Critique current issues in User Centred Design and their implications for software development practice.
Significance of the argument
The development of user-centered systems has taken center stage in recent years. According to Hertzum and Simonsen (2004), a user-centered design is a design where the effects of using information technology systems are prioritized when choosing IT projects so that considerations are given to those that meet the needs and demands of the customers. In their argument, they highlighted that since evidence –based development focuses on the effects of IT systems to users, it is the most effective design because it puts users at the center stage. Thus an in-depth analysis of this proposed system is essential to find out its effectiveness and limitations.
According to Alter (2001) is therefore important to introduce a system that checks on its effect to users to promote satisfaction (Alter, 2001). User Centered Design (USD), gives attention to the demands of users of the product IT system. In experimenting on the use of evidence-based development, the California Franchise Tax Board used performance-based procurement that ensured vendors were paid only after realizing the benefits stated in the contract (Cockburn, 2009).
Design and evaluation of the effects achieved by IT projects is considered a favourable approach towards accomplishing IT project tasks (Barlach & Simonsen, 2008). Hertzum and Simonsen (2004) pointed out that using outcome as a measure of improvement in healthcare service provision was successful in increasing the delivery of home-care services as experimented with Electronic Patient Record in Denmark. They however recognize that the evidence-based development system has shortcomings that cannot be overlooked. There is a problem of defining and measuring effects within a given time, this causes lack of accurate quantifiable aspects. It is also possible that lack of resources may hinder some vendors from engaging in projects which payment is only done after attaining the effects stated in the contract.
Informed decisions are made when developing software for user-centered design because development of such IT systems is based on the objective of helping end users to achieve their needs. Hertzum and Simonsen also argue that with evidence-based development, usability of the system gives users assurance that their needs will be catered for because the designing process considered how users want to use it. In addition, user-centered designs spare users of frustration from errors, accidents and loss of time because the system is designed to meet their requirements. (Hertzum & Simonsen,2004).
Despite the argument that evidence-based development is effective, a keen look into the subject arouse various counter arguments. First, all target users of the system are not involved in testing the system. It is not possible to satisfy all users because they have different needs and interests. When designers focus on improving the system for a particular group or individual, it might make it worse for others who also use the same system. More attention is put on the needs of end users while developing the system a tendency that minimizes concentration on upgrading support activities on the system.
Complex and confusing products are a common problem in the IT systems whose software was designed without considering the ability of end users. Hertzum and Simonsen point out that, systems should be developed depending on evidence or results which is not the case with many items used by people across the world. Many products are designed to be used by almost everyone in the world as evident in the case of automobiles, cameras and tools which are designed and produced without first looking at what effect they have had on users.
Evidence in support of the argument
The argument that IT systems should be designed to meet the needs of users is not satisfactory. People should adapt to new technology but not technology adapting to users. Continuous interaction and use of the various tools on the software is what results in users getting used to the working of the system. Their argument does not consider the fact that tools define the activity. Lastly, users often gain proficiency as they use the system, they therefore expect regular improvement in the system as they advance in using the design. Unanticipated new users also join in using the system which might not meet their needs because the original design cannot be altered instantly to suit them. (Norman D, 2014).
The emergence of evidence-based development calls for a drastic shift to production of software that can measure whether there are improvements in the use of IT processes (Dyba & Dingsoyr T, 2008). Since many IT projects fail to meet the effects that customers expect, the perception of users towards these projects has changed. Confidence in the services being offered by IT systems has also lowered because users consider the projects weak and unable to meet their demands (Granlien & Hertzum, 2009).
In-depth analysis of Hertzum & Simonsen’s work has aroused the feeling that frequently used IT systems do have the capacity to satisfy their customer interests hence the need to assess the possibility of embracing evidence-based developments.(Hertzum & Siminsen, 2012). Experimentation across various fields has shown that the use of evidence-based development commands confidence in users because from the effects of using the system, they are assured that the system works. This system encourages a participatory design where users can interact with and experiment on IT projects to give them the results they desire. Through this user centered design, desirable outcomes can be incorporated on a system to help a user have the utility value of IT systems. (Preece, 2000).
The designing of user centered software is on the rise. This may result in creation of IT platforms that are technical to use because the end user is ignored in the whole process of creating the software. Business providers and customer representatives are involved in developing the features and scope of the IT software but end up designing a system that does not meet the needs of users. IT projects have to embrace change and adapt to changes when they occur but in the process the development team must understand the demand by users so that the final product caters for most of the users. (Huysman & Wulf, 2004).
Increased acceptance of new user centered designs provides efficient means for organizations to engage with customers and deliver on their promise. Even though all that customers want cannot be incorporated on one design, there must be a variety of designs apart from the evidence-based platform to enable all users to access and use the design they prefer.
Most of the experimentation on this system was done in the healthcare domain. It is therefore not guaranteed to work well and succeed in large and complex IT projects. Effects of the system can only be tested on a small number of customers in case of many users estimations of the effects might not be accurate. In some complex departments, only a small number of people interact with the IT system, this makes it difficult to make conclusions on the effects because those affected are not a representative sample. The IT product may be designed to address a specific aspect making it hard to be useful to other people.
Implications of this development
Users may lack the information, motivation or time to embrace the new evidence-based systems and the new ways of working. Without the willingness of users to accept changes in the normal working of the IT system, this user centered design will lack the statistics to base the argument on the effectiveness of the new system. Only interested people will use the evidence-based developments when introduced because it is a new system that they have to analyze before embracing it. This reluctance to use the system will consequently derail the process of assessing the effects of the phenomenon under investigation. The projects under study are coiled towards showing effects only, this tendency to neglect other observations renders it a low quality system.
In the evidence-based development, there are precautions in timing and securing measurements from possible errors. The whole process is faced with the challenge of keeping an eye on observations at a particular time. Some effects could be as a result of a totally different aspect yet they are included in the final set of effects of the new system. The Effects measured might therefore be inaccurate and misleading.
Designers of the evidence-based development focus on developing alternative design solutions to help them get the outcome of an IT project from users without carrying out an investigation on the needs of the users at first. The user centered system does not give room for users to express their needs and how the system should be. (Joo and Hovav, 2015). Testing of the IT system to determine if it suits the user is not done at prior to establishment of the IT project. There is need for the designing process to involve users so that the system is tested and proved to suit the demands of users before it is availed for use.
The evidence-based development approach is costly and takes time in gathering required information from users while finding out the effect the system has on them. Finance and human labour is needed to accomplish the mission of getting findings of the effects that a particular aspect has on users of the IT system.
Evidence-based developments give a deeper understanding of both psychological and organizational factors that affect the use of IT systems. The involvement of users in designing and evaluating the product gives them a chance to recommend what is suitable in serving their purpose. It is necessary to use the actual users in the environment where the IT system is situated in the design process because they are the intended users of that product. Safe and more productive systems are created through the user centered design because designers can influence the expectations of users about a product (Preece J, Rogers Y & Sharp H, 2002). A sense of ownership of the final product guarantees customer satisfaction because they feel part of the product after sharing their ideas and suggestions.
Hertzum and Simonsen (2004), provide an alternative for IT systems to embrace and prioritize evidence from the effects that these systems have on the needs of customers. However, it is also important to note that the use of this system should be in sectors that it can work successfully to give accurate information. Studying the effects that a system has on customers alone does not guarantee its safety and effectiveness. There is need to test the needs of users as first before designing an IT system for them to use. Even though every user cannot be represented or consulted before setting up a design of their choice, the effect of the design on them has to be considered (Preece, et al, 2002).With the existence of different users who have different needs and expectations, there should be an evaluation of alternative designs to satisfy them.
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