to simulate complex interaction mechanisms. The magnifying animation was simulated by pushing a loose, round paper over a ‘screen-sketch’. The hardware bookmark was made by simply sticking a piece of cardboard with a ‘dog ear’ over the mock-up. Validation After the prototypes were finished, the teams explained their research questions and the user scenario to the usability researchers (the Océ facilitators), who moderated the usability test. This distinction between designers and usability testers was made deliberately, to get objective results. As designers are always personally involved with their designs, it is better to let somebody with an independent view moderate the usability test. Both designs were also tested by members of the other design team. The test sessions were video recorded and could be observed live by the design team. Both teams gained interesting insights. On the one hand, the test confirmed some user misunderstandings that the designers had anticipated. On the other hand, unexpected reactions were also revealed. For example, the ‘dog ear’ in


the e-reader hardware that could be used to add bookmarks was not ‘recognised’ by the users. The reason for this was that users were distracted by a star in the interface, an icon typically associated with bookmarks. In the design for library browsing, the most difficult part was the ‘zooming in by rotation’ step, which was also the element the designers were most uncertain about. The reaction of the test participants helped in finding tuned or alternative directions for the design. Conclusion The main aim was to illustrate how the confrontational experience of watching users interact with your design is not only useful, but also a lot of fun, as certain user reactions are surprising and revealing. The participants experienced how involving users in the design process can lead to interesting and important insights that can easily be overlooked by designers themselves, as they look at the design from a quite different perspective. Paper prototyping enabled them to get important user feedback that could point the design process in the right direction. By investing a certain amount of time, effort and resources, even complex interaction mechanisms can be validated by involving users early in the design process. The risk of spending a lot of time and money developing the wrong solution is therefore significantly decreased.

‘Involving users in the design process is well worth the time and effort.’


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

workshop 2 How to manage design for usability in practice


workshop 2 How to manage design for usability in practice

A professional debate exploring how to address usability risks and opportunities during the product development process Facilitated by Willem Mees van der Bijl and Chris van Dijken, account/project manager and usability engineer at Indes design agency

In this workshop, a group of 14 practitioners explored the question of how to address usability risks and opportunities during the product development process. Having a clear understanding of usability opportunities and risks at the start of a product development project is crucial for planning the development approach and budget. So the first part of the workshop explored how the desired level of usability can (and should) be communicated between the project participants and other stakeholders. The second part of the workshop addressed the challenges of managing the process so to achieve these goals.

The participants The participants were all active in developing products with good usability, either as product managers or product developers. They came from different backgrounds, including software design and product design. The goal The workshop’s aim was to facilitate a constructive discussion on managing design for usability in practice, and the opportunities and risks of applying usability in product development. Defining usability At the outset of the workshop, definitions of usability, design for usability and managing usability were discussed in order to establish a clear understanding about the subject and enable a constructive and effective discussion. In a nutshell, design for usability is all about designing and developing products that are understood and appreciated by users.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Usability focus The group was divided into three smaller ‘brainstorming’ groups. The first brainstorm session was about the usability focus and how this is communicated to stakeholders. The participants agreed that it is important to ‘speak the same language with all stakeholders regarding usability and its opportunities.’ And: ‘the company culture is an important factor in determining the level of usability.’ By ensuring an overall level of understanding about the application of usability within a project, stakeholders are on the same level and can speak the same language.

‘Nowadays it is easier to sell usability activities than a few years ago. Most clients see the importance of design for usability and are willing to invest in it.’

Some participants found that the usability aspect is the most important part of a development project and should be maintained in all situations. However, it was also clear that smaller companies especially found this difficult, and that usability activities are the first to be cut when budget reductions are required. Therefore, the risks involved in neglecting usability research have to be clearly communicated to the client. In this respect, participants believe that times are changing: “Nowadays, it is easier to sell usability activities than a few years ago. Most clients see the importance of design for usability and are willing to invest in it.” It is important to invest in making usability engineering more widely known, by organising workshops to help companies become familiar with it. Getting results The second brainstorm session focused on how to transform usability goals into results. At the start of the project, it is important to be as specific as possible with the stakeholders, to ensure that there is a clear, mutual vision regarding

workshop 2 How to manage design for usability in practice


‘The company culture is an important factor in determining the level of usability.’ The design input for the UCID®-method: user(s), product, use environment(s) and external events

