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Selecting UCD Methods that Maximize Benefits and Minimize Project Risks

Using the principles in ISO standards, with a tool to support selection

This tutorial will explain how, with the support of an online tool that incorporates principles from ISO standards, the most beneficial and cost effective methods to support User Centered Design (UCD) can be selected for individual projects, by identifying the project constraints, and assessing the benefits and the potential risk to the project of not carrying out the essential human centered activities.

Half Day Tutorial by Nigel Bevan (Professional Usability Services)
Usability Fundamentals (UF)
6:00pm to 9:30pm on Monday, June 04, 2012

About the Half Day Tutorial

Participants in the tutorial will learn:
• An introduction to ISO standards for human centered design.
• A logical basis for selection of usability methods, rather than just relying on professional skills or textbook recommendations.
• How to apply the principles of value-based software engineering to the use of UCD activities as part of systems development.
• An extensive checklist of criteria for selecting the most appropriate UCD methods.
• How to use a public domain tool that embodies these principles.

Basic familiarity with user centered design is assumed, but no specific prior knowledge is needed.

Looking for advice on which methods to use is currently bewildering. There is little consistency in the methods recommended in textbooks. User centered design currently seems more a craft based on personal experience and ad hoc advice than a principled discipline.

The tutorial recommends an approach that makes use of material from ISO standards not just because they are standards, but because they contain the most comprehensive and systematic information available, which represents the consensus of international experts in the field. The instructor has contributed to the development of these standards.

Much work has been done on cost justifying usability (e.g. the books by Bias and Mayhew). But existing approaches tend to justify the need for usability in general rather than selectively justifying particular methods. This tutorial is based on the more systematic approach proposed in the National Academy report on Human-System Integration (2007). The approach has been incorporated in a tool www.usabilityplanner.org.

Previous approaches to the selection of UCD methods started with the method, rather than the purpose for which the method is used. The steps in selecting methods at each stage of design and development supported by the tool are:

• Identify which UCD activities are needed, taking account of which would provide the greatest cost-benefits or risk mitigation.
• Decide which of the potential methods that could be used to achieve each activity would be most appropriate.

Each type of UCD activity can be reviewed to assess the potential risk to the project objectives if the activities are not actioned. For example, how well are the users, tasks and environments already understood, and what is the risk to the project if more information is not obtained?

The risk assessment should be carried out when planning which methods are to be used at the beginning of the project, and the risks can be reassessed at review points as the project progresses.

The suitability of the potential methods is evaluated against: Project constraints (e.g. need quick results, very restricted budget), User constraints (e.g. difficult to involve users, mostly first time users), Task constraints (e.g. complex task, Safety or business critical system) Product constraints (e.g. efficiency or accuracy is important, Context constraints (e.g. general purpose), and Expertise constraints (e.g. no usability expertise available).

The audience will be invited to discuss the principles on which the tool is designed, and to suggest scenarios for use of the tool, and to discuss the appropriateness of the results.