New Year, new life

After the end of my research contract in October, I realised that there were plenty of opportunities around me (I live in London) and I decided to turn back to User Centred Design (UCD) consultancy.

I am not a newcomer in UCD and I have a clear view of how the field of web usability (and web in general) has changed in three years. When I somehow left the field in 2003 to work in Thales on Decision Support Systems and Command & Control Systems (C3) I wanted to expand my horizons to see how user centred design could be applied to other kind of systems.

It has been almost two years of research and I have discovered how deep and how rich is the body of Knowledge in field. Kudos to D. Norman for using this phrase first time in 1986 (‘User Centred System Design’), but to be definitively fascinated by UCD you must look into Human Factors field(s) and what has been done in aerospace since WWII.

Human factors is an umbrella term for several areas of research that include human performance, technology, design, and human-computer interaction. It is a profession that focuses on how people interact with products, tools, procedures, and any processes likely to be encountered in the modern world”. (Wikipedia.
In fact, Human Factors is a quite wide area, it’s like saying you are in the field of “engineering”. In fact, What I was trying to do was “Macroergonomics”: defining a UCD process tailored to the company I was working with. It has been a challenging task, which mainly involved several internal reviews and iterative process modelling with a number of stakeholders to find a process suitable for the concept definition and iterative, user-centred development of C3 systems.

Another task was to define the “reason why” UCD had to be employed. While in UCD for the web the reason lies primarily in competitive advantage (e.g. e-commerce: competitors are oneclick away!) and increased productivity (web applications in general), C3 systems are mission-, safety-critical systems where one error could cost hundreds of lifes.

Want to read more? More meat is here .