Conversations with Users and Experts

A short recap of interviews and conversations with people about the possibilities for an inclusive design toolbox, amongst whom two companies who are in the target user group.

Director of a technology-driven IT company with 10-20 employees

This is an IT company that often works with non-profit and governmental organizations, next to more commercial clients. Their products are internet-based and are built up from a self-developed framework. Interesting bits from the interview:

  • Their products are tested on usability by a test panel
  • Often clients come with a complete plan including routing and style sheets, and the company only brings in user tests during the development when they feel the proposed plan needs to be changed or improved
  • Some clients have their own front-end specialists, who will do their own user research before building the specifications
  • References Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines
  • A user research toolbox would be helpful as a mark of excellence towards clients
  • Within their company there are two programmers that also work on the front-end, they would be the actual users of the toolbox
  • Empathy with the end users is important when programming software, a toolbox can be a good way to support this
  • The toolbox should contain really practical methods such as guidelines and checklists, and should not bother the programmer too much with information that is not useful at that moment.

Director of a non-profit focused IT company with 10-20 employees

This company caters mainly to the non-profit sector, with clients such as schools and municipalities. They already do some user research and know their user group intuitively.

  • A user research toolkit could be a framework for their activities with users, and help structure the discussions about it within the company
  • Currently use self-devised methods based on experience, that are in fact closely related to methods in existing literature, including empathising with end-users by tagging along for the day or for an activity such as grocery shopping (participatory observation), asking questions about what they see and do during the observation, and why (behavioral interviews)
  • Placing a prototype in the users’ environment to elicit responses (intervention)
  • Recruits participants via interest groups and organisations
  • Ethics: it is important that the participants feel they have learned something or feel they made a valuable contribution
  • A toolbox must be super easy to use and not cause any extra overhead, compared to the research done already. Should be informal as opposed to bureaucratical
  • The toolkit could provide authority to the employees using it, making research outcomes more convincing
  • Toolbox must be kept up-to-date to keep up with IT sector developments

Woman Pushing Shopping Cart

Researcher, ATM for low-literates project, TNO

Together with the Rabobank, TNO developed an ATM machine that is designed for people with low-literacy. Some insights from this project that can be used for the toolbox include:

  • Recruitment of participants via local teaching program for illiterate people
  • Interview session was held as part of the class program
  • Provocation sessions we held at the bank, to see how the users were coping with existing systems and errors
  • Focus groups and role play were used to collect reactions and opinions to improve the user experience
  • Participatory design sessions were held to come up with new ideas and solutions, but this could have been more useful through better structured sessions to help with design thinking
  • The participants of the process were happy and proud to be able to help.



A Market Research Company:

This company performs traditional market research to gauge reactions of people to existing products, and sometimes studies products that are in the development stage. Occasionally they do an independent study of market trends.

  • A certification mark or a quality label can be valuable for companies who use the toolbox, to show their clients how they work
  • A market organisation could promote a certain way of working, or influence trends such as Agile or UX
  • This company uses mainly questionnaires for their research, and sometimes focus groups when working with end users
  • Focus groups or other sessions where they work directly with end-users, are not so much advertised and they do it only at the request of clients


Phd Student, COMMIT/ project, TNO

Works within the larger COMMIT/ project in work package 8: Social Conventions Learning in Mixed Reality, where he designs for and works with people of low literacy and non-native people. Some of his experiences with methods of user involvement include:

  • Joining an organized dinner with a group of disadvantaged people (some homeless, some elderly, some children), where placemats with conversation topics were added
  • One-day workshop with low-literacy ambassadors, where they learned about social media
  • workshop with low-literates where storytelling was the main tool
  • The sessions are not based on or close to existing user research methods from scientific literature, such as participatory observation in the case of the dinner; inspiration in new places such as the social media workshop, where card sorting was done as well; and an immersive workshop focused on storytelling.
  • The main concern with organising these sessions is the balance between formal research and informal social contact with the users
  • It is difficult to contact and recruit the appropriate people as participants


Through reviewing existing design toolboxes, and these interviews, the outlines of the new toolbox are becoming clearer. Stay put and watch the scaffolding go up!

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