Exploring a capability-demand interaction model for inclusive design evaluation

Persad, Umesh (2012-03-06)


Designers are required to evaluate their designs against the needs and capabilities of their target user groups in order to achieve successful, inclusive products. This dissertation presents exploratory research into the specific problem of supporting analytical design evaluation for Inclusive Design. The analytical evaluation process involves evaluating products with user data rather than testing with actual users. The work focuses on the exploration of a capability-demand model of product interaction as the basis for analytical inclusive evaluation. This model suggests that by comparing the measured sensory, cognitive and motor capabilities of a user population to the corresponding product demands, the degree of fit between users and products can be assessed. The research problem was addressed by firstly examining theories of human function and performance together with existing sources of user capability data. It was found that user capability data was fragmented and lacking in terms of predicting design exclusion and difficulty at the population level. More fundamentally, however, it was found that the relationships between measured capability in populations with low functional capacity and real world task performance with products (such as errors, times and difficulty) were not well understood. Given that an understanding of these relationships are necessary to guide capability data collection and to drive valid and robust analytical evaluation methods, the research effort focused on exploring these relationships via empirical and analytical studies. The research process culminated in an experimental study with nineteen users of various functional capability profiles performing tasks with four consumer products (a clock radio, a mobile phone, a blender and a vacuum cleaner). Measures of user capability were related to corresponding product demands (on those capabilities) and task outcome measures. A complex picture emerged, where linear relationships did not generally account for significant variance in task outcome measures. Further, it appeared that multiple capabilities were possibly interacting in unknown ways to support real world interaction. These indicative results point to the further investigation of multivariate and non-linear models for describing capability-demand relationships, and also the replication of similar studies with larger sample sizes to confirm the relationships observed. The resulting overall recommendation, therefore, is that there is a need to direct research efforts in this critical but largely unexplored area of capability-demand model building for Inclusive Design evaluation.