Human factors field testing of technical devices and processes.
“Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.” – – International Ergonomics Association
Where’s the Love?
Love for a system that compliments your workflow is an output of optimizing human well-being and overall product performance. When you work with a system, whether it is through a control on a laser, or a text field on a form, you can come to love or hate it. The object, of course, is to love it.
When a product fits your workflow, becoming almost transparent, you explore more with it and find new and unexpected ways to integrate it into your life. Productivity increases. New and wonderful experiences emerge. Worlds can change.
The Serious Stuff
Humans behave in fairly predictable ways. Except when they don’t. That being said, given heuristic evaluation and applying “first principles” of design, systems must be tested with real people in their real environment. We want people to love our products, but we want to behave ethically, promote safety and improve decision-making. We can do this through the right application of interaction patterns, color, space, typography and information display.
Coldwater Industrial Design specializes in the field testing, user experience research, evaluation and design for the following:
- Real and Near-Real Time Information Architecture and Display
- Logistics and Supply-Chain Device and Interaction Design
- Medical Software and Device Usability Evaluation and Design
- Financial Systems Information Evaluation and Design
Requirements Gathering and Analysis
This is a critical stage of any project. Clients may have requirements “in hand” from various sources, or there might only be a notional concept of what is required. Coldwater Industrial Design will assist with determining what are the “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves,” as well as uncover some of the hidden assumptions from or about the end user. A small project such as a simple Web site or application can take from one to two weeks, and a detailed requirements analysis document (User Requirements Specification) will be presented, complete with Use Cases.
Usability Evaluation of Static Design
Typically, a Web site or series of prototype user interface screens, forms or wireframes is evaluated and detailed recommendations for interaction, transition and preservation of context are presented. At this stage, the client is usually in the Design stage, after Requirements Gathering and Analysis has been completed. Small sites or a few (4-5) screens take about one week for evaluation, on average.
User Experience Design
During the Design stage of a project or within an iteration (for you Agile teams), rapid prototyping of interactive patterns needs to be created. Usually, this takes the form of low-to-medium-fidelity screens and interactive presentations that mimic a user’s “flow” within a system. Higher-fidelity prototypes can be created, which can also be used for quick usability testing within this cycle. The length of time varies for this particular phase, and may be dictated by the engineering team’s constraints. Coldwater Industrial Design will work closely with you to keep end-user design a part of your development lifecycle.
Rate: $160-200/hour (depending upon desired fidelity of delivered design assets)
After Design, and sometimes before and during Implementation of any product, there may be a real need to see it in the hands of the end-user. This may be a series of forms on a screen or a handheld device in the outdoors. Regardless of the project, the best way to evaluate any user experience is in their environment, with real tasks. Detailed Requirements Gathering and Analysis, beforehand, is essential, as Use Cases are created to drive this task evaluation in the field. On average, an ergonomic evaluation can be done in a week at the end-user’s location or even remotely using various methods.
Use Case and Test Case Evaluation/Creation
Typically, during the Requirements Gathering and Analysis phase, Use Cases are created. This can actually happen at any time, and in the current Agile climate, it might occur during an iteration or sprint. The central idea is to create logical courses of action that accommodate a reasonable set of “what-ifs.” For example, a Basic Course of Operations might detail how a Web form will respond to user inputs; an Alternate Course of Action might outline what happens on that form when connectivity to the network is lost. Use Cases can often become Test Cases (hooray for recycling!); a very useful item for your Quality Control teams and testers.