Identifying needs and establishing requirements is the core task in a product design. It forms the basis for the conceptualisation and design decisions. Identifying needs is about who the users are, what is their work and their context of work, why is it they behave in that manner, gather data in this context, analyse and interpret it. The diagram below shows how things can go wrong when users’ needs and product requirements are not communicated or understood properly by each party.
Understanding user needs
Requirements on the contrary are how the product with function and perform. They must be very specific, unambiguous and clear. Requirements can be either functional or non-functional. The functional requirements are about what a product does; these can be in the form of data requirements, environmental requirements, user characteristics and usability and user experience goals. The data requirements include volatile, information architecture, size, etc. Environmental requirements include the physical notions of light, noise, dust, etc.; social notions of sharing between people, viewers, synchronisation, etc.; organisational notions such as help features, site map, live chat, etc. and technical notions such as technology compatibility, cross platform compatibility, etc. User characteristics are described as novice, professionals, skilled, experts or beginners, group of potential users or individual users. Usability and user experience includes the six aspects of efficiency, effectiveness, safety, utility, learnability and memorability.
Identification of requirements is a sequential process of gathering data, analysing and interpreting it and presenting it. Data gathering involves collection of suffiecient, relevant and appropriate data that identifies the users’ tasks, users’ goals associated with the tasks and their context, along with the rationale for the situation. There are different types of data gathering techniques like interviews that can be unstructured or open-ended, structured or semi-structured, focus groups or group interviews, survey or observation of users in their natural environment. Unstructure interviews allow indepth and rich information gathering but are time consuming. Structure interviews are a set of predetermined questions and can be used if the goals are pretty much clear and fast to conduct. Semi-structured interviews are a combination of structured and unstructured interviews and are more effective. Focus groups are good for acquiring a consensus view of the target population. Direct observation of the participants in their natural setting or indirect observation of the participants give an idea about the behavioural traits of the participants in different settings. There are various instruments available for data recording like notes, audio recordings, still cameras or video cameras. Data analysis and interpretation can either be quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative analysis will have data in average or percentage values which can be collated in analysable data sets. Qualitative analysis will identify the recurring patterns and themes, categorising the data and critical incidents. The analysed data can be interpreted and presented in the form of graphs, tables, textual descriptions, story or summarising the findings.
This lecture was very informative for the gathering the users’ needs and requirements in the next week. I selected a semi structure questionnaire as I cannot meet my target audience that is the Transmin Rockbreaker remote operator.