Comparative study of users' Experiential Data collection Techniques for Human computer Interaction Design in cross cultural Setting

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User Centred Design (UCD) process employed in solving design problems in the area of Human Computer Interaction, has to rely on the data from the users to generate predictive usersD mental models of the interaction. These mental models become the basis of specifications and heuristics for the designers to conceptualize new interaction patterns and Graphic User Interfaces for software products. As computers become ubiquitous, the need for understanding usersD mental models from a deeper cognitive level, rather than the surface level as is currently being practiced, has become necessary. Designers need qualitatively rich data from the users about their experiences which often the users of a computing product are not capable of expressing. The difference between usersD and designersD mental models has increased due to cross cultural design situations where designers from one culture are designing interactive systems for users form another culture. This cross cultural design context requires data gathering techniques which are suitable to different cultures and are sensitive to cross cultural differences in users. Current practices of extracting data from the users are more concentrated on getting the functional and operational requirements of the users rather than experiential information. This requires search and validation of new data gathering techniques for use in experiential design process. This thesis recognises userDs experiences with interactive system as a conglomeration of instances of aesthetic, affective and intellectual experiences that the users undergo with the elements of interactive systems like, icons, menu items, error messages etc. An interaction designer has to make design decisions pertaining to theses different elements of the interaction design. Three categories of such design decisions have been identified, decisions pertaining to the DelementalD, DcompositionalD and DtransitionalD levels of interaction. At elemental level, designer takes decisions about the DelementsD of interaction, that is, the icons, buttons, images, graphic elements etc. At compositional level, it is the visual balance and the gestalt of composition of screen that the designer is concerned about and at transitional level, designer has to decide about the transition between the screens. Designers need suitable techniques to gather experiential data from users pertaining to the three levels of design decisions in order to take informed decisions. In this thesis four user data gathering techniques identified from literature, namely - Mind Tape, Think Aloud, Repertory Grid and Semantic Differential - have been investigated through experimentation involving over 290 users across three different cultures - Indian, Chinese and Danish for their ability to gather experiential data in cross cultural situations. The four techniques have been compared for their ability to mine data from the users at a deeper experiential level. Results indicate that though Mind Tape technique is resource demanding, it yields good experiential data at the Transitional level. Repertory Grid Technique on the other hand is more versatile and can be used to aid all levels of design decisions. Based on the empirical and qualitative analysis of the experimental results, this thesis proposes a new combinatorial use of the four techniques. HCI designing heuristics are proposed.
Supervisor: Pradip Yammiyavar