Last week, I came across a user survey on blog clients. The aim of the study is to identify and understand the users' goals and tasks, tools and features they currently use for blogging as well as problems and changes they would like to see in their clients. The special thing about it: The developers ask all these questions before actually starting to program, namely in the planning phase. The project I am talking about has just registered on OpenUsability, the desktop and handheld blogging software "Expressions" (OSS, of course).
Wow! This is exactly what a user centered design process should be like! Please support them by filling in their questionnaire :)
The user centered design (UCD) process aims at creating a software that supports the users' needs. Therefore, during the whole development process, different usability methods are applied to ensure the current state still meets the users' expectations and wishes.
There are different models of user centered design process, e.g. the IBM User-Centered Design Process or the NASA User-Centered Design Process. Basically they all perform typical usability methods at each project phase to ensure that a usable product is developed.
The problem with this ideal user centered design process is that it seems to apply to software only which is designed from scratch. But what about all the existing KDE applications? Is it too late to start UCD for them?
Fortunately, it is not :) The whole UCD process is iterative, meaning that for each version, the presumed user groups, their tasks and expectations should be verified. Depending on the results, user requirements and concepts should be refined and improved by usability methods. If user requirements have not been collected in earlier releases, one may start at any point in the development process.
While the Expressions people did in the requirements phase, we are currently designing a questionnaire to identify and prioritise the tasks and features people are faced when using email, electronic addressbooks and organizers in different settings. We'll present it at aKademy - be curious ;-)