For User Study : the Implications of Design

The practice of user study is well presented at numerous conferences, documented in various literatures and discussed at different Internet discussion groups. At the moment, there seems to be plenty of experiences and knowledge about user study accumulated in design practice. The idea of user study is well received and affirmed across professional and educational institutions. It is generally accepted that user study is important for contemporary professional practice of Industrial Design. However, our belief is mostly supported by informal observation, testimony and good will but lacks formal articulation. The profession of communication design lags behind other design fields in terms of practicing user study. Rigorous discourse on user study in Industrial Design lags behind that in Human Computer Interaction. Moreover, other fields have already recognized the need for more in-depth understanding on user study so research on user study has begun. These studies, however, are missing a perspective from design. The lack of formal articulation and design perspective has left the ‘applicability gap’ open between user study and design. Although we know that user study results are not necessarily useful for design practice, we have not dealt with this issue properly. This study is aimed to address this problem. Research on user study has been empirical: observing how designers design. However, this type of research often lacks theoretical framework, and as a result, we are not certain if the research outcome is by chance or systemic. More importantly, this type of research slights historical and cultural contingency, and it begs the question whether it can serve as principle for future practice and research that for sure will change. User study is an invention to suit design practice. But design practice is also an invention. We do not have to describe and explain design practice as now but to interpret and articulate the potential/possibility of user study based on an articulation of the nature of design – to create an idealized scenario. I seek to articulate the nature of design and draw implications for these two questions: “How does user study inform design?” and “What are the formal characteristics of user study outcome?” This theoretical inquiry provides a language by which the practice and research of user study can be reexamined and reorganized. The result will bring issues to the public domain for debate and improvement. It will increase the effectiveness of our communication to one another and will serve a (temporary) map for guiding research and design on user study. In the first part of the investigation, we explore the nature of design and arrive at a workable definition that design is an inquiry oriented toward a specification that fits. In the second part, we derive meanings from this articulation to address the research questions, and it leads to some unexpected conclusions. For the research question, “How does user study inform design?”, based on the nature of design articulated, it is implied that current user study provides a context for design. For the question, “What are the formal characteristics of user study outcome?”, it is concluded that the context ought to be a specific reasonable narrative rather than a general casual explanation. More interestingly, the results of the inquiry make us realize that context creation does not necessarily precede the generation of possible specifications in the design process, thus it calls into question the fundamental assumption on which the research questions are based. It is revealed that not only user study informs design, but also in principle, design can drive user study. Not only is design-driven user study possible, but it is also preferable for design situations where the product to be made is highly undetermined. The conclusions project new perspectives on jumping the ‘applicability gap’, open up new line of inquiries for user study, and shed light on the potential coordination between design and research in general.
Es wird allgemein angenommen, dass Nutzerforschung wichtig ist für die Ausübung von Industriedesign. Dieser Annahme fehlt allerdings eine formale Beschreibung von einem Designstandpunkt aus, woraus eine ‚Anwendungslücke’ zwischen Nutzerforschung und Design entsteht. Obwohl bekannt ist, dass die Ergebnisse der Nutzerforschung nicht notwendigerweise auf die Designpraxis anwendbar sind, ist dieses Thema bislang nicht hinreichend behandelt worden. Diese Studie beabsichtigt, dieses Problem zu adressieren. Die Natur von Design soll formuliert werden und Implikationen gezogen werden aus den beiden Fragen: “Wie informiert die Nutzerforschung das Design?” und „Welches sind die formalen Eigenschaften von Ergebnissen der Nutzerforschung?“ Diese theoretische Untersuchung stellt eine Sprache bereit, anhand derer Nutzerforschung noch einmal überprüft werden kann. Zuerst wird die funktionsfähige Definition erstellt, dass Design eine Untersuchung zu einer passenden Spezifikation hin ist. Danach werden Bedeutungen dieser Definition abgeleitet. Es wird gefolgert, dass die derzeitige Nutzerforschung einen Kontext für Design bietet, der eher eine spezifisch sinnvolle Erzählung als eine generelle zwanglose Erklärung sein sollte. Des weiteren wird gezeigt, dass die Erstellung eines Kontextes nicht notwendigerweise der Generierung der Spezifikation vorhergehen muss, und daher fundamentale Annahmen für diese Forschung in Frage gestellt werden müssen. Nutzerforschung informiert nicht nur das Design sondern das Design kann auch die Nutzerforschung antreiben. Design-getriebene Nutzerforschung ist nicht nur möglich sondern sogar vorzuziehen für hochgradig unbestimmbare Produkte.
Die Implikationen des Designs für die Nutzerforschung

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Author:Rosan W.Y. Chow
Advisor:Holger van den Boom, Wolfgang Jonas
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of Publication (online):30.01.2006
Date of first Publication:30.01.2006
Date of final exam:12.07.2005
Tag:Designwissenschaft ; Designmethode ; Designtheorie
Design-driven user study ; Applicatibility gap ; User-centered design ; Design theory ; Industrial Design
SWD-Keyword:Benutzerforschung ; Design ; Theorie ; Designstudium ; Industriedesign ; Methode ; Innovation
Dewey Decimal Classification:650 Management und unterstützende Tätigkeiten
BKL-Classification:21.82 Industriedesign

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