HCD Activity 1: Understand and Specify Context of Use

The ISO 9241-210 diagram with the activity 'Understand and Specify Context of Use' circled in red.This phase consists of analytic activity during which the design team get to know who they will be designing software for and how they will use it. There are a wide range of activities that can facilitate this. Possibilities include:

  • Observation of the task being carried out
  • Interviewing users
  • Reviewing training materials and manuals
  • Collecting documents and artefacts used
  • Focus groups and workshops
  • Surveys
  • Evaluation of existing (competitor) products
  • Evaluation of published research on the task domain
  • Designers carrying out the tasks themselves

It is important that more than one activity is used to confirm validity of the information obtained.

The HCD standard describes the outcome of this work as a Context of Use Description that records:

  • The users and other stakeholder groups
  • Characteristics of the users
  • The goals and tasks of the users
  • The environment(s) of the system

To comply with the HCD standard, the Context of Use Description should contain sufficient detail to support the requirements writing, design and evaluation activities.

The documentation that I recommend to make up the Context of Use Description is:

  • User Profiles
  • User Personas (based on profiles)
  • Task Scenarios (of key tasks)
  • Abstract Task Models (one for each user group)
  • User conceptual models (based on task scenarios)
  • Glossary of specialised terms

The creation of each of these documentation types is described in the following sections.


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