UCD Charrette Process Blog
For this project, the design focus was on the design of smart cars, based on various user groups. Each group was assigned a different group to focus their design on, ranging from pregnant soon-to-be-mothers to getaway drivers. Each group was then assigned to design the best smart car to suit the needs of their assigned user group. My particular group was assigned the user group of ‘A businessman who needs to take a lot of calls while he drives’. For our scenario, we envisioned a businessman who receives a call while he is driving. He answers a call using either voice commands, or a designated ‘answer call’ button on the dash. During the call, the businessman is required to make a calendar event, to meet with a very important client, an action which he can do via a few easy steps on the screen in the car, or again with voice commands. Upon encountering hearing difficulties, due to heavy traffic, honking, and sirens nearby, the user is able to use a noise-cancelling feature, activated using a large button on the screen, to drown out some of the outside noise and focus on the call. Upon making the calendar appointment, the user is able to hang up the call with voice commands, or a designated button on the dash. Upon finishing designing this scenario, we presented it to the class.
For me, this exercise raised the question of how to design a car that would best suit the needs of all users, instead of just the ones that our group was assigned. While designing centered around a certain user group can be useful in some cases, from a marketing viewpoint it is less valuable than designing based on the needs of an “average” user, as this opens up your user demand to a much wider range of people. The problems that my group and I encountered during this process were that it was hard to think of a multitude features for our specific user group (someone who answers a lot of calls), as it seems like answering calls was the only one that we could really explore.
I liked the degree of creativity that was possible with this project. With user groups such as ‘getaway driver’, we were able to explore a lot more of our creative side, really honing our skills of focusing on the user group we were assigned, and potentially putting ethics aside temporarily. Many classes, especially as a STEM student in university, greatly limit your chances to be creative with your classwork, so an opportunity to do so in this project was greatly enjoyed and appreciated.
Focusing on a user group while designing will be an invaluable experience as I advance past academia into a career. My goal is to become a software developer, a field where the user is the first priority. As I progress into the job field, I will be applying this technique as I conduct user research, identify a target user group for a piece of software, such as a social media app, and design software based on the needs and abilities of that user group. This process will be very similar to this project, only also including conducting user research beforehand, instead of just being handed a user group to design based around. A process such as this may not be appropriate would be designing something for a more general audience, instead of a specific user group, as centering your design around a certain user group may limit your prospective customers, depending on the product, or the user group that the product is being designed for.