Understanding users, their activities, the contexts in which their tasks are carried out, and their experiences and attitudes is crucial to designing good user experience in products and technologies. However, there is no one single way to understand users and their needs and desires. Each situation is different, each user group is different, and each project is different. In addition, resources such as time and budget may also play a role in determining which methods to use for understanding users.
Typically, designers almost always use more than one method for any given project, as well as use a variety of methods to understand users that complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Using multiple methods to help understand users is called triangulation. The designers at IDEO have come up with a set of 51 different methods across four different areas that they use to understand users. These areas are:
Ask them how to help
Look at what they do
Learn from the facts you gather
Try it yourself
To help designers understand and explore all of these ideas, they created a set of Method Cards, modeled after a deck of playing cards (with the four method areas each being a “suit”). Thus, users can scan through the deck of cards for ideas on which methods might be useful in any given situation. You can access the Method Cards in the Files section on Canvas (IDEOMethodCards.pdf or IDEOMethodCards.pptx).
What to do?
Familiarize yourself with IDEO’s 51 method cards that we went over in class. Each card lists what to do, why to do it, and an example of when it was useful for IDEO in a real design project. Think about how the 51 methods could be applied to a design problem. Choose a single design question from below (or make up your own) and choose one method from each of the four categories that you think would help to understand the potential users and the design problem and execute each of the four methods.
- How can a new system support emergency medical technicians on the scene of an accident?
- How can a mobile system help people in running a marathon?
- How can a video game help educate kids in Grades 1-5 on healthy eating?
- How can farmers be supported in selling their produce at farmer’s markets?
- How could a system support travelers while on vacation?
- How could a service make airline travel more comfortable?
- How can local governments use technology to better gauge public opinion?
- How can technology help people reduce waste in their home?
For each of the four methods you choose, write up a short report that answers the following questions:
- What method did you choose? Why did you choose that method for this particular topic? Were there other methods you considered but did not choose? Why? (1 paragraph)
- What did you do? Explain how you executed the method, with how many people, who the people were, where did you go, etc. (1-2 paragraphs - feel free to include pictures or any other relevant visuals)
- What did you find with this method that applies to the design question? What insights did you learn? (1-2 paragraphs - could also be a bulleted list)
- What did you like or not like about this particular method? What might you do differently if you had to do it again? (1 paragraph)
Your execution of each of the methods does not have to be particularly deep - some methods obviously could take a significant amount of time if you did it with many people. You do not need to spend more than an hour on executing a particular method, so choose carefully (e.g., do not choose to execute "Day in the Life" since that requires a full day if you do not have a full day to spare!). Or, if you do a survey, it does not have to be particularly long and you do not need to deploy it to hundreds of users. You will not be penalized at all for choosing methods that do not take very much time - often the justification for choosing one method over another is time and resource constraints!
What to turn in?
Your assignment should be approximately 1-2 pages for each of the four methods you execute (which should all be for the same scenario). The format of the document is up to you, but please use labels and proper headings to make it clear which methods you chose and which questions you are answering. Upload your assignment as a PDF by the due date.