Although randomized controlled trials are the gold standard in evaluating the effectiveness of eco-feedback systems on reducing consumption behaviors, such trials are resource intensive and costly. As such, it is crucial that the intervention—the eco-feedback artifact—is well designed before effort is invested in a longitudinal study.
In this talk, I will discuss the application of iterative design to eco-feedback systems. Iterative design is a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, user testing, and analysis, the results of which are then used to inform a new round of prototyping (and the cycle continues). Through an 18-month design process of a prototype eco-feedback display (Froehlich, 2011), I will describe how iterative design was used to evaluate and refine the aesthetic, usability, understandability, and educational potential of an eco-feedback system before a field deployment. I will highlight the role of massive online surveys in evaluating early eco-feedback design ideas and the role of in-home interviews in evaluating higher-fidelity (more refined) designs. Finally, I will close the talk with a discussion of low-cost methods to deploy and test eco-feedback designs in the field even when underlying resource sensing systems (e.g., smart meters) are unavailable. These methods can be used to evaluate how the eco-feedback system may fit into domestic space, explore differences in perspective and preference across household members, and evaluate how the system affects household dynamics (e.g., if the design provokes privacy concerns) before behavioral trials are conducted in earnest.
Froehlich, J. (2011). Sensing and Feedback of Everyday Activities to Promote Environmental Behaviors. University of Washington Doctoral Dissertation 2011. http://www.cs.umd.edu/~jonf/publications.html