Interact2011 - Designing Inter-usable Systems


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Interactive systems are increasingly interconnected across different devices and platforms. The challenge for interaction designers is to meet the requirements of consistency and continuity across these platforms to ensure the inter-usability of the system. This presentation describes the current challenges the designers are facing in the emerging fields of interactive systems. Through semi-structured interviews of 17 professionals working on interaction design in different domains we probed into the current methodologies and the practical challenges in their daily tasks. The identified challenges include but are not limited to: the inefficiency of using low-fi prototypes in a lab environment to test inter-usability and the challenges of “seeing the big picture” when designing a part of an interconnected system.

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Interact2011 - Designing Inter-usable Systems

  1. 1. Designing Inter-usableSystems
  2. 2. SmarcoS• SmarcoS project aims to help users of interconnected systems by ensuring their inter- usability • Partners from – Netherlands, UK, Finland, Belgium, Czech Rep., Italy and Spain
  3. 3. Outline of the talk• Challenges in designing inter-usable systems • Motivation • Research approach • Findings• Approaching the challenges: Prototyping inter- usability • Requirements • Key functionalities
  4. 4. Challenges in DesigningInter-usable SystemsVille Antila, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Oulu, FinlandAlfred Lui, Fjord, London, UK
  5. 5. Inter-usability• Usability research and user interface solutions beyond individual devices and services• Usability across the different user interfaces of a given system (including inter-device interactions)
  6. 6. Challenges in DesigningInter-usable Systems
  7. 7. Challenges• The amount and diversification of computing devices is increasing and they are becoming more and more connected
  8. 8. Challenges• Users expect to have access to the same applications and services with a number of different devices
  9. 9. Challenges• Products are becoming increasingly ubiquitous systems; “hybrids of hardware, software and services” *Kuniavsky]
  10. 10. Research questions• What are the current challenges the designers are facing?• Are the methods and tools they use sufficient (in the changing product market)?
  11. 11. Answering theResearch Questions…
  12. 12. Research approach• To identify some of the current challenges we carried out semi-structured interviews with 17 professionals from 10 different organizations (4 countries) • Organizations: from consumer product manufacturers to small design firms and start-ups • Interviewees: 6 interaction designers, 4 researchers (UCD), 2 freelance designers, and 3 founders of start-ups, 1 application engineer and 1 technical director • Selection criterion: the products which they work on are on the selected problem domain and that the work field is related or close iteration with interaction design or usability research
  13. 13. Findings Development environment constraints “There are component libraries and design guidelines between product families, but theseDomain restrictions do not go all the way into the ‘tools’ –level. It would be useful to share the same common “Many of our product users work in an tools with developers to avoid the usual environment where installation of new challenge ‘this cannot be implemented on this software or packages on their platform’” computers is restricted, for example by hospital IT departments. We have to Interaction designer, UI designs for mobile and Web-based applications work within these restrictions. For that reason we choose web based solutions Acquiring domain knowledge and for most of our projects because it user feedback does not require installation of “A lot of the things we are software on the [devices] of the users” changing, we will do more of a […] Application engineer, user interfaces we put it out there and see if for applications in the domain of people are using it, we don’t healthcare spend that time doing a full usability type of thing. MovingTargeting multiple platforms towards what the ‘Google model’ “As [the application] must run on several devices, is like, they almost put up the lab and the devices have different capabilities in terms version or they have a beta of display and user controls, it is difficult to design a version and people just use it, get UI that can be used as fast and easy on all the the feedback and just improve it.” devices.” Co-founder of a start-up on Technical director, mobile and ubiquitous gaming professional sports tracking applications technology
