The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

User Studies: A Practical Approach to User Involvement for Gathering User Needs and Requirements

Sari Kujala

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to be presented with due permission of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering for public examination and debate in Auditorium T2 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 7th of June 2002, at 12 o'clock noon.

Overview in PDF format (ISBN 951-22-5900-1)   [133 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 951-666-599-3)


This thesis investigates the role of user involvement in the early phases of product development. It is generally believed that usability and more accurate user requirements are achieved through the involvement of potential users in product development. First, the benefits and challenges of user involvement identified in the literature were reviewed. It was discovered that early user involvement has positive effects on user and customer satisfaction and requirements quality, but it may additionally have negative effects on product development time and cost.

A practical approach to early user involvement referred to as 'user study' was synthesised to find a way to apply cost-effectively early user involvement to real product development contexts. The goal of the user study is cost-effectively to gather data on users and their needs and to translate them to user requirements that support the development of useful and usable products.

The user study approach was then evaluated in four case studies in five different product development companies. The first and second study focused on the usefulness of user studies. The third study investigated introducing the user study approach to a real product development context. The fourth study concerned representing the results of user studies: bridging the gap between user needs and user requirements. The results presented in the thesis reveal that early user involvement is useful even in a short time frame with relatively low costs. The results additionally provide further support for the successful implementation of user involvement in the early phases of the product development.

This thesis consists of an overview and of the following 5 publications:

  1. Kujala, S. (2002). User Involvement: A Review of the Benefits and Challenges. In Soininen, T. (Ed.), Preprints, Software Business and Engineering Institute, Helsinki University of Technology, Report no.: HUT-SoberIT-B1. Espoo, Finland, pp. 1-32.
  2. Kujala, S. and Mäntylä, M. (2000). Studying Users for Developing Usable and Useful Products. In Gulliksen, J., Oestreicher, L., Severinson Eklundh, K. (Eds.), NordiCHI2000, Design versus Design (Proceedings of 1st Nordic Conference on Computer-Human Interaction), pp. 1-11.
  3. Kujala, S. and Mäntylä, M. (2000). How Effective Are User Studies? In McDonald, S., Waern, Y., and Cockton, G. (Eds.), People and Computers XIV (Proceedings of Human-Computer Interaction 2000 Conference), Springer-Verlag, pp. 61-71.
  4. Kujala, S., Kauppinen, M., and Rekola, S. (2001). Bridging the Gap between User Needs and User Requirements. In Avouris, N. and Fakotakis, N. (Eds.) Advances in Human-Computer Interaction I (Proceedings of the Panhellenic Conference with International Participation in Human-Computer Interaction PC-HCI 2001), Typorama Publications, pp. 45-50. © 2001 PC-HCI. By permission.
  5. Kujala, S., Kauppinen, M., and Rekola, S. (2001). Introducing User Needs Gathering to Product Development: Increasing Innovation and Customer Satisfaction. In Hirose, M. (Ed.), Human-Computer Interaction INTERACT '01 (Proceedings of Interact 2001 Conference), IOS Press, pp. 856-861.

Keywords: user involvement, usability, user needs, user requirements, requirements elicitation

This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for Your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.

© 2002 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26