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The Lonesome Cowboy: A Study of the Usability Designer Role in Systems Development
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Information Technology, Human-Computer Interaction.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Information Technology, Human-Computer Interaction.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Information Technology, Human-Computer Interaction.
2006 (English)In: Interacting with computers, ISSN 0953-5438, E-ISSN 1873-7951, Vol. 18, no 4, 601-634 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper reports on an evaluation of the usability designer role as applied in two Swedish systems development organisations. The role was initially defined by us, but evolved in these two organisations. We conducted interviews with usability designers, project managers and a user representative. Our main research question was whether or not the introduction of a usability designer has been successful in terms of changes in the systems development process and the impact the role has had on products, projects and organisations. To some extent, the role has met our expectations and intentions for instance, in helping the usability designers shift their focus towards design, and assume some kind of "users' advocate" role. But in other ways, the role "failed". The usability designers in our study are still facing the kind of problems and obstacles that usability professionals have always had to deal with.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2006. Vol. 18, no 4, 601-634 p.
Keyword [en]
user-centred systems design; UCSD; usability; usability practitioner; usability professional; software development
National Category
Computer and Information Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-76432DOI: 10.1016/j.intcom.2005.10.003ISI: 000238876500005OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-76432DiVA: diva2:104344
Available from: 2006-03-21 Created: 2006-03-21 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. User-Centred Systems Design: Designing Usable Interactive Systems in Practice
Open this publication in new window or tab >>User-Centred Systems Design: Designing Usable Interactive Systems in Practice
2004 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Användarcentrerad systemdesign : Design av användbara interaktiva system i praktiken
Abstract [en]

Have you ever been frustrated with that IT system at work that does not behave the way you expect it to? Or had problems with using the features on your new mobile phone? When systems and appliances do not support us in what we are doing, and do not behave the way we expect them to, then usability is neglected. Poor usability may be frustrating and irritating when trying out your mobile phone, but in a critical work situation poor usability may be disastrous.

In this thesis, user-centred systems design (UCSD) is advocated as an approach for facilitating the development of usable interactive systems. Systems that suit their intended use and users do not just “emerge”. They are the result of a UCSD process and a user-centred attitude during the development. This means in short that the real users and their needs, goals, context of use, abilities and limitations, drive the development – in contrast to technology-driven development. We define UCSD as: a process focusing on usability throughout the entire development process and further throughout the system life cycle. I argue that this definition along with a set of key principles do help organisations and individual projects in the process of developing usable interactive systems. The key principles include the necessity of having an explicit focus on users and making sure that users are actively involved in the process.

The thesis provides knowledge and insights gained from real-life situations about what UCSD is and how it can be put into practice. The most significant results are: the proposal of a clear definition of UCSD and a set of key principles encompassing UCSD; a process for usability design and the usability designer role. Furthermore, design cases from different domains are provided as examples and illustrations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2004. 80 p.
Series
Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1104-232X ; 981
Keyword
user-centred systems design, usability, human-computer interaction, system development, user involvement, usability design
National Category
Information Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-4273 (URN)91-554-5975-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2004-06-01, Room 211, MIC, Polacksbacken Hus 1, Uppsala, 13:15
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2004-04-29 Created: 2004-04-29 Last updated: 2013-06-20Bibliographically approved
2. A Fine Balance: Addressing Usability and Users’ Needs in the Development of IT Systems for the Workplace
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A Fine Balance: Addressing Usability and Users’ Needs in the Development of IT Systems for the Workplace
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

IT systems with poor usability are a serious problem in many workplaces. Many workers, particularly office workers, spend a large part of their workday at the computer, and usability problems can cause frustration and impact negatively on productivity. This thesis discusses some of the problems associated with addressing usability and users’ needs in IT systems development.

Usability issues and users’ needs are often marginalised or even abandoned in systems development. Technical issues and deadlines are given precedence, while usability activities and user activities are cut back or cancelled. Research shows that there are various obstacles to usability and user involvement, including difficulties with understanding the usability concept, insufficient usability expertise and a lack of time and resources.

This thesis presents a number of studies that look at the problem from different angles. The main question is why usability and users’ needs are marginalised in bespoke systems development, where IT systems are built for a specific work context. The research presented in this thesis also addresses user-centred systems design as a way of integrating usability issues and users’ needs into systems development. The thesis concludes with a discussion about different ways of viewing and representing the users’ work: the systems theoretical view and the view of work as a social process. The former emphasises the formal aspects of work and views users as components in an overall system, whereas the latter focuses on work as a social process and people as active agents. The discussion concludes with the argument that the conflict between these two views is played out in the systems development process, which may help explain some of the difficulties that arise when working with usability and users’ needs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2005. 85 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 95
Keyword
human-computer interaction, usability, usability professional, usability practitioner, user-centred design, user-centred systems design, IT systems development
National Category
Computer Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-5947 (URN)91-554-6353-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2005-10-21, 1211, Hus 1, Polacksbacken, MIC, Uppsala, 13:15
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2005-09-30 Created: 2005-09-30 Last updated: 2013-07-03Bibliographically approved

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