goals and expectations. One participant mentioned “added value and promise” that have to be communicated to the stakeholders. An overall understanding is created by involving the stakeholders in the process and decision making. There was a discussion about the usability guidelines that a designer has to deal with. These guidelines and boundary conditions are extracted from the usability analysis in the early stages of a project. This gives structure and focus in the development process, and finally ensures a product that is understood and appreciated by the user and all other stakeholders, including the client. During development, the pre-set design for usability goals will both restrict and inspire the development team. Conclusion Participants found the discussions fruitful and inspiring. The workshop concluded that it is of great importance to determine the desired level of design for usability at the beginning of the development process. This must be done

in communication with all project stakeholders, including the client and design team. To support this communication, the discussion about design for usability goals needs a common language, whether a product, software, or service is concerned. About Indes Indes has over 20 years’ experience of developing products for user comfort, human care and medical use. It has developed its own user-centred design method, the UCID®method, which has proven extremely successful. The method describes the context of use in detail, and testing focuses on critical scenarios. The goal is always to develop a product that users understand and appreciate. With its new Chinese office in Ningbo, Indes is in full control of developing and manufacturing its products.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

workshop 3 Advanced user research and evaluation


workshop 3 Advanced user research and evaluation Exploring a five-step approach to getting the best out of user research methods

Facilitated by Roel Kahmann (P5 consultants) and René Dings (Tremani)

This workshop focused on learning from the experience of advanced user research and evaluation methods. It looked at how to tackle organisational issues when conducting these studies, and how to communicate the results effectively. A five-step approach to developing good user research was also outlined. The workshop was led by experts in human-centred design from P5 consultants and Tremani, both of whom are experienced in tailoring methods and approaches for user research and evaluation to suit the needs of a variety of clients and contexts. The workshop drew on Tremani’s expertise in interaction design and P5’s expertise in product testing.

Participants In this workshop, 17 participants (working in four groups) exchanged their experiences of user research. They came from a broad range of backgrounds, including design offices, industry and education. Practical focus The main goal of the workshop was to exchange experiences on user-centred design research, with a strong focus on the practical issues of doing research. Two exercises The first of two workshop exercises was based on the case of an online camera shop. The company website has a large number visitors, but a many of them leave the site the moment they have to complete the buying process. The groups were asked to develop an approach to find out why. Most groups choose to use statistics from the site in combination with a pop-up questionnaire asking the reason for leaving. One of the drawbacks of this approach is that it depends on the willingness of visitors to participate. “Emotional aspects are harder to identify with these research


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Five steps Making the test design in the exercises provided a useful stepping-stone to the five-step approach developed by P5 over the years (partly based on the Annabel method as developed by E. Groenland of Nijenrode University in 2001). Step 1: Briefing In general, the start of a user research briefing is a problem discovered by the client. In most cases, the question is a management issue, which is not the same as a research question (which is based on a knowledge problem). It is important to get a clear idea what kind of information is needed to solve a management problem and whether the outcome will be used in decision-making, or for inspiration. steps,” said one participant. An observation test is a better way of getting an insight into the reasons for leaving the site. The second exercise was about choosing between two different interfaces for a coffee machine. In this case, an existing product was used. Two different user interfaces were presented, and the participants were asked to design a test to decide which one to adopt. The methods chosen by the different groups were discussed. Three groups came up with a semi-quantitative test with observations in combination with interviews asking respondents for their preferences. One of these groups wanted to place both machines in an office and observe which version was used the most. The forth group decided not to test at all. They decided to advise the client to discontinue the product because of its poor interface. In reaction to this, one of the participants remarked: “it’s a smart technology with a box around it. Maybe it was cheaper this way, but it works!” No doubt the client would use this argument too.

Step 2: Test design Next, the test has to be developed. Three issues have to be addressed in the test design: the sample, the methods and the stimuli. The sample is based on the characteristics of the people that use the product. It is important to discriminate between target groups and user groups. Target groups are often mentioned by marketeers (are we designing the right product?), and user groups by designers (are we designing the product right?). Therefore, user research may vary in relevance for designers (or R&D) and other disciplines (management, marketing, sales). Based on the final research question, a quantitative or qualitative approach can be chosen. Both have their own methods. Quantitative research nowadays often uses online questionnaires. Qualitative research relies on face-to-face interviews or focus groups, or a combination. It’s important to consider whether the tools you always use are the most appropriate: researchers have a tendency to redefine the research question so that they can use their standard methods.

