User-Centred Systems Design : Designing Usable Interactive Systems in Practice

Abstract: Have you ever been frustrated with that IT system at work that does not behave the way you expect it to? Or had problems with using the features on your new mobile phone? When systems and appliances do not support us in what we are doing, and do not behave the way we expect them to, then usability is neglected. Poor usability may be frustrating and irritating when trying out your mobile phone, but in a critical work situation poor usability may be disastrous.In this thesis, user-centred systems design (UCSD) is advocated as an approach for facilitating the development of usable interactive systems. Systems that suit their intended use and users do not just “emerge”. They are the result of a UCSD process and a user-centred attitude during the development. This means in short that the real users and their needs, goals, context of use, abilities and limitations, drive the development – in contrast to technology-driven development. We define UCSD as: a process focusing on usability throughout the entire development process and further throughout the system life cycle. I argue that this definition along with a set of key principles do help organisations and individual projects in the process of developing usable interactive systems. The key principles include the necessity of having an explicit focus on users and making sure that users are actively involved in the process.The thesis provides knowledge and insights gained from real-life situations about what UCSD is and how it can be put into practice. The most significant results are: the proposal of a clear definition of UCSD and a set of key principles encompassing UCSD; a process for usability design and the usability designer role. Furthermore, design cases from different domains are provided as examples and illustrations.

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