Human Factors Research is useful, usable and desirable products and services requires knowing a lot about your customers and users. What do potential users need, want, and prefer? What would they pay for? What are the their capabilities and limitations? What needs and desires, lurking just below the surface of awareness, can be recognized, but not easily verbalized? Design research employs social and behavioral science methods, such as behavioral interviewing.
In order to determine if four late-stage automotive infotainment system prototypes were ready for production, a major auto manufacturer employed Research Collective to carry out an evaluation via usability testing. Research Collective, in partnership with the client, developed a series of tasks that would allow participants to interact with all facets of each infotainment system. Participants were asked to complete those tasks using one of the four prototype infotainment systems, during which time researchers collected data around several objective performance (e.g. time on task, task completion scores) and subjective assessment (e.g. confidence ratings, ease of completion ratings) measures. The information gathered from the study allowed the manufacturer to inform design improvements on the prototypes as well as future systems.
Research Collective designs and conducts validation studies that comply with FDA’s human factors guidance. When possible, critical tasks are tested through simulated use scenarios. Comprehension questions can be used to test critical tasks that cannot be simulated. Unlike formative testing, which is intended to improve the device design, validation testing is only intended to prove or disprove that the device can be used safely and effectively. Therefore, moderators do not ask questions to uncover use error root causes until after all scenarios have been completed.
Research Collective worked with a major automotive manufacturer to uncover how users interact with in-vehicle infotainment systems across — regardless of make — utilize related devices, and participate in the use of the general domains found within infotainment systems (e.g. audio, navigation). To accomplish this task, Research Collective conducted a series of interviews related to participants’ regular use of their infotainment systems. The interviews were carried out in participants’ vehicles to invoke a priming effect, as well as to observe system interactions in context and gather additional artifacts that showcase users’ interaction with their vehicle’s environment. Prior to the end of the session, participants were also asked to estimate their frequency and depth of interaction with the general system domains. The information garnered from this study informed the design of a prototype infotainment system.
Research Collective carried out an in-car competitive benchmark usability study to determine how the client’s vehicle offerings compared to their luxury-market competitors. This was accomplished by having participants complete tasks while driving one of five different luxury vehicles on an open course. Additionally, pre- and post-test ratings were collected to determine the participants’ perceptions of overall luxury with regard to their current, personal vehicle (pre-test ratings) and the vehicle they had driven during the test (post-test ratings). Findings revealed the client’s position amongst competitors, both with regard to infotainment system usability and performance, as well as the level of luxury users experienced through their interaction with the system. Furthermore, Research Collective was able to determine the features that separated the client from the competition as well as those where the client fell short.
Information architecture (IA) is the structural design of unfamiliar; the art and science of organizing and labeling websites, experiences, customer needs and software to support usability and find-ability. It is a practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape for more effective and thoughtful experience design.
Early-Stage Prototype Evaluation
An auto manufacturer was interested to see how users would respond to an early-stage, medium-fidelity infotainment system prototype as well as a late-stage, high-fidelity prototype. To accomplish this, Research Collective employed a hybrid test, running usability tests and directed interviews in parallel, for both prototypes. Performance data was gathered (e.g. time on task, task completion scores) as well as qualitative feedback from participants with regard to the visual design, information architecture, and interaction design — amongst other factors — of the prototypes. The findings garnered from the sessions gave the manufacturer the necessary understanding of user expectations, satisfaction, and frustrations with the prototypes needed to make progress.
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