workshop 3 Advanced user research and evaluation


A stimulus is an artefact (a representation of the product) that will be used in the research. Depending on the stage of product development, it can be an idea, a paper version, a mock-up, a prototype or a real product. It is Important that the stimulus is appropriate for the test. Very realistic working models, for example, can prevent people from making comments because they think the product is ready, and cannot be changed. On the other hand, less realistic prototypes may mean over-simplified interactions. Step 3: Test Testing in a lab situation is ideal, because a lot of the relevant factors are under control. A drawback is that it is difficult to simulate a realistic context, so it is sometimes necessary to test in the field. Field tests often call for solutions to practical problems, for example, bad weather might mean an extra test day. Step 4: Analysis Analysis of research can be time-consuming, so it is important to think about the consequences of the research method chosen. Video recording for instance is a great tool for back up and for illustrating results, but is quite labourintensive to use as a tool for analysis. There are systems available were video can be coded during the test in order to facilitate the analysis. Step 5: Communication Getting the user-centred design findings incorporated in the final product requires good communication. To communicate the results, workshops with the design team members are more effective than reports. We often use the script method, which means we develop personas and contexts to illustrate issues relevant for the product use in daily life.

Conclusion: Ping Pong! Asked whether it is possible to do user research at an early stage we finally presented the Ping Pong model (see Figure above) in order to illustrate the different possibilities of involving users at different levels in the product development process. Every stage has its own methods, depending on the goal of the research. For example, exploration is meant to construct a hypothesis of how people use the product and what aspects are relevant. In this phase, observations are used to analyse behaviour and interviews to discover important issues. This is qualitative research. Verification is meant to determine whether users are capable of using the product without problems. This is a semi-quantitative test and therefore needs more participants.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

workshop 4 Design for behaviour


workshop 4 Design for behaviour

How can user behaviour be guided and changed through design? Facilitated by PhD students Steven Dorrestijn (UTwente) and Nynke Tromp (Delft University of Technology)

Anticipating how products guide and change user behaviour can help prevent undesired product use, or promote a desired behaviour change. In this workshop, participants tried to design with the explicit intention of guiding and changing user behaviour. The workshop started with introductory presentations by Steven Dorrestijn and Nynke Tromp about the theoretical background and some basic concepts concerning product impact on user behaviour. Dorrestijn talked about the philosophy of technology as a background of product impact theory. Next, he explained the difference between physical and cognitive product impact. Tromp then described how the influence on behaviour can be coercive, persuasive or implicit. She then explained the design assignment. The 35 participants worked on the assignment in groups. Finally the outcomes were presented to each other.

Philosophy and ethics of technology Reflection about the relationship between technology and humans is the subject of the philosophy of technology. It asks: what is technology, and how does technology change humans? In the early days, technology was seen as a means to complete the human being. In this way technology was considered naturally good. However, because not all humans were able to enjoy the benefits of technology, scarcity and inequality due to technology still had to be overcome. In line with this thought, the architect and designer Le Corbusier (in Vers une architecture) wanted to change social life by radically reinventing the material, technological conditions. For him, this was the only alternative for an otherwise unavoidable revolution. Due to the experiences of two World Wars and the rise of environmental problems in the 20th century, the vision of technology swung from the utopian to the dystopian. The perspective on technology became predominantly ethical: Does technology serve humanity, or does it ultimately dominate humans? Technology is no longer seen as neutral or good, but as a threat to human freedom and dignity. The challenge became to defend nature and human existence


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

against the rush of technology, or to adapt technology again to human needs. This was reflected in the work of design critic Victor Papanek’s Design for the Real World, for example. More recently, philosophers began to replace these generalised views on the significance of technology with more detailed studies into the various kinds of relationships humans have with technologies. In What Things Do (De daadkracht der dingen), Peter-Paul Verbeek proposes a framework to understand how technologies change human experience and action. This empirically orientated philosophy of technology can be applied to design in order to guide and change user behaviour deliberately. In this way, designers can make pragmatic (and responsible) use of the social effects of technology that philosophers have always stressed. Guiding and changing user behaviour To design for guiding and changing user behaviour, it is necessary to stop thinking of technologies as tools to satisfy pre-existing human needs. Instead, start to think the other way around: how can products be used to change action patterns or user preferences? Two conceptual distinctions were introduced to be employed during the workshop. The first was the difference between cognitive and physical product impact. With reference to automotive technologies (Lane Change Support, Martijn Tideman) it was shown how the difference can result in two design options. By applying meters, signs, messages, etc, it is possible to influence the user’s decision-making processes,

