In user-centered design (UCD), the process that supports the creation of usable products, a crucial challenge is to find and select the right method. Existing on-line method collections provide little or ineffective guidance for selecting the appropriate method and the information that is given often lacks practical information to support the execution of the method.
As a consequence, designers often stick to what they know, leaving many potentially beneficial methods unused, and thus hindering the development of the field and – eventually – the development of better products for users.
UCD Method Selection Tool
Product development practice is extremely hectic and messy, often leaving practitioners with very little time to explore and select methods for UCD while they need to quickly find the appropriate method, assess its qualities, and learn how to apply it.
Some method collections offer a categorization of methods, but the categorizations are not in line with the preferences, background knowledge and working environment of practitioners. Limitations that current method collections exhibit in terms of content, content presentation and guidance for method execution are also barriers for the uptake of these collections.
This is why we developed the UCD Method Selection Tool; an on-line resource for exploring and selecting methods for user-centered design. It allows practitioners as well as students to quickly explore and select appropriate methods.
A lot of research of my graduation project was embedded in an iterative practitioner-centered design approach with three tests at various companies and universities and two workshops at conferences. The results of the project are threefold:
- The procedure for selecting a method;
- The presentation of content;
- The interface to make this accessible.
The selection procedure underlying the UCD Method Selection Tool and the description of the methods it contains were developed in close cooperation with practitioner and takes into account their way of working and preferences. The selection procedure underlying the tool is based on a set of criteria, categorized in a sequence that matches the practitioner’s knowledge about a project:
- The type of object that is being worked on;
- Goal of applying the method;
- Available resources;
- Additional criteria.
When less ucd-methods are available based on the criteria above, more information should be displayed about the method. An information sequence was developed that matches with the needs of the practitioner:
- Activity name, image and basic description:
- Detailed description
- Possible outcomes
- Advantages & Disadvantages
- Criteria (all criteria applicable to that activity):
- Introduction page with a video and access to additional tabs for:
- More info
In addition to the design of the tool itself, we aim to pay attention to creating a community of practitioners and experts around it. Similar initiatives often ‘freeze’ after they have been implemented, thus only giving an overview of the methods available at the time the collection was created, and not reflecting any progress since then. We think it is important that such a tool receives backing from people and organizations in the field, which is why we intend to support the tool with a community of contributors and editors (to keep it up to date and ensure quality) and a foundation (to ensure continuity).
Online tool for design practitioners
We are currently starting development of a working beta version of the tool. You can see a short movie of what we are going for below. In the meanwhile, you can take a look at some of the existing method collections that I have studied. This cardset contains the ten most practical and widely used method collections for user centred design. Each collection has its own advantages and disadvantages because of a specific scope, categorization, method selection (if any) and detail in which methods are explained. Each collection is explained by the aforementioned points to make the search for a collection (to search in for an appropriate method…) easier.
If you want to have more background information, please take a look at my master thesis.