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A Fine Balance: Addressing Usability and Users’ Needs in the Development of IT Systems for the Workplace
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Information Technology, Division of Human-Computer Interaction. Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Information Technology, Human-Computer Interaction.
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

IT systems with poor usability are a serious problem in many workplaces. Many workers, particularly office workers, spend a large part of their workday at the computer, and usability problems can cause frustration and impact negatively on productivity. This thesis discusses some of the problems associated with addressing usability and users’ needs in IT systems development.

Usability issues and users’ needs are often marginalised or even abandoned in systems development. Technical issues and deadlines are given precedence, while usability activities and user activities are cut back or cancelled. Research shows that there are various obstacles to usability and user involvement, including difficulties with understanding the usability concept, insufficient usability expertise and a lack of time and resources.

This thesis presents a number of studies that look at the problem from different angles. The main question is why usability and users’ needs are marginalised in bespoke systems development, where IT systems are built for a specific work context. The research presented in this thesis also addresses user-centred systems design as a way of integrating usability issues and users’ needs into systems development. The thesis concludes with a discussion about different ways of viewing and representing the users’ work: the systems theoretical view and the view of work as a social process. The former emphasises the formal aspects of work and views users as components in an overall system, whereas the latter focuses on work as a social process and people as active agents. The discussion concludes with the argument that the conflict between these two views is played out in the systems development process, which may help explain some of the difficulties that arise when working with usability and users’ needs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2005. , p. 85
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 95
Keywords [en]
human-computer interaction, usability, usability professional, usability practitioner, user-centred design, user-centred systems design, IT systems development
National Category
Computer Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-5947ISBN: 91-554-6353-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-5947DiVA, id: diva2:167026
Public defence
2005-10-21, 1211, Hus 1, Polacksbacken, MIC, Uppsala, 13:15
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2005-09-30 Created: 2005-09-30 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The Lonesome Cowboy: A Study of the Usability Designer Role in Systems Development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Lonesome Cowboy: A Study of the Usability Designer Role in Systems Development
2006 (English)In: Interacting with computers, ISSN 0953-5438, E-ISSN 1873-7951, Vol. 18, no 4, p. 601-634Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper reports on an evaluation of the usability designer role as applied in two Swedish systems development organisations. The role was initially defined by us, but evolved in these two organisations. We conducted interviews with usability designers, project managers and a user representative. Our main research question was whether or not the introduction of a usability designer has been successful in terms of changes in the systems development process and the impact the role has had on products, projects and organisations. To some extent, the role has met our expectations and intentions for instance, in helping the usability designers shift their focus towards design, and assume some kind of "users' advocate" role. But in other ways, the role "failed". The usability designers in our study are still facing the kind of problems and obstacles that usability professionals have always had to deal with.

Keywords
user-centred systems design; UCSD; usability; usability practitioner; usability professional; software development
National Category
Computer and Information Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-76432 (URN)10.1016/j.intcom.2005.10.003 (DOI)000238876500005 ()
Available from: 2006-03-21 Created: 2006-03-21 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
2. Making a Difference: A Survey of the Usability Profession in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Making a Difference: A Survey of the Usability Profession in Sweden
Show others...
2004 In: Proceedings of NordiCHI 2004, 2004, p. 207-215Chapter in book (Other academic) Published
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-93521 (URN)
Available from: 2005-09-30 Created: 2005-09-30Bibliographically approved
3. Usability professionals: current practices and future development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Usability professionals: current practices and future development
2006 (English)In: Interacting with computers, ISSN 0953-5438, E-ISSN 1873-7951, Vol. 18, no 4, p. 568-600Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The usability concept has now received such a wide recognition in information technology (IT) development that working with usability can be regarded as a profession in its own right. In recent research projects, we have surveyed and studied usability work on an individual level in a number of Swedish development organisations, including success factors and obstacles. What we have seen relates to the individual usability professional and her background and experiences, the organisation in which she operates, the development process, communication and communication means, and finally the attitudes and basic values held by the people involved.

In this paper, we compile and reflect on selected findings from different studies on usability work in practical systems1 development in a number of Swedish organisations. We discuss our findings from a practical point of view and relate them to the research of others within the international HCI community. Finally, we discuss some issues we consider important for the future development of the practice of usability that we believe is of interest to the international community of usability professionals.

Keywords
Usability, Design, User-centred design, Organisation, Software development, Practice, Role, Profession
National Category
Computer Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-76433 (URN)10.1016/j.intcom.2005.10.005 (DOI)000238876500004 ()
Available from: 2006-03-21 Created: 2006-03-21 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
4. Key Principles for User-Centred Systems Design
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Key Principles for User-Centred Systems Design
Show others...
2003 In: Behaviour & Information Technology, Vol. 22, no 6, p. 397 – 409-Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-93523 (URN)
Funder
Available from: 2005-09-30 Created: 2005-09-30 Last updated: 2010-11-22Bibliographically approved
5. Why Usability Gets Lost or Usability in In-house Software Development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Why Usability Gets Lost or Usability in In-house Software Development
2003 In: Interacting with Computers, Vol. 15, no 4, p. 623-639Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-93524 (URN)
Available from: 2005-09-30 Created: 2005-09-30Bibliographically approved
6. Addressing Users' Health Issues in Software Development: An Exploratory Study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Addressing Users' Health Issues in Software Development: An Exploratory Study
2003 In: Behaviour & Information Technology, Vol. 22, no 6, p. 411-420Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-93525 (URN)
Available from: 2005-09-30 Created: 2005-09-30Bibliographically approved
7. From Piles to Tiles: Designing for Overview and Control in Case Handling Systems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>From Piles to Tiles: Designing for Overview and Control in Case Handling Systems
2004 In: Conference Proceedings of OZCHI 2004, 2004, p. 161-170Chapter in book (Other academic) Published
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-93526 (URN)
Available from: 2005-09-30 Created: 2005-09-30Bibliographically approved

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