‘How forceful can or should you be as a designer?’

which happens on a cognitive level. At a physical level, one can apply a nudge from the brake pedals or the steering wheel to guide the driver’s behaviour, hereby shortcutting his decision-making processes. The second conceptual difference was concerned with the strength of impact: coercive, persuasive, and implicit. Road design that makes use of obstructions that simply must be obeyed (for example a speed bump) can be called coercive. But on the road you also encounter an array of lines, signs, and colour coding that guide without coercion, by means of more subtle persuasion. Meanwhile a crossroad, where all interventions to slow drivers down had been removed to promote safety by enhancing the driver’s attentiveness, illustrates that user guidance can also be implied in the structure of a design without behaviour steering features. The distinction between coercive, persuasive and implicit influence does not refer to the designer’s intention, but to the user’s experience of that influence. This focus on experience (rather than on the designer’s intention or design qualities) is important, as it allows more accurate predictions of the effectiveness and acceptance of the design influence. To envision this experience, the participants were encouraged to think in terms of concerns. If the user is concerned with the environment, a strong intervention to encourage sustainable behaviour may be experienced as persuasive, while somebody who doesn’t care about the environment at all probably experiences the same intervention as quite coercive. On the other hand, if a passenger never buys a ticket for the train (obviously without any concern about legislation or authority), applying interventions to stop this behaviour with a strong authoritarian character (coercive) probably won’t make much difference. In the latter case, implicit influence will probably be more effective. The main idea of the workshop was to explore ‘design for behaviour’, by varying cognitive and physical interventions as well as by playing with the experienced strength of the influence.

workshop 4 Design for behaviour

The assigments For the assignment, the group was split into smaller groups of 3 or 4 people. Each group received a specific design brief. To get an insight into the design approach of the groups related to the design brief, we decided to give five of the ten groups a slightly different assignment. For example, one group received the assignment, ‘design a product that decreases aggressive behaviour towards the bus driver’, while another group received the assignment ‘design the bus driver’s seat in such a way that it decreases aggressive behaviour towards the bus driver’. Although this didn’t hold for all groups, those with an assignment including a specific product tended to start with brainstorming product ideas immediately, while groups without a specific product tended to start with getting insight into the possible user concerns (see Figure below). The distinction between coercive, persuasive and implicit was not always easy to master, but it did trigger the designers’ feelings of responsibility as well as their personal preference of how we should deal with behaviour change: how forceful can or should you be as a designer?


Conclusion Although this also didn’t hold for all groups, being assigned a specific product appeared to lead more easily to implicit influence than starting without a specific product to design. Implicit influence, meaning influence where the user is only slightly or not at all aware of it, and where the influenced behaviour is experienced as the natural way of behaving, appears to be the most difficult to design. Coercive and

‘How can products be used to change action patterns or user preferences?’

persuasive design, in which the product influence is very explicit, seem easier to design. A beautiful outcome of the workshop was a design to decrease aggressive behaviour towards the bus driver. The design was based on what the group called ‘reflective philosophy’ and enabled the bus driver to let the voice of the aggressive person echo (as you sometimes experience with your own voice using a cell phone). The idea was that as soon as you hear yourself, you become very much aware of yourself and what you’re doing or saying. This sudden and unexpected awareness will then probably decrease your aggression. Whether behavioural implications belong to the responsibility of designers, or whether design is the discipline to counter global issues, remained questions without a unanimous answer. However, everyone agreed that designers’ awareness of the behavioural implications of design is still far too limited.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

workshop 5 The usability runway


workshop 5 The usability runway

A practical introduction in approaching usability related design assignments Researchers Mascha van der Voort and Irene Anggreeni and PhD student Frederik Hoolhorst (UTwente)

This workshop gave participants a practical introduction to designing for usability. The concept of usability was discussed during the first part of thepresentation, followed by a description of a number of user-centred design techniques. The participants then followed two workshops where they were given greater insights into defining approaches to usabilityrelated design assignments, and which introduced them to a new way of managing design information using scenarios. Participants The participants were a mixture of professions and disciplines. Most of them were novices in the field of user-centred design.

