CUO > Methods
CUO | Social Spaces follows a human-centred design philosophy, which includes several methods for designing, developing and evaluating user-friendly ICT-applications. In each of the phases of UCD (analysis, design, development and evaluation) several methods can be used. Depending on the demands of the research project CUO | Social Spaces selects the appropriate methods. These methods are often adapted to the actual circumstances of the research or can be adapted or improved during the course of the project.
In most of the projects, CUO | Social Spaces places its focus on prototype experience design and evaluation, in which one or more prototypes are being designed, developed and evaluated, taking into account not only the technological constraints and the user requirements but also the broader experience of a user with the proposed system.
Before a prototype is developed, a user and task analysis is performed. This analysis takes into account three aspects: the user, his tasks/goals and the context/environment. By observing users in their natural context, these aspects can be studied realistically and in great detail. For new technologies or special contexts, novel methods such as cultural probing or experience sampling are used to gather this information. The goal of this analysis is to gain insight in the way tasks have to be performed, and define a complete set of tasks and subtasks. The characteristics of the users and the context are also taken into account, including the user's information need in each context. The results are usually presented via personas, scenario's, task hierarchies and design requirements.
In a second phase, a conceptual model is developed. This is a translation of the user and task analysis into a specific design and corresponding information structure. The conceptual model describes a set of integrated ideas and concepts that explains how the system should look and behave. The model is described with a set of activities, interface metaphors and interaction paradigms.
Development of user friendly applications typically involves separate teams: usability experts and software developers. CUO | Social Spaces follows a unique human-centred development process in which usability experts and software developers work together in close interaction. Short iterative cycles ensure that user involvement happens throughout the entire development process, rather than only in the beginning and at the end. In most projects we work together with external partners for the development of applications or prototypes.
As soon as a first prototype of the device or mock-up design of the application is available, CUO | Social Spaces evaluates the product's user-friendliness. The researchers do not only take a close look at the presented user interface, but also at the available hardware. The usability of a prototype is best researched with an expert evaluation and user tests. The results are more detailed if the expert evaluation is done first, followed by the user tests.
The expert evaluation contains a few methods to evaluate the user-friendliness of the application. The evaluation of the application is conducted on the basis of recognised usability principles; on the one hand working from a checklist of principles of user-centred designs, on the other hand working with objective criteria (e.g. style guide). The identification of the different user problems are investigated on different levels during the evaluation. These levels are e.g. how efficient the tasks are executed, how pleasant the application has been experienced by the test user,…
The user tests are conducted with a limited but representative sample of end users of the application. A test situation is created for each test user individually, with the help of a stationary or mobile usability lab. It is imperative that each test user executes the same tasks, while using the “think aloud” research method. Using this method, the test user can communicate what he does, thinks and feels while using the application. This makes it possible to evaluate the prototype thoroughly and in great detail. It is attempted to make the test situation and the use of the application as close as possible to real time experience. Using this method, not only the functioning of the prototype, but also the personal experience of the test user can be investigated.
During the expert evaluation and the user tests, the different usability problems are identified and ordered by priority. The problems are then analysed and possible solutions given.