Introduction

The research group Use Anticipation in Product Design, headed and initiated by Dr. Mascha van der Voort, focuses on supporting designers in anticipating use within product design processes by means of the development of new design approaches and tools with the aim to improve user – product interaction. Special attention is paid to the development of scenario based methods and tools.

Manufacturers of products are more and more confronted with complaints from customers that are not related to technical or functional failures, but to an unexpected mismatch between actual product use and intended use by the manufacturer. Improvement of user – product interaction, also referred to as usability or the ease of use of a product, is therefore an issue that gets more and more attention in product development. Good usability can lead to increased customer loyalty, a decrease of product returns and a decrease of call rates at customer service desks. However, usability is not a product quality that is intrinsic to only that product. It is a quality attribute of the interaction between a product and its user in a particular environment. Therefore usability not only depends on the product characteristics, but on use situation characteristics (user, goal, environment) as well.

An accurate, comprehensive insight into how a product is used in practice by its users is essential for designing products that meet user expectations. Obtaining insight in these use situations is however complicated, because the behaviour of users is never static or uniform and increasingly products have become adaptive, and thus exhibit unpredictable behaviour as well. Therefore in product development processes that take usability into account, there is a need for a frame of reference to these use situations. Scenarios can serve as such a frame of reference. The application of scenarios in the design process of (consumer) products is called scenario based product design (SBPD).