The goal The aim of the workshop was to provide a grounding in the basics of user-centred design by focusing on three themes: 1) user-centred design; 2) approaching user-centred design problems; and 3) managing user-centred design data using scenario-based design techniques. Theoretical framework The presentation sketched the theoretical framework: usability was defined as the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context [ISO 924-11]. Certain user-centred design techniques, such as scenario-based design, participatory design and usability testing, were addressed, and their main characteristics discussed. Examples of situations where they could be used were also given. Approaches The second part of the workshop consisted of a group assignment that focused on defining user-centred design approaches. Initially, participants discussed the main


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Methods This was followed by a critical appraisal of existing user-centred design methods. Based on this report, two recommendations for the development of new user-centred design methods were given: 1 That a supporting user-centred design approach should be based on the specific characteristics of the design problem, as well as the specific characteristics of the environment in which the design activities take place. 2 That a supporting user-centred design method should not only describe which tasks should be performed and at what stage during the design process, but also how to accomplish these tasks, who will be involved in the design process and which intermediate design results are expected during the process.

characteristics of user-centred design approaches as well as the assignment itself. Most user-centred design approaches prescribe the same four main phases, namely analysis, concept development, design materialisation and product optimisation. The analysis phase focuses on gaining insights into the product’s future use(s). These insights result in design specifications regarding usability. The concept development phase aims at exploring solutions for the design problem. It results in a base design proposal that meets the formulated usability specifications. The design materialisation phase focuses on technical detailing of the base design proposal’s construction. Additionally, a system of tests give better insight into the usability and technical performance of the product design. Finally, the design is made ready for production during the optimisation phase. During this phase, it is important to check whether the production model preserves the intended degree of usability of the final prototype.

We then discussed a new toolbox-based method, which supports design teams in defining a user-centred design approach. This method is based on both recommendations. It supports designers in defining the characteristics of the user-centred design results necessary for the design process, as well as the user-centred design tasks required to achieve these results. It also supports designers in selecting the user-centred design techniques and tools suitable for each of these tasks. Assignment 1: find your approach Two groups of participants defined a specific design approach for a particular design case. These design cases varied both in the nature of the problem they presented, and the environment in which they had to be solved. Participants could use the theory presented earlier for inspiration. After completing the assignment, each group was asked to discuss their approach. The presentations showed two fundamentally different design approaches. Although each

workshop 5 The usability runway


group asked similar design questions during the design process, the approach taken to answering them was different. Each group applied different design techniques or linked similar design tools in a different way. Furthermore, reactions based on these presentations showed that using the toolbox-based method did not only result in a specific design method; it also created a mutual understanding of the role of usability in this specific design case. Scenarios During the third part of the workshop participants explored scenario-based design, a combination of design techniques bringing together users, products, use environments and their interaction. Scenario-based design can be used in any phase of the design process and supports communication between designers, as well as reflection and evaluation. We looked at using scenarios to process the design data resulting in an executed design approach. While scenarios are inherent to designers’ thought processes, their explicit use is still sporadic and not fully integrated with the design process itself. The theories of scenario-based design leave many open ends for designers. A support tool could provide more practical guidance to designers. The participants were introduced to an early prototype of a tool that follows the designer’s thought process in using scenarios. This tool supports the documentation of scenario-based design data. It also supports designers in constructing and organising scenarios. A demonstration was given using a fictive design case and design data. From the demonstration, the participants learned how scenarios are constructed, and the explicit relationship between scenarios and design requirements.

Assignment 2: make a scenario Following this, the participants were given a second assignment. In groups, they were asked to make up some design data and scenarios based on their design approach.

‘A support tool could provide more practical guidance to designers.’ They could use the tool to document and manage the design data, and try out its functionality using computers with web links. The participants were informed that they could open discussions with, and give feedback to, any of the facilitators during the tryout. Questionnaires were handed out to the participants at the end of the session, and from these we concluded that the participants understood the information flow within the tool. Their main feedback addressed the interface and interaction using the tool, which is understandable since it was an early prototype.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

workshop 6 Small usability techniques


workshop 6 Small usability techniques

Quick, cheap methods like role-playing, scenarios and rough prototyping can help designers anticipate usability issues Facilitated by researcher Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer (UTwente) and researcher Stella Boess (Delft University of Technology)

‘Small usability techniques’ are fast and cheap qualitative ways to evaluate the usability of a design proposal. They include role-playing, scenario-based design and small-scale use testing (for example, by colleagues). This workshop focused on different ways of exploring usability issues without real end-users, based on the principles of remembering, imagining, experiencing, envisioning and presenting use. It also examined how usability issues depend on user, product and context aspects, and how these aspects can be gathered together in a usability matrix. Participants were introduced to the techniques before trying them out on a design case. Participants Thirteen experienced professionals from ergonomics, software design, appliances design and design education participated in the workshop.