  14. 14. Analysis Process phase Identified challenges Early phase Hard to evaluate concepts without functional prototypes (simulation of interactive system) Seeing the big picture when designing a part of a interconnected service (often designers just focus on part of the system which can create inconsistencies and discontinuities between the parts) Development None of the tools available today is sufficient to build and test inter-phase usable systems Basic tools such as IDEs, Flash and PCB design tools are generic enough to fill the gap but by no means efficient for designers who want to weave digital data into physical materials Each failed experiment with physical objects incurs material, labor and transportation costs (unlike with fully digital products/services) Evaluation phase User testing of embedded devices and interconnected services using low- fi prototypes in a lab environment is inefficient Difficult to evaluate the whole (interconnected) system; evaluation of separated parts does not necessarily correspond to good overall (inter) usability
  15. 15. Implications Identified need Requirements for methods and tools Support for “seeing the big Early prototyping through simulationpicture” – how the design fits in Evaluation metrics to test consistency (semantic andthe whole system syntactic) and continuity in cross-platform and cross-device interactions Integration between design Ability to test or “mash-up” the composition ofand development tools interconnected systems (e.g. distribution and composition of functionalities between the cloud and dedicated devices) Support for rapid prototyping Refinement of evaluation Evaluation methods and metrics to support inter-usability,methods and metrics to test taking into account both the composition of functionalitiesinter-usability and the continuity of interaction Design guidelines to support semantic consistency across platforms (the use of metaphors etc.) Ability to use efficiency measures to validate inter-usability of cross-platform interactions
  16. 16. Discussion• More questions than answers really …
  17. 17. Discussion• More questions than answers really …• Various fields and types of products, hard to generalize the findings
  18. 18. Discussion• More questions than answers really …• Various fields and types of products, hard to generalize the findings• But… • Common challenges in 1. dealing with complexity of systems 2. support for various devices 3. lack of tool support to deal with these challenges (e.g. prototyping tools/ design tools) 4. lack of metrics to evaluate the usability across the system (e.g. between devices)
  19. 19. Needs to address• Design phase: need for rapid prototyping tools especially taking into account system complexity, such as interaction through various devices
  20. 20. Needs to address• Design phase: need for rapid prototyping tools especially taking into account system complexity, such as interaction through various devices • “Difficult to acknowledge the full interaction with the system when you are designing for a small part of it…” • How to prototype the “full system” in an early stage • How to translate that design into the reality (right way of delivering/documenting the design to product development)
  21. 21. Needs to address• Evaluation phase: need for metrics to test and evaluate “inter-usability” of a system
  22. 22. Needs to address• Evaluation phase: need for metrics to test and evaluate “inter-usability” of a system • e.g. the role of different devices in the system, how the information flows, which devices are available in different situations? • what are the important measures which determine the success/ ease of use for the product or service across devices?
  23. 23. Conclusions• There’s a multitude of (interactive) computing devices out there and that number not likely to decrease• Devices themselves no longer offer standardized means of manipulating information• Information is everywhere (i.e. accessible from everywhere)• There is a need to acknowledge the fragmentation of information appliances and the different roles of devices in accessing information, anywhere at anytime• Need for tools and metrics to design and evaluate these systems
  24. 24. Approaching the Challenges:Prototyping Inter-usability
  25. 25. Why prototyping?• Widely accepted means of exploring designs for interactive computer artifacts [1] • Division to role, look-and-feel or implementation prototypes (depending on the factor that the prototype prototypes) • Common categories are also: proof-of-concept prototype, form study prototype, user experience prototype, visual prototype and functional prototype [1] Houde, S., Hill, C., What do Prototypes Prototype?, in Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction, 1997
  26. 26. Requirements for the Prototyping tool(1/2)• To approach a prototyping challenge we should work towards a design environment where inter-usability can be tested• In such environment we should be concentrating on how to design, test and analyze inter-usability on a given system
  27. 27. Requirements for the Prototyping tool(2/2)• Support for design thinking by integration of design, test and analysis of inter-usability From Hartmann, B., et al., Reflective Physical Prototyping through Integrated Design, Test and Analysis, UIST’06, 2006
  28. 28. Future work• Research questions • How to rapidly prototype an ”interconnected” system • How to provide and maintain awareness of the whole system behaviour• Approach: rapid prototyping and simulation of system behaviour • How does a change in a part of the system effect the other parts? • What kind of logical rules should the system follow? What should happen and when? • What input and output devices can be used, when and how?
  29. 29. Thank you!Questions?