The primary question in this module is how we live in a world where we are surrounded by technology. In today’s world, almost everyone uses a range of technological products on a daily basis. How do people interact with these technologies? Why are some new technologies immediately taken up by large groups of people while other technologies fall by the wayside? A communication specialist can play an important role in the design process of new technologies, influencing their success by acting as an advocate for users. A new technology may be more successful if the design process focuses on the needs and wishes of users; in other words, when a user-centred design process is applied.
A user-centred design process involves consulting the prospective user group at every stage of the design process. Users are asked to comment on the initial ideas of the designers and to provide feedback on the first prototypes of a new technology, and they are observed while working with these prototypes, etc. This can result in a new technology that is truly valued by users and that provides a good user experience.
This module provides an introduction to several fields that are related to user experience and the user-centred design process. Students are asked to evaluate a new technology and to provide the users of this technology with supportive user documentation that may help them to make optimal use of it. This may be a video that explains the usefulness of the technology, a website that explains how to use a specific function, an instruction manual that instructs new users on how to start using the technology, etc.
This module includes four components:
- 1.3 Project: User Perspectives in Technology Design
- 1.3 Theory: Human-Technology Interaction
- 1.3 Research Methodology: Qualitative Methodology 1
- 1.3 Academic and Professional Skills: Instructional Design
1.3 P: User Perspectives in Technology Design
The project consists of two parts. Firstly, students are asked by a client to design user documentation that accompanies a newly developed technology. This documentation needs to be based on the characteristics of prospective users, needs and preferences. Students should implement the skills they learned in part 1.3 S of the module.
Secondly, the students evaluate the technology and the documentation by means of a user test. This means that they ask people who belong to the target group to use the technology with the accompanying documentation. They observe these users as they use the technology and the documentation and/or ask questions to find out how the technology or documentation needs to be improved in order to improve the user experience. Students are required to use a validated research method to do this. Various research methods are taught in part R of the module in order to carry out the user tests.
1.3 T: Human-Technology Interaction
In this module component, students are acquainted with theories and models on the relationships between people and technologies. These theories provide the background knowledge that is needed when acting as the users’ advocate in the design process. Theories on several related topics are discussed:
- theories on acceptance, adoption and appropriation;
- theories on information processing;
- theories related to the concepts of usability and user experience.
1.3 R: Qualitative Methodology 1
In a user-centred design process, several research methods must be applied and specific methods may be helpful at every stage of the design process. These are qualitative methods, which focus on collecting in-depth data on how users think about technologies, how they interact with these technologies and what kind of support they need.
In this module component, students are acquainted with a variety of qualitative methods. They learn about how they can use these methods and what methodological strengths and weaknesses are associated with these methods.
1.3 S: Instructional Design
This module component consists of two parts: the design of user documentation and the presentation of the results of the user-centred design project. In the first part, students learn about guidelines on how to design documentation. They practise designing various types of user documentation in preparation for the project. The second part of this component teaches the students how to present their results convincingly to this type of audience, because at the end of the module, students present the results of their project to the client.