Usability techniques in design Small usability techniques can evaluate (early) design representations without actual end-users. Because they only give limited insight into the target use situation, they should be combined with prior user research and user tests. Nevertheless, the faciliators’ research in design practice (Boess, 2009) shows that designers need and make use of small techniques for interim evaluation while designing. The workshop therefore looked at how to give these small techniques a place in the overall design process while discussing their practical application, added value and fit with more formal usability testing. In the small usability techniques covered in this workshop, for example role-plays, scenario-based design and rough prototyping, it’s a case of imagining use, experiencing it for yourself, or watching it being enacted by colleagues. Techniques can support each other: for example a scenario can serve as the basis for role-play, and a rough prototype can define how a design is featured in role-play.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Remembering, imagining, experiencing, envisioning use To be able to evaluate the usability of a product design its use should be made explicit. This can be done by remembering, imagining, experiencing and envisioning use. Remembering use means collecting the memories (stories) of a designer or design team (from experience or user tests) about product use. Imagining use includes brainstorming user and context characteristics that could influence the use of a product, creating scenarios and speculating on usability issues. Experiencing use is about testing products or prototypes with design team members or colleagues to get insight into potential usability issues. Finally, envisioning use means creating new solutions and simultaneously imagining their future use. These four types of engagement with use can be represented in stories or scenarios, which can help designers to switch from a technical to an experiential product view. A story is about specifics, something that actually happened to a specified person: the person experiences, and then remembers it. A scenario, on the other hand, is about possibilities, about people and experiences that might exist: hence someone might imagine and envision it. Evaluating usability When evaluating usability, the focus should not only be on how, but also what. Iso 9241 defines usability as the extent to which a specified user can achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use. So usability not only depends on product characteristics but also on the user, goal and use context. This implies that usability issues should be related to a specific use situation. To relate use situations, product parts and usability issues to each other, we propose a usability matrix. This matrix charts the relationships between product parts and use situation aspects by connecting each with specific usability issues or problems. The use situation is presented as dynamic, charting the different use phases of the product. This is illustrated by the workshop case

description below. Using the matrix can enable designers to discover where the critical usability issues in a story or scenario are located, while at the same time showing their context and origin. Design case The workshop presented a case that most of the participants would have personal experience of: the design of a presentation microphone. The workshop included the four sources of gathering usability issues - remembering, imagining, experiencing and envisioning - plus a presenting step. In a plenary session stories about the use of existing presentation microphones were gathered. These came not only from the personal experience of the participants, but also from watching the presenters in the morning sessions of the symposium. Observations included the difficulties people with long hair had in putting on the headset, and the problem of finding and using the tiny mute button in a dark environment. The top row of the matrix was filled with aspects of these use situations, which were also categorised by use phase. For instance the aspect ‘hairstyle’ was assigned to the phase ‘attaching’. The corresponding product part, for example the headset, was written in the left column. The usability issue itself was written on a blue post-it and positioned there where the product part and the use situation aspect intersected in the matrix. More usability issues were gathered by imagining use scenarios. Pictures of different users and presentation contexts were handed to the participants for inspiration. They brainstormed on further usability problems or issues which were then put in the matrix in the same way as the memories, but using yellow post-its to mark the difference between memories and imagination. Participants could also experience the use of an actual presentation microphone in a role-play. The participants


The usability matrix

Participants envisioning new ideas

were handed presentation texts and asked to choose a role-play character and a context of use. Then one participant played the character while the others observed the usability issues that surfaced during the role-play. These issues were gathered in the usability matrix by means of orange post-its. Finally, the participants developed new ideas for presentation microphones in small groups using the materials provided. During this developmental stage, participants were asked to envision the use that would result from the new design. As a final step each group presented their best idea to the other participants.

sequences of a product. One participant remarked: “Often, you focus only on a few things. The matrix gives an overview of all the issues, alerts you to the gaps, and facilitates decisions on what issues need to be addressed.”

Conclusion The remembering, imagining and experiencing phases gave fast insights into the issues that play a role in the design of a presentation microphone. However, some participants questioned the value of the envisioning phase, because they did not have enough knowledge about the technical possibilities of a presentation microphone.

