Among recent technology trends of design industry (Seffah & Vandetdonckt & Desmarais, 2009), there are such major trends as digital reality, cloud computing, linkage between analog and digital multimedia, introducing software as a service and human-centered design. Each of these trends, especially the last ones, are rapidly developing, require new approaches and new technologies to move further. Recently a lot of research is being done in the area of human-centered design. For mechatronic systems, it was determined that new engineering mindset is needed to integrate existing physical systems, technologies and human needs into optimal combination. With regard to this tendency, change of educational programs towards human-centered design is suggested (Baskinger, 2010). Among leading aspect of social design thinking there are prototyping (fast access to answers and resources), empathy (looking at the future product from the user’s perspective) and storytelling (presenting a compelling environment).
Another trend in human-centered design is greater humanization of software (Baskinger, 2010), and the reduction of the abyss in human-computer interaction. For intranets, it is recommended to organize information in accordance with human flow of mind, provide means of socializing such as blogs, forums and discussions. Focus of intranet design is shifted to positive user experience, and one more recent feature is to provide “virtual assistants” based on artificial intelligence mechanisms, which can maintain basic interaction, answer users’ questions and lead a simplified dialogue like humans. A good example of AI approach is virtual assistant Anna, created by IDEA developers.
In the sphere of software design, two approaches claiming to realize human-centered computing and design appeared. First is called “waterfall” – a sequential design process which is called so because software design and development is flowing and step by step passing important stages (requirements, design, implementation, verification and maintenance) (Hibbs & Jewett & Sullivan, 2009). This approach yields predictable results, however it is slow and rigid, and it is difficult to adapt to changing environment using the waterfall approach. Human-centered design in waterfall model is realized through clear planning and analysis of user needs.
Another recent technology used to create flexible and people-driven software projects is called Agile. Agile allows teams to create software in an environment with changing requirements and the focus is on interactions and individual commitment. Agile implies client-driven design, where designers act as consultants; the process of software development is iterative and design priorities are set to addressing business value and needs. At first glance, such approach is more flexible and should allow more space for human-centered development. However, in practice Agile is good for projects that should be very quickly delivered or to the projects with very clear framework. When there is no clear vision of the project goals and functionality, waterfall methods work better (Hibbs & Jewett & Sullivan, 2009).
Among new trends in human-centered software development there is a set of principles and methods combining both approaches in order to reach maximal closeness to users and their needs. The principles inherited by this new approach are full team involvement and participation, attention to user feedback at all stages, transparent communications, attention to individual development and ideas and design initially aimed at flexibility, change and scaling. Under this approach, the concept of a “designer” includes all people participating in the development process, leaving the function of integration to designers (Seffah & Vandetdonckt & Desmarais, 2009).
This approach is very flexible and efficient in theory, but in practice it raises a number of concerns. In order to implement this approach, the team should be properly learned to collaborate, which is quite difficult for most people who were taught from the very birth to compete for their place in this world. Secondly, the communications between clients and the team should be very transparent and open, which requires special approach to the clients and perhaps even a certain amount of training for the team and clients as well. Finally, there are ethical considerations of privacy and multiculturalism emerging together with human-centered design. The team should possess a set of qualities aligned with key characteristics of human-centered mindset (empathy, prototyping and storytelling). Thus, the main problem of the transition from technology-centered approach to human-centered approach is in the minds of developers and not in the set of technologies, and this issue should be addressed by software companies and educational institutions in the first place.
Baskinger, M. (2010). From Industrial Design to User Experience: the Heritage and Evolving Role of Experience-driven Design.
Hibbs, C. & Jewett, S. & Sullivan, M. (2009). The Art of Lean Software Development: A Practical and Incremental Approach. O’Reilly Media, Inc.
Seffah, A. & Vandetdonckt, J. & Desmarais, M. (2009). Human-Centered Software Engineering: Software Engineering Models, Patterns and Architectures for HCI. Springer.