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.

Thinking Model and Tools for Understanding User Experience Related to Information Appliance Product Concepts

Anu Kankainen

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 9th of December 2002, at 12 o'clock.

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Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 951-666-614-0)


The aim of this dissertation work is to develop thinking models and tools that would help in understanding user experience (UE) related to information appliance (IA) product concepts. A product concept is understood in this dissertation as a rough description of the technology, functionality and form of a product or a service, which is created during the very first phase of the product development process by a multidisciplinary design team.

The dissertation provides answers to five research questions through constructive research. The first question discusses distinctive features of UE with terms that would be useful in practical design work. Several approaches explaining UE were found in literature but none of them looked at UE in the holistic and dynamic way, which was necessary in usercentered product concept design (UCPCD). According to the presented conceptual model UE is a result of a motivated action in a certain context. The user's previous experiences and expectations influence the present experience, and the present experience leads to more experiences and expectations. Moreover, there are two different kinds of user needs: motivational level and action level.

The second research question discusses methods that can be used in user research to understand user needs. Two kinds of methodologies are discussed: those that reveal motivational level needs, and those that can be used for studying action level needs. Several different kinds of techniques should be used to discover narratives on user needs.

The answer to the third question of generating product concept ideas discusses four different methods that could be used among designers or together with users while generating product concept ideas. The results of all techniques were use cases which could be presented in a narrative form.

The fourth question is about the evaluation of UE probes during the UCPCD process. It became clear that traditional usability testing is not a suitable method for evaluating UE probes because in traditional usability testing use cases are given to the users and not created by them during the testing session. In UCPCD the users should be given only probes that enable them to create their own ways of using the product concept. Probes include both low-fidelity prototypes that are presented to the users in a laboratory setting parallel with use scenarios, and high-fidelity prototypes that can be tested in the users' own environment.

Finally, the fifth question describes the phases and activities of UCPCD process that take UE into account. It was discovered that the form of narrative is common for all activities of the process. Moreover, user research should be done twice: first to study motivational level needs and then action level needs. Also prototyping is useful to do twice during this iterative, user-centred process: first with low-fidelity prototypes and then with high-fidelity prototypes that can be tested in the users' own environment.

This thesis consists of an overview and of the following 7 publications:

  1. Mäkelä, A. and Battarbee, K., 1999. Applying Usability Methods to Concept Development of a Wireless Communication Device - Case in Maypole. Proceedings of 17th International Symposium on Human Factors in Telecommunication, pages 291-298.
  2. Mäkelä, A. and Battarbee, K., 1999. It's Fun to do Things Together: Two Cases of Explorative User Studies. Personal Technologies 3, pages 137-140.
  3. Maypole project team, 1999. What Makes Kids Tick? interactions, (6) 6, November + December, pages 80-83.
  4. Iacucci, G., Mäkelä, A. and Ranta, M., 2000. Visualizing Context, Mobility and Group Interaction: Role Games to Design Product Concepts for Mobile Communication. In Dieng, R., Giboin, A., Karsenty, L. and De Michelis, G., (Eds.), Designing Cooperative Systems: The Use of Theories and Models. Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on the Design of Cooperative Systems (COOP'2000). IOS Press, pages 53-65.
  5. Mäkelä, A., Giller, V., Tscheligi, M. and Sefelin, R., 2000. Joking, storytelling, artsharing, expressing affection: A field trial of how children and their social network communicate with digital images in leisure time. Proceedings of CHI'2000. ACM Press, pages 548-555.
  6. Mäkelä, A. and Fulton Suri, J., 2001. Supporting users' creativity: design to induce pleasurable experiences. In Helander, Khalid and Tham (Eds.), Proceedings of The International Conference on Affective Human Factors Design. Asian Academic Press, pages 387-394.
  7. Mäkelä, A. and Mattelmäki, T., 2002. Collecting stories on user experiences to inspire design - a pilot. In Green, W. and Jordan, P., (Eds.), Pleasure With Products: Beyond Usability. Taylor & Francis, pages 333-344.

Keywords: user experience, user-centred design, product concept, information appliance

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© 2003 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26