As the usability matrix was used for the first time in this workshop and is still under development, it needs to be optimised. The total matrix, when filled, could be overwhelming. Ways to structure the matrix visually need to be developed further. Product parts need to be related better to perceivable product characteristics. The small usability techniques that were presented in this workshop are especially useful when it is easy to empathise with the end-user and the context of use plays an important role. The workshop was geared mainly towards the investigation of 3D products. Some participants who were involved in software development commented that the presentation of the techniques would need to be adapted to their domain.

A perceived benefit of the matrix was its overview of all the experiences, observations and ideas that are present in the minds of a design team. Moreover, the matrix can make visible the ‘gaps’ in the designers’ thinking about the use

This workshop on small usability techniques is an interim result of ongoing research and provided the facilitators with much inspiration for further work. They therefore thank the participants for their enthusiasm and useful comments.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

workshop 7 A toolbox for usability


workshop 7 A toolbox for usability

Towards MUST, a tool for managing usability information and supporting decision-making Facilitated by PhD students Christelle Harkema (TU/Eindhoven) and Chajoong Kim (Delft University of Technology)

This workshop introduced a preliminary version of the management usability support tool (MUST), a toolbox for managing usability information and supporting the decision-making process. The goal was to improve the tool through discussions with industry about practical experiences and needs. The workshop participants were able to generate ideas for the content and goals of the toolbox, by relating experiences from their own work.

Making usability objective To introduce the workshop, a short presentation was held on usability problems. The following definition of usability was used: ‘usability is the ease-of-use a user experiences while using the functionality and features of a product in a certain context’ (Shackel 1991). If ‘ease-of-use’ is not experienced, users become irritated and annoyed, resulting in complaints or even in product returns, a so-called ‘public action’. Complaints received by companies are probably only the tip of the iceberg of usability problems, which are considerable in number and still increasing (Brombacher 2005, Ouden 2006). The product development process has to be improved in order to reduce the extent of these usability problems. Managing usability information and supporting decision making could achieve this starting point for MUST. Problems that arise in information management include the loss of information or difficulties in access or searching. Reusing information can prevent costly decison making errors, for example when defining problems, evaluating alternatives, or implementing the chosen alternative, usability is often not the most important variable. It is difficult to


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

Basic design process steps

Extra options Project usability risks based on company and project characteristics Possible means for analysis and usability evaluation

Available knowledge Likeliness/ priority of • Use situation • User characteristics (in this project)

Analysis/ definition of target user and situation


test conditions

Usability evaluation



Interactions between product characteristics and user/ situation (including expected problems)

Design proposal with certain product characteristics • Expected problems • Usability risk • Overview of what lacks in information and knowledge Decision Put product on market


After Sales information

measure the value of usability as it is a more subjective variable than time and money. Making usability more objective, for example by estimating the usability risk, can support the decision-making process.

Proposal for a model that describes the functions of the tool

Taking the two main objectives of the toolbox (managing usability information and supporting decision-making) as a starting point, the workshop´s group discussions addressed a number of issues. These included: what information do we need in the toolbox, and what do we want to get out of it? Examples from the participants’ professional practice were used to specify exact needs. The results were used to further develop the concept of the toolbox, as presented in the scheme above. Toolbox requirements The discussions resulted in a list of requirements and-or issues: The toolbox should help with quick analysis of field data, checking its reliability, whether it is representative of the target group and how data from a specific area relates to the big picture. Should the toolbox support the process or content? In other words, how generic should the information in the

workshop 7 A toolbox for usability

box be? The toolbox should include a checklist or database system to check usability issues, such as defining goals and which information to gather. The toolbox has to contain techniques for the evaluation of a number of generic ‘personas’ that could be adjusted for each case. The toolbox should improve communication between different parties in a multi-disciplinary team, for example by inventorising and categorising the concerns in a number of ways (according to priority, whether solved, etc). Other functions could include signaling, for example when two people are working on the same thing, and bringing people into the same space. There should be a common language, in the form of visualisation or a model, to improve this communication. The total picture of a development process needs to be better monitored. Often, parts are developed separately and not combined until the end; the toolbox should provide a complete picture. Each party involved should focus on the user at the start of the process; all parties should have the same empathy with the user. The toolbox has to be easily maintainable The toolbox should make ‘fuzzy’ information more concrete at the start of the process, by clarifying what needs to be defined. The toolbox should increase awareness by suggesting the relevant usability tests and issues especially at the start of a process. The toolbox should be adaptable as new information becomes available throughout the process. Conclusion The workshop confirmed the complexity of usability issues, and the importance of implementing a usability-focussed development process. As an information management tool the toolbox could help monitor data for relevance by means


of checklists or database systems. The information should be generic, so it can be adjusted to each specific case, and available to everyone (using a common language). It is important that the total picture is monitored and that all parties work towards this shared vision.

