User-Centered Design Project Approach
Iknow incorporates user-centered design in all its client assignments.
In broad terms, user-centered design (UCD) is a design philosophy where end-user requirements are given broad consideration at each stage of the design process. The primary difference from other design philosophies is that user-centered design tries to optimize the solution around how users can, want, or need to use the product, service, or application, rather than forcing the users to change their behavior to accommodate it. User-centered design can be characterized as a multi-stage problem solving process that not only requires designers to analyze and foresee how users are likely to use a solution, but also to test the validity of their assumptions with regards to user behavior in real world tests with actual users.
Iknow applies UCD to answers questions about users and their tasks and goals, then uses the findings to make decisions about KM solution design and development. For example, part of the UCD process for a new content management system (CMS) will seeks to answer the following questions:
- Who are the users of the CMS?
- What are the users’ tasks and goals?
- What information do the users need to perform their jobs and in what form do they need it?
- What functionality do the users need from the CMS?
- What are the users’ experience levels with the current system and with the documents and content stored in it?
- How do users think the new CMS system should work?
Iknow uses several main tools in the analysis of user centered design, mainly: personas, scenarios, and use cases.
During the UCD process, a persona of the user's need may be created. It is a fictional character with all the characteristics of the user. Personas are created after the field research process, which typically consists of members of the primary stakeholder (user) group being observed on their behavior, and additionally answering questionnaires or participating in interviews, or a mixture of both. After results are gathered from the field research, they are used to create personas of the primary stakeholder group.
Often, there may be several personas concerning the same group of individuals, since it is almost impossible to apply all the characteristics of the stakeholder group onto one character. Personas usually include a name and picture, demographics, roles and responsibilities, goals and tasks, motivations and needs, environment and context, and a quote that can represent the character's personality. Personas are useful in the sense that they create a common shared understanding of the user group for which the design process is built around.
A scenario created in the UCD process is a fictional story about a "day in the life" or a sequence of events with the primary stakeholder group as the main character. Typically, a persona that was created earlier is used as the main character of this story. The story should be specific of the events happening that relate to the problems of the primary stakeholder group, and normally the main research questions the design process is built upon.
Scenarios create a social context in which the personas exist. A scenario is also more easily understood by people, since it is in the form of a story and easy to follow.
A use case describes the interaction between an individual and the rest of the world. Each use case describes an event that may occur for a short period of time in real life, but may consist of intricate details and interactions between the actor and the world.
Use cases are represented as a series of simple steps for the character to achieve his or her goal, in the form of a cause-and effect table. Use cases are normally written in the form of a two column table (the first column labeled “actor” and the second column labeled “world”) and the actions performed by each side are written in order in the respective columns.
Use cases are useful because they help identify important activities and responses, i.e., they allow the designers to see the actual low level process steps that are involved in a given problem.