Research Area: User-centred Development

How users can be involved in the development of new IoT services and products.

User-centred Development is one of three research areas IOTAP focuses on. Key questions in this research area include:

  • How can existing methods for user-centred development be adapted to the IoT context?
  • How can user feedback be efficiently integrated into the different development phases of products and services?
  • What are the most efficient techniques for continuing to improve IoT products and services also after deployment to users?

As IoT will become widely deployed, is important to better understand the needs and requirements of users and how these can be efficiently integrated throughout the development process (Hoffmann and Lehrer 2001). Traditionally, users have been actively involved in pre-development phases, i.e., in requirements engineering and in prototyping activities, and there is extensive research within areas such as participatory design, practice-based design, contextual design, and collaborative design on how to involve users as co-designers (Schuler and Namiok 1993; Beyer and Holtzblatt 1998; Suchman 2002). This phase is critical and with new areas of deployment for IoT, as well as emergence of new technologies, there is a need to explore new and innovative ways to involve users in the early stages of development. Moreover, embedded software with sensor technology and communication and processing capabilities allow for users to be actively involved also in the post-development phase, i.e., after the product and/or service has been deployed (Davenport 2009). During this phase there is the opportunity to continuously collect data on user behaviour and, as a result, continuously improve the quality of new products and services based on real-time user feedback. Thus, there is the need to find mechanisms to collect, analyse, and experiment based on user feedback.

In this way, the area of user-centred development will involve both the pre-development phases in which users provide feedback based on active collaboration with designers, and the post-development phase in which users provide feedback based on their real-time usage of products and services.

There are a number of interesting research questions related to user-centred development:

  • How can existing methods for user-centred development be adapted to the IoT context? IoTaP studies how they relate to (1) contemporary developments in Living Labs methodology and other forms of participatory design for heterogeneous constituencies, and (2) to the increasingly hybrid physical/virtual nature of new products and services (i.e., new design materials). IoTaP also studies how established methods for rapid prototyping and collaborative exploratory design can be adapted to the new materials. One aim is to continuously learn from user groups and user behaviour patterns. With an increasing number of digital products and services it will be possible to improve our ways of learning about user behaviour and how products and services contribute to specific contexts.
  • How can user feedback be efficiently integrated into the different development phases of products and services? Solutions include ways in which user feedback can be collected before any development starts. What are the feedback mechanisms necessary for continuously collecting user data? Solutions may include tools, techniques, and organizational processes that allow the organization to more rapidly receive user feedback on functionality before the product/service is fully developed. How can agile and lean development practices facilitate active user involvement in pre-development of IoT products/services, during development, and after product/service deployment? A specific question of interest is how insights from Living Labs and other participatory design practices can inform existing development methods and approaches.
  • What are the most efficient techniques for continuing to improve IoT products and services also after deployment to users? How can user feedback be efficiently translated into improvement of current functionality, as well as future innovative products and services? Specifically, how can the deep levels of sustained user participation associated with Living Labs and related practices, and related concepts such as continuing-design-in-use and infrastructuring, inform existing notions of feedback and continuous improvement in contemporary deployment-driven methodologies?

References
Hofmann, H.F and Lehrer, F. (2001) Requirements Engineering As a Success Factor in Software Projects, IEEE Software, Vol. 18:58-66.

Schuler, D. and Namioka, A. (1993) Participatory Design: Principles and Practices. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ, USA.

Beyer, H. and Holtzblatt, K. (1998) Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems. Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco, CA, USA.

Suchman, L.A. (2002) Practice-based Design of Information Systems: Notes from the hyperdeveloped world. The Information Society, Vol. 18:139-144.

Davenport, T.H. (2009) How to design smart business experiments. Harvard Business Review, February.

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