‘When evaluating usability, the focus should not only be on how, but also what.’ As a decision-making tool, the toolbox should improve the collaboration between the different parties in a multidisciplinary team. At the beginning of the process, it must help establish shared goals, ensuring that the participants think along the same lines making decision-making easier. Parties should have the same empathy with the user and the product. During the process, adherence to the shared goals should be frequently monitored. The workshop provided a large amount of input that will be used for further development of the toolbox, as well as confirming the need for this type of resource.


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

workshop 8 Barriers and enablers for usability in practice


workshop 8 Barriers and enablers for usability in practice Sharing results and getting feedback on a case study

Faciliated by Jasper van Kuijk, PhD student (Delft University of Technology)

The purpose of this workshop was to share the results of a case study and get feedback. The study concerned the practice of usability techniques during product development at five different companies. The businesses involved are all active in developing electronic consumer products, for example personal media players, washing machines, home controls (thermostats) and personal navigation devices.

1,700 factors During the case study, we interviewed product developers in different roles in each of the companies. These roles included product managers, interaction designers and development engineers, as well as usability specialists. This allowed us to capture a perspective broader than that of just the usability specialist alone. We wanted to know how a product might be made more usable throughout the design and implementation process, not merely how its usability can be evaluated. The interviews resulted in over 1,700 non-unique ‘barriers and enablers’. These are organisational properties (belonging to the process, team, or context) that either obstruct the usability of products, or stimulate it. These barriers and enablers were captured in an interactive software application called Trace. This enables them to be mapped in various categories. In addition, Trace allows for interactive browsing of these barriers and enablers and investigating the original interview quotes on which the barriers and enablers were based. This allows other researchers, as well as the participating companies, to


Symposium Design for Usability 2009

access the interpretations that researchers have made. Prior to the workshop, the participants could use the Trace tool, which had been placed in a secure online environment. In this way, they could better understand how the tool worked and explore the barriers and enablers operating within their own companies. During the workshop, the participants from the companies were given an analysis of the barriers and enablers of their own company, based on the content of the Trace tool, and asked to verify this. The researchers then presented the overall cross-case analysis of the study. Participants were also invited to react to this.

workshop 8 Barriers and enablers for usability in practice

Conclusion The workshop resulted in some lively discussions about how best to deal with usability in product development practice. It was inspiring to have practitioners from different companies, with different approaches, gathered around the table. In addition, we collected valuable feedback on the results of the case study, which allowed us to verify the individual company results and also the overall conclusions. We also generated new ideas for future studies and further development of the Trace tool.

‘We wanted to know how a product might be made more usable throughout the design and implementation process, not merely how its usability can be evaluated’.



Design United Delft. November 12-14, 2009


Another important aim of this day was to raise the general public’s awareness about usability. After all, this public is the main reason for our work - we design, manufacture and implement services and products to improve people’s lives. This book presents the main findings of the symposium and workshops held on 12 November 2009, and includes presentations by the keynote speakers at the symposium. It also summarises aspects of usability research currently being conducted at the three technical universities in cooperation with industry partners. Read this with pleasure, share it with your colleagues! Also, please take a look at our website which includes even more up-to-date news and information on Design for Usability projects. We hope that this will stimulate your thoughts on Design for Usability and encourage you to participate in future events on this subject.

Let’s make the world more usable!

ISBN 978-90-5155-063-4

Symposium Design for Usability 2009

In November 2009, the three Dutch Technical Universities celebrated World Usability Day in the Netherlands by organising a four day programme of events around the theme of Design for Usability. The programme’s aim was to encourage professionals working in the field of usability at Dutch universities and industry to meet each other and discuss the tools and issues central to excellent usability research.

DfU Symposium Proceedings - 2009  

2009 World Usability Day symposium: abstracts of the lectures and workshops

DfU Symposium Proceedings - 2009  

2009 World Usability Day symposium: abstracts of the lectures and workshops